Update on Tilley’s elbow dysplasia

Shaven TilleyWe’ve been very busy keeping Tilley quiet since her operation so we haven’t had the time to do much blogging. We’re just glad that we don’t do the Christmas thing, because she needed constant attention to keep her quiet over the festive period. Here are extracts from The Tilley Diary which will give you a snapshot of what we’ve been up to since she had operations on both her front legs for elbow dysplasia.

The Tilley Diary: 19 December, 2013

Our Tilley had her elbow operations yesterday and all went well. She is now home and curled up in front of the fire covered in fleecy blankets as all the fur on her chest and front legs was shaved off. She’s very dopey and wobbly on her legs (but still tries to run!) but was pleased to see us and even offered a tail wag and a show of her belly.

Tilley bonesThe surgeon was pleased with how the operation went and there was more cartilage in each of the coronoid processes than he’d expected. The picture to the left, is of the bits the bits he took out of her elbows in one leg.

So, fingers crossed we will be able to keep her quiet enough over the next few months for a solid recovery. Luckily she loves her crate so that will be very helpful during this time. And I’ve been stocking up on things to stuff and freeze (Zooplus sent an extra free bag of chews, which is handy!), and reading up about new clicker training ideas. It’s going to be a struggle to keep her contained but we’ve tried to be well-prepared. Woolly just popped to Pets at Home to get a cone of shame (poor Tilley) as she’s chewing at her surgical sites.

The shaved parts of her chest have shown up many more little scars (we’re not sure from what – other dogs? cats? rabbits?) than we’d previously known about, which must have happened in her early life before we adopted her from the Dogs Trust.

Phew. I’m so glad the first big event is over. It’s wonderful to have her home.

The Tilley Diary: 20 December, 2013

Tilley had a good night although she’s developed a bit of a cough which the surgeon thinks is a post-anaesthetic irritation – we’re to see our local vet if it doesn’t settle down over the weekend. She was extremely cuddly when I checked on her a few times during the night, nestling her head into my arm and wriggling upside down for endless belly rubs. She is settling off and on in her crate with the odd outing for cuddles on her bed next to the crate or to sniff around the room or on-lead out in the back yard.

It is distressing when she won’t settle, though. If only we could tell them it was for their own good.

The Tilley Diary: 23 December, 2013

An update on our Tilley post-surgery. She’s doing pretty well – sleeping, eating, drinking, pottying and all the other vital stuff! She wobbles and hobbles about gingerly, and is extremely cuddly at the moment. I’ve put a few pots of herbs along the edge of the yard so she has something to sniff at on her potty outings!

We’ve never known her to be so in need of affection, strokes, belly rubs and tickles. Even when we’re in the process of stroking her she gently paws us and looks up at us, in what we call her “penguin pose”, for more rubs and cuddles.

Antler chews and frozen cow hooves stuffed with wet food have been a “dogsend” in keeping her entertained in her crate during any excitable moments. And the clicker training is also working wonders at getting her to accept being in her crate at unusual times.

Tilley in her crate with pinguShe is on Tramadol so this helps in keeping her calm. We have moved her crate into the living room and she seems to prefer lying on the memory foam mattress in there to her usual bed. She really loves her crate at the moment and will curl up in there with the door open – unheard of!

She licks at her stitches so we put a kiddies jumper on her from the charity shop as she looked so miserable in the “cone of shame”. We also got a Hotterdog jumper but can’t get it over her front legs.

Here she is with her new favourite toy, Pingu, and with her favourite cuddler.

The Tilley Diary: 28 December, 2013

Tilley cuddlesWe were doing really well at keeping Tilley quiet but these past couple of days she’s been very restless, pacing around when she’s out of her crate, doing the post-poo zoomies like I’ve never seen, and going bonkers when any food is produced. We have to keep her on the lead even when indoors to keep her under control. When she thinks she’s had enough time in her crate she tries to open the door – she’s almost worked out how! Her left foreleg is obviously giving her jip as she holds it up some of the time, though the local vet at her recent check-up said not to worry unless she was yelping in pain or not wanting to put weight on it.

We’re employing all our coping strategies! We’re here all the time and are doing sitting-still clicker games, the Overall relaxation protocol and other such training, plus she has potters out in the backyard to sniff about among the herbs, and the odd frozen stuffed kong or hoof to keep her busy. Phew. This is a challenge for us all.

