Thursday, January 31, 2008

Grace Goes to the Vet

Grace Ellen

I know, I know - I can hear you all saying, "Grace lives with a vet, why would she need to see go some place to see one?" Well, as much as this pains me to say, I don't know everything, and I can't diagnose everything I see. [I know - you are all stunned by this confession, aren't you?] Plus, when it comes to my own pets, I am not always objective.

Grace, my
beloved 8 1/2 year old Rottweiller has been lame for over two months now. It started about mid-November, as an occasional and subtle little gimpy step, so mild that I said to myself, "Did she just limp?" At first, I wasn't even sure what leg it was on, but by Thanksgiving, I had narrowed it down to her right rear leg.

At first, I did what any good pet owner would do: I ignored it. "Maybe it will go away," I rationalized. "After all, it isn't too bad, and she and Holly do some crazy things as they run around the back yard. Maybe she just pulled something. Maybe it will go away."

As the lameness became more pronounced, I could no longer take the head-in-the-sand approach. She was definitely painful in her right stifle (knee.) I started her on Rimadyl, an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflamatory Drug) like Advil for people, but I delayed X-raying her.

You see, in veterinary medicine there is a saying: "Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is found AWAY from the elbow and AROUND the knee." And, in my dogs, my first thought is never "muscle sprain," but "Cancer." I didn't want a diagnosis of cancer before Christmas, especially just after the 20th anniversary of my father's death from lung cancer.

Finally, finally, finally I X-rayed her knee, hips, pelvis, and lower back. Other than some arthritis in her lower back, a normal finding for an older large breed dog, I couldn't find anything wrong. I changed her pain meds and waited. And waited. And waited.

She didn't get any better. Drastic measures were called for. I needed help.

Right before I left for my trip to Florida, I couldn't stand it any more. I called the Cincinnati Animal Referral and Emergency (CARE) Center for an appointment with Dr. Steven Schrader, veterinary surgeon and orthopedist extraordinaire. I felt like telling the receptionist, "My dog has been lame for 2 months. I need to make an appointment this week," but I didn't.

The CARE Center is a 24 hour emergency service, and they also have specialists for surgery, cardiology, oncology, neurology and internal medicine who see patients on a referral basis.

Charlie Harper mural in the entry hall at the CARE Center

Our appointment was today. We arrived a little before 10am to check in. "Have you been here before?" "Yes." "Are your phone numbers and address correct?" "Yes." "Who is your regular vet?" "I am." "oh."

the waiting room at the CARE Center. They have 10 exam rooms!
See the guy in the blue shirt? That's who we're waiting for.

Dr. Schrader is the vet I took Grace to last year, when she had severe pain from a mass on her rib cage which I was certain was cancer. He touched her and miraculously healed her. I was hoping for another miracle today, but he told me he could only do one miracle per century.

His exam revealed a cruciate ligament rupture. I was: a) Relieved it wasn't cancer. b) Embarrassed to have missed the diagnosis, since it is the most common cause of stifle lameness in a dog, and c) Stunned to realize he was talking about taking her to surgery. As in today.

Grace waits patiently for her vet appointment.

So, I signed the forms and gave them my credit card and left the hospital without my dog. As I type, it is 5:30pm and I still haven't heard from the hospital. To say I'm nervous would be an understatement. I have every confidence in Dr. S., but still ....

Isn't that a face to inspire trust? And Gracie loves him, too.

Every vet should sit in the client's chair at least once, to experience what it is like from the other side of the table. With Grace, I have been in that chair three times. I think that's enough.

Updates later, with a discussion of cruciate ligament rupture and photos.

Pray for Grace.

> Update: 9pm. I decided to keep my plans to go to pottery tonight, instead of sitting around, worrying. Dr. S. called while I was on my way there. Grace is doing fine, despite having some heart irregularity during surgery. She was still pretty stoned on hydromorphone, a pain killer, when he called. (And the dentist told me to take ibuprofen for my aching tooth. How come dogs get all the good drugs?) She'll spend the night in the CARE Center's ICU, and I will pick her up some time tomorrow.

Thanks for all the good thoughts you sent our way. I can feel the love!


holly said...

Of course prayers for Grace. Right now. I knew you would tell when there was something to tell and yet I've been hesitant to ask, knowing her hx.

Prayers to all of Katdoc's family tonight. Please keep us updated.

littleorangeguy said...

I sure will.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Dear Katdoc, Grace is being prayed for as I type. I can imagine your anxiety. You know too much. :/ She will be ok. You take good care of her.

nina said...

Praying that Grace will be well.
It's noble of you to find the merit of being the client, instead of the vet. I expect you are very empathetic with the people who trust their animals to your care.

Hoping your phone call comes quickly.

Anonymous said...

Our Springer had an ACL repair and ran like a puppy for many years thereafter. I'm glad it was something "fixable." Here's hoping she is well long before you have made up the extra money to pay for the surgery.

We'll all be thinking of you.

Susan Gets Native said...

*where did my last comment go? Blogger is acting like Frogger*
It sucks being on the other side of the table, huh Kath?
I'm so glad she came out okay (though the heart arrhythmia gave my own heart a jump)

KGMom said...

I am so glad I read this after you heard that Grace was OK.
One of my all time fav dogs was a Rottie who lived next door--and when I look at your photos of Grace, I think of that old friend.
So glad she is doing well--hope she heals well too.

Kathy said...

So glad that Grace came through the surgery fine. Hope she will have a speedy recovery. Her doctor looks like a wonderfully compassionate man.

Mary said...

I'm glad you have a vet you can trust with your Gracie. And I'm also glad you share the regular non-vet views when it comes to your own pet: "At first, I did what any good pet owner would do: I ignored it. "Maybe it will go away," I rationalized."

I hope Gracie is home and well.

Sara said...

All good wishes for Gracie's speedy recovery, I'm so glad for you that she is doing well. As for being objective about all this, NO WAY, she's your baby !

cottrell said...

Hi My 5 yr old rottweiler is going through a similar beginning to Grace.
After several weeks of believing it was a pull that would be worked of, we finally took him to the vets. That was 3 1/2 weeks ago; he was put on Rimadyl, with a marked improvement in the 1st week but ever since no further improvement. In fact further complications seem to have developed, gluey eyes and muscle degeneration. So much so that he has now been taken of Rimadyl and prescribed PLT after 4 days free of drugs.

Do I need to prepare myself for the worst?


KatDoc said...

Hi, cottrell, I'm sorry your Rott is having so much trouble. I'm afraid I don't completely understand the situation. Your dog was lame for several weeks, at which point you took him to the vet's office, where he was prescribed Rimadyl. (This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID for short, given for pain and swelling.) This gave him some relief, but not much, is this right?

Here are a few of my questions: Is the lameness in the stifle (knee joint?) Did your vet X-ray him? Has he been diagnosed with an ACL rupture? If the answer to all these is yes, have you discussed surgery with your vet? If the answer is no, then you need X-rays, and a diagnosis before proceeding.

I don't know what you mean by PLT. It is not an abbreviation I am familiar with, except maybe for the blood clotting cells, platelets.

The muscle degeneration would be a common complication of a neglected ACL injury. The goopy eyes would not.

I don't know what you mean by "prepare yourself for the worst." I don't have enough information about this case to afford an informed opinion.

My suggestions would be to discuss this case with your vet and if you don't find his/her answers helpful, request a second opinion, preferably with a board-certified orthopedic (bone) doctor.

Best of luck,