Couch Potato Press, December 2002
A Publication of Greyhound Pets of America - Wisconsin
Lucky Dog Benefits from the Blue
A greyhound had been found near Animal Control in Milwaukee. He appeared to be a registered racer -- indicated by the tattoos in his ears -- but for some reason, no one was able to identify him or his owner. GPA was contacted and asked to provide assistance. After being held at Animal Control for more than two weeks, Lucky (who had no name at the time) was released to me, a GPA volunteer, who offered to pick him up and foster him until we could find a permanent home. When we arrived at my house, I realized that Lucky seemed to walk with a limp. Not knowing his history, or what might have happened to him, I called my veterinarian, Dr. Becky McCracken, for advice. She said she would take a look at him if I could bring him to her office right away. So back in the car we went. After further inspection, x-rays and consultation, Dr. McCracken discovered that Lucky, who turned out to be an 18 month old puppy, had a dislocated hip. Not only was his hip dislocated, but the socket joint was damaged beyond repair -- in fact, shattered, and the injury appeared to be several months old. Though veterinarians see dislocated joints fairly often, especially with racing dogs, the extent of damage to Lucky's hip socket was rare.
Thus began our journey of how to help Lucky. Because his injury was several months old and he had adapted to it, he was able to walk and run with only minor difficulty, however, the leg appeared to give him pain on occasion, and sometimes while playing, he would fall down unexpectedly when the leg could not support his weight.
Over the next couple of months we consulted with several veterinarians and two orthopedic surgeons from the Madison Vet School. We agonized over how to help Lucky lead the most productive and pain-free life, especially due to his young age. We had several options available. We could let him exist as he was and provide pain medication when he seemed to need it, or we could investigate types of surgery to help alleviate his pain permanently. We were leaning toward surgery, for several reasons; 1) we didn't know what his long term prognosis would be without surgery; 2) we wanted him to have a pain free life if that was possible, and 3) we thought finding a permanent home would be more likely if all the medical procedures he needed had been completed prior to adoption.
Two types of surgery were considered, the first being total hip replacement -- the "cadillac" of hip surgeries. The second was called FHNE -- a femoral head and neck excision. Due to the length of time that had passed from the initial injury, total hip replacement did not appear to be the best option. That left us with the FHNE, which for those of you not familiar with the procedure, meant removing the top "ball" portion of Lucky's leg bone (the femur) so that it would not rub against his hip bone, and essentially cleaning away what was left of the hip socket. The leg would then be supported and held in place by the musculature around it, with physical therapy and exercise helping to "re-train" those muscles for their new duties.
The procedure was scheduled with Dr. Kathy Linn at the Madison Vet School for the end of April and we reluctantly left him there the day before to have prep work done, with surgery the following morning. Like any mother, even a foster one, I was nervous and apprehensive about the decisions we were making for Lucky, and hoped we had made the right choice for him. Two days later we drove to Madison to pick Lucky up. The surgery had gone well and initially he seemed to be doing better than expected. With a pain patch adhered to his hip and an additional bottle of pain pills for the coming days, we started our road to recovery.
Within two weeks, Dr. Linn thought we should see Lucky touching his foot down when he walked, with steady progress after that. We had a list of recovery techniques; slow leash walking, walking backwards or up hill, stair climbing and "dancing." Unfortunately, we saw very little forward progress. Lucky was grumpy and his leg seemed to be more painful as the weeks went on. He4 began to growl when we approached him, totally uncharacteristic for this dog who had now been with us for 4 months.
By the time we approached the 6 week mark, Lucky was still hopping on three legs at all costs and was not using the limb. I feared we had made the wrong decision for him by having the surgery. A follow up visit was made with Dr. Linn who x-rayed his hip and found a bone spur growing on the top of his femur -- the likely culprit of his pain and lack of progress. A second surgery was scheduled for June 6th. The spur plus an additional centimeter of bone was removed from Lucky's leg and we began the recovery process again. This time, he seemed much better from the start. Whether it was because he actually felt better, or had resigned himself to the fact that these types of things were normal in his life, he began to get back to his "old self."
At two weeks post-op he did begin to put his foot down. We were so elated! And just to make certain we were doing everything correctly, I began to take Lucky to TOPS Veterinary Rehabilitation Center in Grayslake, Illinois. TOPS provides all types of rehabilitation for pets including underwater treadmill (swimming), land treadmill, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. They provide an exercise regimen designed specifically for your pet's injury that you can do at home. TOPS is also kind enough to give a discount to groups such as GPA who are providing services for dogs awaiting adoption.
During the summer, we also began taking Lucky to the beach a couple times a week to "deep water wade" -- which he seemed to love. We made quite a spectacle of ourselves at the beach and even got a few giggles as we brought our big dog down to the water with his bright orange life jacket on. We ended up explaining Lucky's story to everyone we met -- an impromptu Meet and Greet, I suppose.
Six months have passed since Lucky's second surgery, and I'm happy to report that he is doing well. He still limps a bit, or more accurately he shuffles, but he can run and play without falling down and never needs his pain medication anymore. And though we have a policy about not getting too attached to our foster dogs, Lucky was an exception and we decided to make him a permanent member of our family in September. He is probably the sassiest greyhound we have ever met, but he is fun to have around and has become a good companion to our other greyhound, Abbie and a wrestling partner for my husband, Bob.
On behalf of our newest family member, Lucky Paulus, we would like to thank Dr. Becky McCracken, Dr. Kathy Linn, and TOPS Vet Rehab for providing the guidance and medical services necessary to get this young pup back on all fours.
Lucky's medical bills totalled over $3,000.00 and were paid through GPA-WI's Blue Fund. You can help us provide services to dogs like Lucky by making a contribution to the Blue Fund. It can really make a difference in a dog's life.
Just ask Lucky...