For about two months or so, we’ve known Joella has a problem with one or both of her back legs. Joella is very very stoic. We can never really tell if she is in pain or not feeling well unless she somehow communicates that in her special, subtle ways. Over the years, we’ve gotten (kinda) good at reading her. One of the few signs that something was wrong was she would be standing and one of her back legs would shake like mad. The other, and the one that made us realize it was something big, was she started to not want to sit down. Everyone sits prior to getting their meal and Jo was giving us weird signals, telling us she couldn’t do it.
I took her in for her yearly checkup and the vet took a good look at her back legs (and other things as well, of course). Our greatest fear was she had “blown” the cruciate ligament in her knee. She was scheduled for some dental work the next week so while Jo was asleep, they took a bunch of x-rays. Those showed that one knee was quite arthritic looking, but stable. The other one looked better but was really loose, possibly from that ligament. We got an appt. to see a veterinarian orthopedist and that appt. was today.
We really liked Dr. Crouch and felt comfortable with his opinions. He feels it is NOT her knee(s) but one of her ankles. One of the knees has a bone spur like thing that might be causing some limitation, but is not the cause of the pain or the shaking. He feels that there is something wrong like a bit of cartilage is damaged or broken off or something like that. Joella had panosteitis as a teen. It is possible, according to this vet, that this growth problem caused some of the cartilage to not fit correctly.
We then had a long lesson in canine skeletal anatomy. When I was shown what the knee was and what the ankle was, I wasn’t surprised it was the ankle that was bothering her the most. Dogs walk on their toes. Those paw pads? That’s not the bottom of their foot, that’s the padding at the base of their toes. I readily admit to not truly understanding how the human versions relate to the canine ones. It never occurred to me that they walk on their toes. Once I realized that, then the rest fell into place. I had watched how Joella walked and how she was favoring what I now know is her ankle. I also noticed that it was larger than the other.
So next Tuesday, Joella will have arthroscopic surgery on her ankle. They’ll go in there and remove whatever is causing the problem. It could be as simple as a bit broke off and has settled in the wrong place or it could be that part of the ankle will need to be removed. We’ll be able to bring her home the next day. Recovery is simple compared to the one we thought she’d have to have (TPLO). She’ll be really limited for two weeks then can begin to go on short, short walks. We’re looking at about 6-8 weeks total before she is fully recovered. (for the TPLO surgery, this is how long she would have been confined to a crate and not even started rehab!) We will spend the week cleaning up the house some and making room for a dog bed in the living room. We have one that we got for PopCorn but a second one means the other dogs won’t hog it from her. I’m not sure yet what we’ll be doing for night time. Jo sleeps on the bed at my feet. Not sure if this will be allowed or not. Once she is over the surgery, we’ll be evaluating the rest of her leg (and the other one) to see what else is wrong. The vet thinks (and we agree) that repairing the ankle is the most important. With it fixed, any problem not related to it will remain. He believes that she will be fine and we’ll be able to control her pain via arthritis medication.
Below are some anatomy images of a dog’s skeletal system. I got the first image from Wikimedia Commons and the others are just snipped from it. It only shows the skeleton and not the ligaments that go into holding it all together. The vet had some cool models to show us and they included the ligaments. Wow. They were cool. And scary. They (dogs) look so big and strong until broken down into such a defined section. So much could go wrong. One bit not working can screw up the entire area.