Diagnosis: hip dysplasia. Now what?

I promise even though I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write, I have felt the inspiration and have been roughing a few out in my head.

First off I am such a bad puppy parent to not fully celebrate Klaus’ second birthday which was Jan 3. But let’s be honest, the little shit got a great gift this year- a new hip and a new lease on life. So that’s that. Here are some baby Klaus pics that are still some of my favorite!

 

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It got me thinking about the lengths some owners will go through in hopes of prolonging or bettering their pets lives. That’s not to discredit those who aren’t able to- whether financially or emotionally. But lets face it, whether or not good ol Uncle Sam recognizes them as true tax write offable offspring, they are our children and just as time consuming and money draining as “real” kids are.

So when an owner squares off with the diagnosis “your dog has hd” (or any other terrible condition), its devastating to say the least and is just as difficult to deal with if you were hearing the same thing about any of your loved ones.

In response to an awful lot of sad news I’ve seen via Klaus’ instagram followers- I want to really focus on our diagnosis, journey and experience in hopes of shedding some light, and well, hope really.

Our end result is so very close. We are two weeks shy of Klaus having total freedom again. January 20 is our “all systems go” day.

It has been tough, and not one Im looking forward to doing again. His left hip’s arthritis has progressed noticabley since his last radiographs. It is my hope that he will continue to use his bionic hip more and therefore lessen the stress on the left. But I suppose we will get there when (and if) we get there.

Afterall, our decision to do a total hip replacement was in fact a salvage surgery for the left in repairing of the right. It was one of the main reasons why we went with the “cadillac” of hip surgeries.

1.In the beginning………. In the beginning we had our concerns. Concerns we swayed with online diagnosis underlined with naivete and hope. Large breed dogs are known to go through rather painful growth spurts and subsequently growing pains aka panosteitis and we had ourselves convinced that the lameness and bunny hopping and super sleepy days were the result of pano. Around this time we were doing agility and everyone I spoke with, the trainers and other dog owners who experienced the same, all said “he’ll be ok. he’ll grow out of it. you’ll see”. Except what we saw was a detirioration in his gait- lots of swishing and swaying and total reluctance to sit. His stance was anything but square, rather crooked and he’d push his bad hip out when he sat. He’d slip and yelp out in pain and lay there for a moment.

2. Diagnosis………. I don’t understand gut feelings but I think it’s important to really listen to your intuition, you know “better safe than sorry”. Despite all the reassurrances we knew something wasn’t right. We couldn’t wait and see any longer. We had to know. Our vet took raidiographs and our suspicions were confirmed but could not be 100% verified until we met with the orthopedic surgeon.

3. Hindsight and the blame game………. Hindsight is great to have after the fact (and is only available after the fact). Had we tried to not convince ourselves otherwise, we might have been able to get him into an earlier procedure, a Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO). But it’s important not to dawdle or dwell but rather trudge forward with the task at hand. When we got the diagnosis, and after I completely broke down into a fit of swearing and tears I began to play the blame game. Why did we wait to get him diagnosed? Did we switch his food up too fast and therefore encouraged growth too fast? Did we let him play and run too much as a pup? Did we not look hard enough into his lines? In the end shit sometimes happens. I won’t say I didn’t continue to struggle with blame and guilt along the way, because I did. But I know our decision to not turn our back on our family member was a justifiable one- and one I still continue to have to justify to this day. * You won’t believe the nastiness I still combat with because Klaus is from a breeder!

4. Research………. Anytime someone is faced with a super hard surgical decision, it seems obvious that knowledge is power. In our case it was utterly and exhaustingly overwhelming- though very much necessary. I took this project head on and on a daily basis. It felt like a part time job. I began looking into any and all options, including some not so conventional ones. I sent away for brochures and literature. I signed up for message boards. I desperately sought out any and all tidbits of information that would help me make this decision. And ultimately only you can make this decision- something many times I wished someone else would for me. I asked the vets if Klaus was their dog what they would do- with mixed opinions.

