Recently our 6 year old Maltese had luxating patella surgery. I searched and searched the internet looking for other peoples' real life experiences but I couldn't find much. That being said I decided to blog our journey for those of you out there who are going through the experience.
First off, Sophi had stage 3 luxating patellas in both her back legs. She didn't like going for walks and we noticed she was refusing to jump more and more. We let our dogs jump on the couches (we have ramps for the beds) but our veterinarian and dog physical therapist recommends against letting your dog jump on furniture. We are "trying" to re-train our dogs to not jump.
We took Sophi to a few different vets to get second opinions. All of them concluded that she would be best served by having the surgery. We decided on a vet outside of town who was cheaper and had a great review. Because it is easier we opted to do both legs at the same time if, of course, the vet didn't have issues and need to stop the surgery. Apparently if they are under for too long or get too cold they sometimes have to stop early. However they were able to complete both of Sophi's.
The night and morning before the surgery she wasn't supposed to have food or water. We didn't take her for a long walk the day before either just in case. We dropped her off at the vet's office around 8 am and they called us at about 1:30 pm saying the surgery was complete and a success. They kept her overnight, which was hard, but we rushed to pick her up the next morning.
After the surgery she was groggy and the car ride home was a little painful. It took a while to figure out how to place her in the car. We took her home and she slept most of the day.
Medicine: They gave us 5 days worth of anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. At first they didn't give us any pain meds. We had some leftover tramadol which I gave to her and on day 2 we called the vet and asked for more. I honestly think the pain meds helped, especially for using the bathroom and because she had both back legs done. She is in a lot of pain so I've been doing the tramadol every 8 hours (instructions are every 8 to 12). She also has serious itching as the scars heal so I've switched (about day 5) to giving her Benadryl instead of a dose of pain meds. We give her Benadryl when she is car sick so we already have a recommended dose from our vet. That seems to be helping so you can ask your vet about that if your dog is crazily trying to bite the area.
Food/water: Sophi has always been a good drinker. The first day she drank and ate some chicken I made up for her. On the second day she didn't eat or drink at all and I was worried. However on day 3 she was back to eating and drinking so I really think things just fluctuate day-to-day for the first week. I made her eggs, chicken, cheese, and veggies to encourage eating and to easily give her medications. She normally eats dry dog food. We did do some wet food but all the variation starting giving her diarrhea.
Bathroom: She didn't go to the bathroom for about 24 hours after the surgery which made me a little nervous. We finally gave her some pain meds and later that evening she went pee. I believe she pooped on day 2 or 3 post-op, but for me her at least going to the bathroom every 24 hours was of most concern. After a few days she was pooping once a day and using the bathroom 2-3 times. She didn't walk too far and she definitely limped and favored her right leg, which wasn't as bad as her left per the vet when he got in there.
Activity: Sophi has always been less active, she loves to sleep all day, so she didn't move much for about 5 days after surgery. We were carefully to keep her off the couch and carry her up the stairs and on to and off the bed. She did try to jump on the couch once (she couldn't) and she did manage to go down the stairs once before we caught her. We have two dogs so we didn't have the stairs blocked off but we do now. She has been bad and tried to jump up on another dog, my dad, and the fence. In a perfect world we would prevent that but it's SO hard with quick little dogs. We did the best we could and prevented as much as we could. We are also icing her legs and doing range of motion (ROM) exercises with her twice a day. She wears the cone 24/7 unless we are right there to prevent her from licking/biting the stitches.
Issue: We had one issue with Sophi. When we did the range of motion exercises with her one of her knee areas popped. We called the vet and talked to him about it. Luckily we didn't think it was the kneecap so we waited to take her in until week 2 because we already had physical therapy scheduled. Another issue we had was the vet shaving her. They gave her razor burn when they shaved her legs so I put Bag Balm on her. I'm sure it was painful but luckily she heals quicly.
Overview: All in all, I say give the dog time. Make sure you follow the vet's instructions and watch for signs and symptoms of pain or issues. I was very nervous every day when she didn't progress or even backslid but the first week is the hardest and things get better.
Medications: Sophi finished the antibiotics and anti-inflammatory. We started giving her pain meds less, once or twice a day and sometimes at night if she woke me up. We saw the physical therapist about 10 days after surgery and she wanted to restart her on anti-inflammatories so we are back on those once per day.
Food/water: Sophi is back to drinking water on her own and eating her normal dry dog food. I was bringing her water in a little cup because she was having a hard time drinking with the cone but at about day 10 she didn't need the cone anymore because her wounds are healed. She does lick and bite sometimes when her legs are sore but again she is completely healed. The vet said about 2 weeks normally for wounds to heal. She doesn't eat as much as she used to so I am more liberal with giving her eggs, chicken, and cheese still but she will eat her food.
Bathroom: Every day she got a little better and at about day 12 she was going outside to the bathroom three times a day. She poops still about once a day. She is doing great.
Activity: Sophi's surgery was on Tuesday and the following Friday I went to the vet's to work with the physical therapist (PT). Because one of her legs was worse than the other she favored the good leg. When she would walk a lot or run too fast she would start hopping on 3 legs. That was a big concern for us so the PT gave us exercises. Even after running through the exercises with the PT Sophi was doing better walking on both legs.
Issue: Her leg still pops sometimes when we bend it but like the PT said she has great ROM of we stopped those exercises. The vet felt her legs and thinks it just fluid or the bones/joints and not an issue with her patella. At this point we have to keep her from jumping and working a lot of her PT exercises. She is still healing so we are doing our best to keep the "new" knees from luxating post-op. If the surgery is a failure we aren't sure it can be re-performed since she is so small.
Overview: Overall Sophi is doing a lot better. She walks around and has even been brave enough to start trying to jump so we are trying our best to keep her down. She is eating her food and doing a lot better at the PT. It's still a lot of work and we don't really leave her alone much yet. I cannot wait until she is all healed.
Week 3 & beyond
Life is somewhat back to normal. I was able to give her a little sponge bath as she was starting to stink! We are still really careful with her. We do not let her jump up or off things even though she wants to. She is off medications and her PT is going well. We took her back in for scan post-operative and the doc said everything healed up nicely. In fact, he said he has never seen a dog heal that well. #nursebri! :) She is definitely a little pampered after being hand fed but she is starting to act like her old self again. In fact she seems excited for walks now!
Go fund me
Since this surgery cost thousands of dollars we created a Go Fund Me page for Sophi. If you are looking for a create cause please consider donating. PS Eli and Sophi have an social media accounts and we would LOVE to have to you follow them!
PS I wanted to create this post so that you could have a reference for how Sophi did with her surgery. I in no way claim to have any professional experience or advice on this post and always recommend calling your veterinarian with questions. Each dog and procedure is different and your dog may not fit ours exactly!
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