Polly 3-Month Post TPLO Update
In my last post I promised everyone a more detailed update on Polly’s recovery. It’s been a very long, or rather it seems to have been a very long road, but I think I can say we’re finally there. The last little “kick” actually happened just this week and we’re finally (all paws and fingers crossed) at the point that she is no longer limping…at all! This is a massive break-through for us and a huge relief, but it also took some experimentation and lots of dedication.
For folks not interested in nitty gritty doggie stuff feel free to just click this post by, but for those interested here’s the full, gory story:
Full TPLO Recovery Can Take Up To 6 Months
When we left Sun Valley, ID at the end of July Polly’s leg had been given the all-clear by the vet, but she still wasn’t 100%. She would do well on her daily 3 x 20-min hikes, but then she would limp after she’d been lying down for a while. Plus she was still favoring her “good” side when standing still.
When we went for our 8-week checkup with the surgeon he assured us that this wasn’t completely out of the norm. Some dogs start using their TPLO leg right away and get back to normal within 8 weeks, while others take up to 6 months for full recovery. The majority of dogs end up somewhere in-between, but the time to recovery is very individual.
In the doc’s words Polly wasn’t his best patient, but she wasn’t his worst either.
It can be hard to hear that your dog isn’t doing “the best”, but it was also important for us to put the recovery into proper perspective. We knew we still had time to get there.
Part Of The Problem For Polly Was/Is Her Hips
Part of the delay to Polly’s recovery was/is very likely her hips.
If you recall we found out (through this whole process) that Polly has hip dysplasia and that will naturally impede recovery in the back end. It’s even possible that she was compensating for the hip prior to surgery, and that by “fixing” her leg (changing the joint angle), the hip problem became more obvious. Either way, post-TPLO things were now different and she was definitely feeling it.
Plus being a sensitive doggie, Polly is very alert to anything that is not working exactly as it should. To give you an example, she’s the kind of dog that will stop, raise her paw and look at us imploringly whenever a little rock gets in between her paws. This proved to be a challenge after surgery, and we had to work extra hard during rehab to “trick” her into using her bionic leg.
The rehab place felt that both of these things were likely contributors to her lingering limp. Polly was still adjusting to the new mechanics of her TPLO leg and this was probably being compounded by some extra pain from her hips.
We Knew Had More Work To Do
Polly’s final evaluation at the Sun Valley confirmed we had more work to do. Her back legs had excellent (and very even) range of motion, but her measurements still showed 6 cm* of difference in the muscle development between her two thighs, and she was definitely still favoring one side.
They sent us off with some herbal pills, a short course of NSAID’s (Dermaxx) and instructions to keep working on our exercises. The rehab vet felt this combo might help “kick” her through that last little bit of lingering pain and (hopefully) remove that last little bit of limp.
*NOTE/ Keeping track of your dog’s thigh muscle size is an important part of doggie TPLO rehab. Dog Knee Injury (the same website I mentioned in my last TPLO post) has a video on exactly how to do that.
Water Therapy In The Great Lakes Was Awesome
As we traveled from Sun Valley, ID to Ann Arbor, MI we worked hard on her recovery. We kept doing her daily walks, kept up with her rehab exercises (paw lifts, partial sits etc.) and did as much water therapy as we possibly could wherever we possibly could.
In ND we took her wading in every river we passed, and as soon as we got to MN/MI we starting swimming her in the Great Lakes. It took a while for doggie to understand these big ocean-looking things had no salt, but once she figured it out she let loose and threw herself into every piece of lake she could find. She LOVED it!
Great Lakes water therapy = 4 Paws Up!
We Re-Started Rehab in Dexter, MI
We researched the Animal Rehabilitation Facility in Dexter long before we got to MI, and as soon as we arrived we had Polly’s records sent over from Sun Valley and set-up our first visit.
