|Barked: Tue Jul 5, '11 9:00am PST |
Birdie tore her anterior cruciate ligament on Monday, June 27 and we are looking for all the info we can get on what we should do to help her (and our bank account) through this trial.
I will start from the beginning. Birdie turned 10 in May and while ten is ten, she seems to be in great health. We feed her well (never from the table), subsequently, she has never had a weight problem (she is rather small at @ 19 lbs.). She has late summer allergies that cause her to lick her paws and legs so badly that she takes off a lot of her coat off in these areas. Usually at the beginning of August each year she gets a shot of Vetalog and takes a prednisone tablet every other day for about a month to six weeks. We feel this may have weakened her joints over the years, but if there is any safer way to fight her allergies, our vet has not made us aware of it.
On to the issue at hand. On Monday of this week my wife let Birdie outside to use the bathroom. She always enjoys romping around the back yard chasing rabbits and birds. When my wife went to let her in she would not come inside and was not putting any weight on her right-rear leg. She had to be carried inside. I was out of town on business, so my wife called me to tell me about Birdie's behavior. She did tell me however that Birdie showed no signs of being in pain even when she laid her down to try to look at her leg. I just figured she had been stung by a bee or had stepped on something and she'd shake it off in a day or so. When I got home late Tuesday afternoon, her condition had not improved. She just hopped around the house with her leg suspended. I decided to call our vet. I spoke with a tech that told me the description I gave them screamed of a ruptured/torn ACL. The tech said there is always the possibility it it would not be an ACL, but he was pretty sure based on what I described to them. We told him we were already scheduled to drop Birdie off on Thursday afternoon (today) to be boarded while we would be on vacation. He also informed us there is about a fifty percent chance Birdie will suffer the same injury to the opposite knee within the year (great!). He said surgery is the best option and for a dog of Birdie's size the price tag for the surgery would be between $700 and $900 (or according to him a great deal). He said without the surgery she will never be the same and likely arthritis will set in and the pain she suffers and the money we'll need to shell out to treat that will be more in the long run.
So, I decided to poke around online and make some calls. We have a few family friend whom are both DVMs. Much of what I read online lead me to believe surgery should be a last resort option (especially for a dog of Birdie's size). Both of the friends I spoke to confirmed some of what our vet's tech told us, but not all of it. Both said there should be a period of a week or two with birdie on anti-inflammatory meds and lots of immobilization to see if she begins to heal on her own. Both (and especially one) told me that there is always the chance it is just a partial tear (again due to her size).
Birdie loves to get in the car and ride and gets very excited when we get to our destination. When we arrived at the vet, I carried her inside in her small kennel. When I let her out, I had not seen her put as much pressure on the knee as she was since I got home Tuesday night. I understand her excitement may have taken over, but I wouldn't think she would be able to do that with a completely torn ACL. When we got into the examination room, she was not sitting on her haunches, but up on her rear pads, knees flexed like she wanted to jump up on the vet (she loves people and wants to let people know how much she loves them). The vet first asked, "which leg is it?"
I replied, "right."
He looked at her, then at me and asked, "right?"
I said, "yes."
So, based on her behavior, he couldn't tell which one it was (keep in mind however, when she would stand up on all fours, she would still let the right-rear hang). I know I am getting my hopes up, but please stay with me. We get her on the table and he begins to examine he knee. He says, "it's not her ACL. Not enough play." If it was the ACL she would NOT have been able to do what she had done when he walked in the room. So I asked if it could be her hip. He says not sure but he'd put her on some type of med (I cannot remember the name). He played with it a bit more and then said it was the ACL... she had been too tense. Now, I know this is certainly possible because one of our vet friends said that some dogs tense up so much they cannot be diagnosed w/out being sedated, but what about being told she would not have been able to do what she'd done with a torn ACL what she'd done when he first entered the room. I asked him about the possibility of it being partially torn. He replied no and that he'd never seen a dog with just a partial tear. He said the surgery would be about $900. When I asked him what if we just opt out of the surgery, he replied, "she still has three legs." He told me that without the surgery she'll basically never be able to walk on the leg again.
So, Birdie is now being boarded and is NOT scheduled to have surgery at this time. I do not enjoy speculating over our vet's motives, but I cannot help but to wonder for a few reasons. First of all, I read online in a few places that ACL surgeries in canines is a cash cow for vets. Secondly, at one point we were paying what I considered to be a lot for prenisone tablets. We decided to start buying them from a well-known online store (and have been saving big time bucks doing so). The next time we were in to see our vet after first ordering them online, the vet basically called me out for doing so. I guess I was a little taken aback he did that that all I could think of to say was we were just wanting to watch our expenses and decided to save some money where we could. Look, I understand he is running a business, but who is he to question how my wife and I decide to budget. In a way, I wished we would have concluded our business with him at that moment. Between teeth cleanings and extractions, boarding, and all the other vaccinations and tests we have paid for, he has made plenty of money off us.
I understand I am possibly just acting off my emotions and I want to be hopeful, but something just doesn't feel right. If Birdie's only hope is to have surgery performed, I think she will probably be having it performed elsewhere if possible.
I guess we're just looking for any advice on how to handle this. We don't want out pet opened up unless it's absolutely necessary for her sake and ours (we are very thankful we can afford the surgery [surgeries if it happens again], but after all $1000 bucks is a $1000 after all is said and done). Thank you to anyone with advice.
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