The Tilley Diary: 2 January, 2014

Tilley posing on sofaOur adorable little mongrel had a check-up at the vet this morning. Everything looks fine with the surgery and she was really good while the vet took out her stitches, weighed her, checked her ears, gave her a manicure and referred her to physio and hydrotherapy.

Tilley is also happy to report that she has made significant progress in training her owners. She made a compelling case for being allowed on the sofas by settling beautifully each time she was invited up on them and her owners now seem unable to reverse the No Dog On Sofas rule.

Her cunning plan succeeded!

Editor’s note: I (Woolly) take no responsibility for this and have protested through the rightful channels. But my protest has been vetoed by the females in the house, so she is on my lap while watching telly this afternoon.

The Tilley Diary: 5 February, 2014

Tilley Black Dog HydroIt’s been a while since we wrote an update on Tilley as the truth is… she’s been keeping us VERY busy! She is doing pretty well. Keeping her quiet is the most incredible challenge. The poor pup just wants to run, and jump, and wiggle, and chase, and play… You get the picture. She saw the surgeon for a check-up a few weeks ago and he was happy with her progress. She can now do 2×20 minute walks per day, up from 2×10 minute. As you can imagine, when she does get out she is the happiest dog in the land.

She has started physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, which she adores. She was nervous about the water at first, but on the second attempt she was keen to get into the water and did about five laps! The place we go, Black Dog Hydrotherapy at Harrogate, is really excellent and the therapists spend a lot of time introducing the dogs to the water and making them completely comfortable.

The Tilley Diary: 12 February, 2014

Hurrah! Tilley has just been signed off by the surgeon after he reviewed her x-rays and we can start to build up her exercise. He’s very happy with how she’s doing and the bones are knitting together nicely. He even said we could start with letting her run free in a enclosed area; short runs at first. This we know she is definitely looking forward to, and we can’t wait to see her running rings around us (in not just a metaphorical way!). She’s been a little start at dealing with her ‘prison time’. Yes, she drove us made at times, but she developed a lot of patience in the end.

On a side note: all the car journeys we have done with Tilley to the vet, physio and hydrotherapist, have unfortunately not helped in changing her mind about the car. She absolutely detests it. We have tried two or three different drugs that should help with her car sickness and anxiety. Nothing has helped or stopped her whining, crying, drooling like the Niagara Falls and being sick almost every time she travels. We’ve had best results with not feeding her either food or medication for a good few hours before the trip, but she still whines with anxiety and nausea – we think the former has come from the latter. The return journey is always the best, since she is knackered from the ‘to’ journey and the vet/hydrotherapy visit, but still she is not happy and has to be lifted into the car as she won’t walk near it. It is distressing for all of us. We have a lot of desensitisation work on our hands if we’re to be able to drive her places happily!

The dark days of keeping her (and ourselves) cooped up will soon be behind us… roll on spring. We have lots of lovely moors and dales to show you, Tilley!

Sticks and stones: Tilley’s elbow dysplasia

tilley over skiptonA couple of months ago, we noticed that Tilley was limping badly especially after a long walk or a long sleep. She would struggle to get up from her bed and then wobble quite noticeably for a while. She would also throw her elbow out on her right front leg while walking.

We went to the local vet where we got the bad news that x-rays showed that Tilley has elbow dysplasia, with the right leg being the worst affected. We had her booked in for an arthroscopy on the right elbow followed by the surgery the vet thought would have the best effect.

The vet told us that her particular problem is a short radius, coupled with an elliptical shape to the ulna. Osteoarthritis is showing already in both elbow joints. Depending on the severity of the condition shown by the arthroscopy, the vet will either just clean out the joint, or cut a chunk out of the ulna, or cut the ulna and plate it. The joints have recently started clicking loudly when she walks, so we are calling her Clicky now.

This problem is genetic and it has not helped that she clearly had been left to run around too much while a puppy. We don’t know how much, since she was found dumped by the side of the road at roughly six months old.

Well, that was the situation until we did a bit of further research and found another surgeon who has the highest qualifications in the area of dog orthopaedics and is a RCVS recognised specialist – you do just want the best for your dog. Today Tilley had a CT at the new specialist, as that gives a better image and idea of what is going on in her joints, compared to the x-ray.

Tilley in sheep pooThis meant an hour long trip in car, for which she thanked us in her own special way. Having woken her up two hours before her normal morning call, she managed to sneak in a bit of cat poo during her walk. So much for ‘nil by mouth’ before CT scan. In the car she was whining, dribbling and pacing in her crate, poor thing. Then with a loud burp, she regurgitated her ‘breakfast’ – yes, if dog sick wasn’t disgusting enough, our delightful pooch had sicked up cat poo. But she still had a surprise up her sleeve. In true K9 style, she immediately lapped up her deposit. Yummy. The recycling would probably have continued ad infinitum if we’d not stopped to clear things up.

