Harry is an 11 year old Golden Retriever who was being treated with rest and pain killers for arthritis, because he had recently been limping on his left back leg, slowing down a lot of recent times, and breathing with some effort when he was on his walks.
This diagnosis and treatment recommended by Harry’s previous vet seemed a little basic to us at Southern Animal Health, so upon further questioning, it was advised to Harry’s owner that more sinister problems may be at play. It is unusual for arthritis to suddenly make a dog lame in one leg, usually lameness occurs subtly over months to years and for larger breeds like Harry, acutely limping in the hind leg always raises concerns of potential cruciate damage. In addition to this, increased breathing sounds and sudden exercise intolerance, gives rise to concerns over Laryngeal Paralysis.
History suggested that Harry may be suffering from Laryngeal Paralysis, and clinical examination revealed discomfort on the left hind knee when pressure was exerted in a very specific way. Diagnosis of partial cruciate rupture (or cruciate disease), is not always straight forward. Inexperienced veterinarians often miss cruciate disease, or partial rupture, and incorrectly treat for years with pain killers – thinking they are suffering from arthritis. .
It is imperative to have high quality experienced veterinarians when it comes to canine lameness in order to quickly get the correct diagnosis and treatment. In Harry’s case he had two suspect concerns. Laryngeal Paralysis (LP) and potential cruciate disease. We needed to sedate and examine Harry for both concerns.
Upon sedation and examination, Harry had Laryngeal Paralysis, and cruciate disease, but not necessarily cruciate rupture. There is a difference and a time at which a conservative approach is warranted. Given LP surgical repair is not without some risks and short to medium term complications, it was decided to surgically correct this first, and only then consider cruciate repair should he do well with his LP surgery, but not recover from his hind leg lameness over the ensuing months.
Dr Karin Davids performed Laryngeal Paralysis surgical correction on Harry in October, from which he recovered extremely well. However he continued to labour on his hind leg (25% of dogs with cruciate disease, rather than rupture, may recover with conservative treatment, hence we recommend that first, but 75% will not, and will ultimately require surgery). Hence TPLO surgical correction was done, again by Dr Karin Davids.
Harry is a classic example that we always say at SAH, that age is not a disease! Just because Harry was over 11 years old, it did not mean that his recent slowing down was just arthritis. No, in fact he had two very specific concerns that have both been corrected by surgery, leading to a much improved life for the rest of his time, which may be 4-5 years yet! It is much much better to live them in comfort, and not on pain killers!