5. Second opinions………. Get at least one other opinion. Though our second opinion was spot on with the first, we discovered a much better fit financially with Cornell, a teaching school and subsequently a much better fit bed-side manner wise. Our first surgeon quoted us at $7-9k and was rather gruff about everything. Cornell quoted us $4-6k with our final cost around $5k. I recommend really seeking out a teaching college. But regardless of where you go you must feel comfortable.

6. Brainstorm………. I don’t know about you but my husband and I live paycheck to paycheck. He owns his own business and I was faced with having to make a tough transition of full time employment with benefits to self employment and freelance- a transition that even on the best day is fleeting and not consistent in pay! Being a crafty person by nature and a designer at heart I set to work creating items I would sell in hopes of raising the funds. At the pressing of friends and family and even perfect strangers, we were encouraged to create a donation page. Consider creating a blog- not only as a way for people to get to know you and your pet, but I know in the end it was integral to my sanity.  Have a garage sale- or two- or three. I did a lot of research on grants for vet bills. It is a permanent page on my blog that can be found here: aid for vet bills. Although sadly a lot of these organizations are tapped out financially it doesn’t hurt to try and apply. You won’t know if you qualify until you do.

7. CareCredit………. If you haven’t already at this time applied for CareCredit, you should definitely do so. Most places won’t even consider your application or plea for help until you do so. It can be used for many other health care related issues, not just for pets but for humans as well! Makes me think I should probably consider a trip to the dentist with it 🙂

8. In the meantime………. In preparation for Klaus’ surgery we were tasked with the almost impossible need to keep him restrained to prevent his hip from popping out. How can someone restrict a puppy?! Remember Klaus was diagnosed around 8 months old. It broke our heart to prevent him from being a puppy but we had to. He was leashed at all times. Puppy play dates were essentially canceled- at least the free roaming ones. We began physical therapy, increased his supplements, massage and stretching. Depending on your diagnosis, you may be lucky enough to find that putting them on supplements and adding a swimming regiment is just enough. We kept Klaus trim and lean and switched out his treats for ones with added MSM and Glucosamine.We prepared our home for Klaus’ 8 weeks of confinement. We moved our bed downstairs. We created a penned area for him with extra padding. Consolidated his beds into one fluffy pile.

9. Be flexible………. Despite all the preparation we did it was important for us to be able to adapt and be flexible. Things we originally thought would help us- a larger penned area, one in the living room and one in the office- did not work a week after his surgery. He was anxious all the time and attempted to get out. The crate, though it broke our heart, was our best friend. What also worked better than I thought was leaving him crated in the living room while I did work in the office- out of sight.

10. Set aside alone time……….Whether that means straight up “me” time or making it a point for you and your significant other to get out of the house and not think about your troubles at home. There were plenty of times I just needed to go driving. My husband would come home and find me sitting on the kitchen floor, hands over my ears to drown out the barking, streams of tears running down my face. Though we didn’t have a lot of extra cash, my husband and I attempted date nights still. It was important and necessary as a way to destress. I imagine it works the same in any sort of stressful scenario- sometimes normalcy, even if it’s just pretending, is just what you need to feel grounded again. I know it helped to snap me out of the shit storm.

In the end would we do it again? YES! Given our particular scenario we would. And every owner and their pet is different. Klaus has what we hope is a long life ahead of him. We weighed the risks and outcomes of the surgeries and took a gamble financially that seemingly has paid off in the end. We have a dog who is ready and waiting for the go ahead to run and play again. *Though ask us this question again should we be faced with a THR on the left (I am leaning towards an FHO should the need arise).

The only advice I can give other pet owners is arm yourself with as much information as possible and really talk it out. Make a list of pros and cons. If you pray, pray. This decision as difficult as it is, is yours alone to make. All you can do is keep the love for your pet in mind, and everything else should fall into place. I hope other pet owners find solace in that.

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Filed under Animals, dogs, fundraising, German Shepherd, Pets

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