Bowie had a long history of leg injuries and vets – almost as long and painful as the toilet queue on Sydney’s New Year’s Eve.
Being an active and occasionally boisterous Labrador made him even more prone to injuries. We also suspected that he might have a predisposed genetic weakness in his joints and bones. We actually waited until Bowie’s about 15 months old before we got him fixed, learning from our research, that it would reduce the risk of cruciate ligament and hip dysplasia disease usually happen in large breeds. Perhaps we should have waited a bit longer until his growth plates fully closed, which could take up to 2 years, but we had never been fully informed.
Bowie had his first limp on his front right leg when he was 9 months old. We took him to the vet as he hadn’t got better. The vet did a quick physical examination and came up with elbow dysplasia diagnosis. We had Bowie x-rayed before committed to anything, and the x-ray didn’t show any signs of elbow dysplasia. The vet then dismissed it as just a sprain. She gave Bowie anti-inflammatory and suggested him to have a course of joint injections and restricted activities for a few weeks.
Bowie came good though it didn’t last long. He had a second limp on his other front leg 5 months later. We rested him but his limp didn’t get any better, so we took him to the vet. The vet did a physical examination and based on Bowie’s history he diagnosed him with Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) on his shoulder joint. We could go down the surgery path or conservative treatment of rest and anti-inflammatory. We chose the latter (thankfully!), as Bowie was then cleared of OCD after another x-ray.
Unfortunately before he’s fully recovered, he reinjured his ‘bunged’ leg a month later. We went back to the vet and he suggested to have Bowie on a brace to restrict his movements, so he could fully recover. The day he was admitted for the procedure, a completely different vet changed the diagnosis and injected his shoulder joint with corticosteroid.
Bowie didn’t get any better, in fact worse, and it really broke my heart to see this bouncy pup in pain and not able to move around. Bowie’s reaction to pain was to freeze, so we had to carry him around and encourage him to take ‘baby’ steps. We also found out all the bad side effects of corticosteroid including its adverse effect on soft tissue healing. I made a decision to get a second opinion and we found a vet that specialises in orthopaedic surgery, canine rehabilitation and sports medicine.
Bowie had never been properly and correctly diagnosed until our current vet. He and his assistant spent over an hour (not just 10 minutes) examining Bowie from head to paws. Using a combination of Mi-Eye arthroscopy, CT and ultrasound he diagnosed Bowie with supraspinatus tendinopathy.
Bowie was given a course of regenerative injection therapy to stimulate his own body to heal and went for an intensive twice a week laser therapy and rehabilitation for a month. The sessions were gradually decreased as he improved. Together with at-home exercises and stretches, Bowie’s back on his 4 legs – without having any surgery.
Lessons to be learned
Do your own research and get a second opinion before committing to anything. Find a vet that specialises in what your dog needs. It’s worth spending a bit more money for a full and proper diagnosis in order to get the correct treatment. We ended up spending much more money and having to put Bowie in unnecessary procedures by not getting one in the first place. We could also have prevented his injury getting worse and/or other injuries if we were fully and correctly informed.
Most vets often suggest surgery as solution but sometimes it’s not necessary (like in Bowie’s case). There are other non-surgical treatments that can help your dog’s body to heal by itself, like rehabilitation and sports medicine. Do your research and find the right treatment for your dog’s problem.
Of course you want to give the best to your dog and will go the extra mile for your dog’s wellbeing. However you’ve also got bills to pay, groceries to buy, family to support and vets are not cheap (especially when you don’t have pet insurance like us). Be honest with your vet and tailor a treatment plan that works for you and your dog.
It has been a long (not without bumps) road to recovery. Bowie had a minor setback about 2 months into his treatment when he injured his cruciate ligament (that’s another story! – Go to Part 2), but he’s doing very well now. Perseverance, patience and hard work have paid off! His leg muscles are much stronger, he can walk longer distance and he’s been going back into training. But most importantly, he’s happier and ready to explore the world like what dogs are supposed to do!