The vet specialist spent a good half hour talking us, observing Tilley walking and checking her joints. He manipulated her joints in the most comfortable position for her – lying on the ground with her belly in the air. She clearly wasn’t happy with him bending her elbows and licked his face – her usual gentle response to discomfort. This is another reason we like Tilley so much: she would never bite. She knows and respects the difference between skin and toys when we play. She was taken off to be sedated before her CT scan. We were pleased to hear that this procedure could be done without a general anaesthetic.

We returned to pick Tilley up a few hours later and heard the news that the situation is worse than the initial x-rays had shown. There are bone fragments in her joints as well as joint incongruency. The vet had an emergency and was in theatre, so we got the info from the head nurse – who also doubles as his wife – who told us the he will sit down tonight and really study the images from the scan to find out the best options for Tilley.

We are very thankful, firstly that we’re in a position to help her as much as we can, and secondly that we took out decent Lifetime cover PetPlan insurance as the vet’s bill is likely to be in excess of £3000. We’re covered up to £4000 with PetPlan.

The vet called this morning to discuss his findings. In summary, Tilley has very dodgy elbows, with each displaying similar symptoms: bone fragments, ill-fitting joints – not a straightforward case of short radius syndrome – and arthritis. She will have an arthroscopy next week on both elbows to remove fragments, review the wear patterns in the cartilage and remove bits of bone which are hindering joint function. While the aim is to slow down the progression of joint degeneration, it is not a cure and not all dogs are less lame after the op. But, 80-85% show some improvement.

We’d welcome any advice from anyone who has been through a similar experience with their dog, especially to do with suitable jointcare foods, complementary therapies, exercise, supplements, and how to keep a livewire puppy quiet while healing.

The T-shirt of shame

Over the last few days Tilley’s spay scar started to play up. It was looking good the first few days we had her and she didn’t mind us touching her belly or even the scar itself. But, this morning, an area of her scar had swollen up quite badly and she showed slight discomfort when we touched it.

After Sunday afternoon’s ‘deposit’, which was rather runny, she was clearly under the weather. She just wasn’t her normal self (normally her tail is held high, lots of wagging, and wanting to be near us). She clearly couldn’t get comfortable, held her tail low and often went to her crate and looked rather sad. She wasn’t that keen either to go out for her evening walk.

When I came down to do the the middle of the night trip to the toilet, she was out cold and very slow to get going and not keen on going out. She did a quick lap of the yarden, while I did the watering can trick, but she went straight back to her crate where sadly she did a leak before I could get in and do anything. From what we’ve read, this is most unusual as dogs don’t like to toilet where they sleep.

Quite worried, we called the vet up as soon as it opened on Monday morning and got an early appointment. The staff at the Kingsway vet’s in Skipton were so nice and caring – full marks to them. Tilley was reasonably OK to get into the car and very energetic in the vet’s waiting room, since there were people to be met and other animals to be wagged at! The vet agreed that the scar was unfortunately infected. She cut off the bit of the stitch that was sticking out and pricked a hole in the worst bit of the infected lump, without a yelp from Tilley. She really is very good. Tilley was prescribed antibiotics and we made a follow-up appointment for next week.

The vet suggested either a Cone of ShameTM or t-shirt to stop Tilley from licking or otherwise messing with the wound. We settled for the t-shirt since we were very sure that the cone would drive her nuts. We found out that she is 11.2Kg, so not a big dog at all, and the vet is pretty sure that she is near fully grown now too.

We tried to get Tilley back into the car and she wouldn’t any of it so we decided that Peli would walk her home and I would drive back and get the crate ready and go to work. After a hour’s walk home (where all the loose-lead training went right out the window) and the first installment of the antibiotics both Peli and Tilley were rather shattered! Tilley did receive lots of compliments from fellow dog-walkers on the walk, however, and she wagged (and pulled) a lot in return. She seemed to perk up during the day, and spent a happy hour knocking about her Kong and plastic bottles in exchange for kibble.

When I got home from work Tilley was spreadeagled across a cross-legged Peli and took some time to wake up and greet me. I’ve just spent 30min playing with her and her favourite toy. Hopefully she will be better for tomorrow evening as it is her first day at school – Junior doggy training.