The Dexter rehab is a well-rated place just outside of downtown that offers pretty much the same range of services (water therapy, acupuncture, cold laser, eastern medicine etc.) as Sun Valley, ID but in a slightly different setting. If I were to try and put it into words I’d say the Sun Valley place felt more like a zen spa, while this place feels more like a working medical center. The water tank is in the middle of a large room which also contains the front check-in desk and the obstacle rehab area. Plus it’s a much narrower tank than the one we used in ID. For Polly (who’s a nervous doggie by nature) this open set-up was initially a little scary, but she’s managed to adapt to the change.
Therapy-wise the centers are very similar and we’ve been very happy with the services. The head vet (Dr. Mary Cardeccia) is a lovely and competent woman with a very calm & warm energy, the techs are friendly and everyone is very welcoming. Polly’s first evaluation was extremely thorough and the vet confirmed her excellent range of motion as well as the muscle development of her two rear legs. The best news of all? We’re down to only 4 cm difference (!) which means our self-rehab efforts over the past 3 weeks have made a difference. Sooooo close!
Since we started at the rehab we’ve had multiple tub sessions and one acupuncture session, all of which have gone great. The only difficulty we’ve experienced is there’s a dog-friendly beer place (The Beer Grotto) a few blocks from the rehab which means we’ve been forced to drink beer after our rehab sessions. It’s been really hard work…
Note/ For those curious rehab costs here are similar to what we paid in Sun Valley. $40 for each water tub session, $75 for acupuncture session. There’s a package discount if you pay up-front for multiple tub sessions.
And I “Think” We’ve Kicked The Limp!!!
Ever since we found out about Polly’s hip dysplasia I’ve been trying to figure out the magic combo of supplements that would help her long-term and hopefully, maybe, finally kick that lingering limp.
We’ve had her on glucosamine** and fish oil for over a year, both of which she does well on, but haven’t been strong enough to do the job since her injury. The short course of NSAIDs (Dermaxx) that the Sun Valley center prescribed in Aug obviously worked great. While she was on them she didn’t feel a thing and pranced around like a 3-week old puppy. But NSAIDs are hard on the body and not something you want to give long-term unless there’s really no other choice. While she was on the course she definitely improved, but she still didn’t completely kick the limp.
So when we got to Michigan I decided to try something else.
Back when I was running the FLUTD Cat Forum on Yahoo I researched pretty much every anti-inflammatory on the market. One of the options that I came across was a natural anti-inflammatory based off milk proteins called Microlactin (brand name Duralactin** ). If you’re a horse person you might know it well, but for whatever reason it’s not as widely used in dogs and cat. In my forum days there were a few cats who really benefited from it, so I decided we’d give it a try for Polly.
Well I don’t know if it’s the supplement, or the extra water therapy, or her improved muscle development (or a little bit of everything) but within 2 days of starting Polly on Duralactin she stopped limping….completely! We’ve (paws crossed, touch wood) not seen any soreness after lying down, and she is now trotting, walking and running (at full speed!) exactly like she did before the injury. I can’t deny that my heart still jumps into my throat whenever I see her doing a “crazy run” but she’s definitely not holding back, and she’s definitely not showing any pain. We’re frikkin over the moon!
** NOTE/ We chose to buy Duralactin PLUS chews which contain glucosamine & MSM, so we’ve discontinued her old glucosamine supplement.
Is That It? Are You Done?
So, this all begs the question “Are you done, now?”. At this point I’d say we’re pretty darn close to being done. We’ve still got a few cm of muscle development to go, and Polly still needs to re-build her hiking stamina, but I would say we’re back to around 95% of where she was pre-surgery. Once this bout of rehab is over, I think we’ll be able to handle the rest on our own. We’re extremely pleased with her progress!
Long-term I know that hip arthritis will catch up to us, plus there is still a chance the other leg could go. Statistics tell us that once one leg goes, there’s a 50% chance the other leg goes within the next 5-12 months. We hope that won’t happen to us, and we hope our intensive rehab efforts have minimized that chance, but there are zero guarantees. If anything happens, you bet your paws we’ll right back in Sun Valley to do it all over again.
Phew! That was long, but brings you completely up to date and will hopefully help any doggie owners out there who end up going through this process themselves. If you have any questions about the whole TPLO and rehab process (or any tips of your own) DO feel free to comment below.