My Dog Is Limping – What’s Wrong?
A Diary About Knee Surgery In Dogs
Please, before I start telling our story, understand that I am not a Vet nor any kind of expert or privileged. Anything I am talking about describes just our own case and my inexpert knowledge about knee surgery in dogs. Thinking back how scared and clueless I was when my little chap’s knee surgery became unavoidable made me want to create this diary of our ‘new-knee-journey’. But, let’s start from the beginning…
The little guy I am talking about is Gigi, my cheeky and utterly charming Chihuahua boy, now 6.5years old. He is such a great jolly nature, always happy and friendly. Both his parents are gorgeous healthy Chihuahuas, and also Gigi was born 100% healthy. He’s been checked on PL (patellar luxation, a very common knee problem in Chihuahuas) and there were no signs of any issues, whatever.
Now, when Gigi was about 4 years old I have noticed for the first time, that he’s walked ‘funny’ with his right back leg. But that was just for a very short moment, maybe 4-5 steps only, and as he carried on walking just normally, I did not pay much more attention. Maybe his leg had fallen asleep or so, happens to us, too.
Some months went by, all was good and well until he’s started limping again. And again, after just a few steps, he’s been walking normally. I checked his leg and also his paws, I could touch him everywhere, I could bend and stretch his leg, he didn’t seem to be in pain.
And so it went on, months nothing and then, all of a sudden, he’s been limping again. Remarkable that he only used to limp after he’s been sleeping or resting. Once he’s been on his paws and walking that awkward phenomenon disappeared. Lately, that limping got worse and happened more and more frequently, so it became very clear that this is not a case of ‘a-leg-fallen-asleep’ anymore. I took him to our local Vet FIDEM to get him x-rayed.
Even I, as an unprofessional, could see in those images that there was something seriously wrong inside those little knees. The left one seemed to be okay. but on the right side, there was no patella (kneecap) to see at all. It hadn’t just moved, it had vanished completely.
So, Carmen (our Vet) recommended getting a deeper analysis of her colleagues from OrthoVet. Dr Jacopo De Cesare and his team came to see us the following week, some more scans were done, he’s checked Gigi’s walking and examined his extremities and spine manually.
My biggest fear of patellar luxation became a sad reality. Chihuahuas and many other small breeds are prone to PL and knee issues, Chihuahuas are actually predestined for that. I already knew we will have to undergo a knee surgery.
But things got worse. Not only were BOTH kneecaps affected, the cruciate ligament in Gigi’s right knee was completely torn on top of that. That was shocking news, I felt devastated. He’s such a great chap, why does he have to suffer that badly? Okay, now we’re facing 2 surgeries? First, the worst one, the right leg, and the following year the other one? The left side wasn’t too bad yet, so my hope was to get my little boy back on his four paws with ‘just’ one OP at his right leg. As soon as possible, as smooth as possible. And who knows, maybe it would even save his left knee from undergoing surgery, once all is back ‘straight’?!
I googled and asked around day and night, it drove me mad. Don’t do that! You will not get any wiser, it just confuses and scares you to death. How good, that our furry babies don’t know what’s waiting for them, at least HE could remain ‘careless’ till the day X came.
And then, on August 2nd I had to take him to the Vet’s in the morning and leave him there, I felt so guilty. All was ready and prepared for his surgery, I knew he was getting the best treatment and was in the best hands he could possibly be, but still…
In the meantime, Gigi limped so badly that the traumatologist feared a ripped meniscus on top of all else. What more to come? The Vet’s team explained to me that they could only definitely see how much is ripped and damaged in Gigi’s knee once they have opened it. But, it would be possible that Gigi will remain with health issues if the meniscus would be damaged … they will be operating first his right leg and then, given no problems occur the other one…. all I understood was boing …boing …boing. Maybe meniscus, maybe health issues for the rest of his life, maybe just one leg, maybe both. It’ll take 1,5 to 2 hours to do one leg, oh my god … my nerves, my head was bursting.
Carmen, our vet, kept me posted through the whole 4-hour-procedure of surgery. She’s messaged me photos of the OP and rang me to let me know that Gigi’s meniscus luckily was fine. Good news!
I understand that this won’t affect most of you, but it had to be said anyway. We get to hear so many stories about bad doctors and grabby vets, so it’s only fair to shout out loud to people like these docs at FIDEM (also on FB) for doing an amazing job, all of them.
“I really couldn’t thank you (and also Judit & Cristina) enough, Carmen!”
Although he’s a male, Gigi doesn’t do that men-flue-whinging stuff. He might be tiny but he’s oh so tough and such a brave little darling. There he was, with two wrecked back legs, he couldn’t even lift his sexy shaved bump, my little ‘LEO-wawa’. He looks like a black mini lion, doesn’t he? He was so weak and fragile.. poor thing. I was warned by a friend that recovery will be tough. Okay, we’ll go for it.
I had to give Gigi his medication every 6-8 hours for about 10 days. The first week was really heartbreaking. The meds made him feel sick, weak and stoned. After 4 days I was running out of tricks and Gigi didn’t seem to trust me anymore. He refused anything I wanted him to take. He’s shown that he was fed up with feeling this shitty. But patè and his favourite parmesan cheese were stronger at the end, he couldn’t resist.
He couldn’t stand or sit up the first 2 days, so I tried to give him plenty water with a little pipette. Of course, he didn’t want to eat. He was high on the drugs. He had to take:
- – antibiotic pills
- – anti-inflammatory pills
- – tramadol drops to ease the pain
- – then his tummy got upset by the meds, thus tummy protector sachets
On the second day after surgery, the bandages came off. The cuts remained open to being daily cleaned with an iodine solution.
On the 3rd day after surgery, he stood up for the first time. Wow, I couldn’t believe, he stood on his 4 paws!
Day 4 after surgery – I carried him outside for his first waggly walk. As ‘drunk’ as he was and no matter how weak the knees still were, oh man, did he enjoy his first proper man-wee! Ended up on his bare bump, so what.
He became stronger and more stable with the days. As soon as he could stand and slowly walk I took him out 3 times a day to the toilet. I made him walk only on flat walkways for about 5 minutes at the time. He couldn’t do much more than that, you could tell how much he wanted but he didn’t have the strength – yet!
5. Physiotherapy/ Fisioterapia
The following week we’ve started with his physiotherapy. First thing was easing the pain with laser therapy and very gentle stretching- and bending movements of all joints.
Cristina’s shown me how to do these movements at home. On our next visit, Gigi really enjoyed his massage followed by TENS therapy and aqua gym. The photo to the left shows him with the electro-patches giving impulses to re-build his muscles.
Now it’s been11 weeks that Gigi’s had his operation. He is fit and happy, back to the playful and funny little clown he used to be. He also eats a lot better than he used to do before surgery, which makes me believe that he must have felt at least uncomfortable, if not in pain, although he didn’t show.
Although general opinions tend to consider knee surgery in dogs as late as possible and rather not to do both legs at once, I wouldn’t look at it as universally applicable. As much as I was insecure in the beginning, as grateful am I today. Thanks a bunch to Dr De Cesare for being so ‘stubborn’ (broma) and saving us from going through the same procedure again next year, or so!
Muchas gracias, Jacopo!
If you love your pooch you know what seeing him/her suffering means. I hope, I could give you a little shove in the right direction with this article. I can’t give you any profound medical advice, but if I would have found anything online about how that all works and what recovery means, I would have slept a lot better the few weeks before surgery day. It is tough, yes. But all this is so soon over, your dog will be back on its paws within 3-4 days, not running and bouncing, but walking. Every day a little bit better, a little longer. 11 weeks only and Gigi is unstoppable from jumping on and off the furniture and dancing on his back legs, although I still try.
Thank you so much for making it till down here. Does that mean that you liked our story? If so, would you mind sharing it and encourage others? Cheers 😉
Should you have any questions, leave your reply in the comment field below. I will happily get back to you and help you as good as I can!
Keep the tails wagging, pals!
Gigi & Klaudia