Wondering where I’ve been?

I’m on the lam!  I’m hiding!  I ran away and nobody will ever find me!

And I took this with me!

That’s Fast Eddie.  He came into our shelter and his owner never showed up to claim him.  I made The World’s Biggest Mistake and posted a photo of him on Facebook, and my friend Shannon screamed dibs.  DAMMIT!  How on earth did I forget to call dibs?

I had to bring him home to hold onto for a few hours before meeting his transport to Seattle…just enough time to fall further in love.

Really?  REALLY?

STOP BEING SO EFFIN’ CUTE EDDIE!!

Sowee.

I have always had a secret hankering for a Cavalier puppy.  I mean, I know they don’t in any way resemble my usual dog aesthetics…

Oh.

Well, it’s not like a Cav puppy would fit in with my gang anyway.

Oh.  DAMMIT!

Why are you so bloody adorable Eddie?!?!

Mmmm… I had your heart, and I eated it.

Seriously, how many times do you find a purebred Cavalier PUPPY in a shelter?  In your own shelter?  Where you could have dibs, if only you’d remembered to call it?  AAAAAAGHHHH!

*sigh*  I couldn’t have another dog anyway.  I have too many, and they’re all falling apart.  The real reason I’m on the lam is because I’m afraid someone is going to call the SPCA on me.  Shall we recap this year’s list of injuries?

  • Piper tried to commit suicide by cutting open an artery in her tongue.
  • Someone (Spring?) tried to have Dexter ribs for dinner.
  • Spring lamed herself.
  • Dexter broke his toe.
  • Tweed had a second round of prolotherapy on his foot.
  • Wootie developed a spontaneous, repeating hole in his shoulder.
  • Piper developed the mother of all hot spots.
  • Last week Dexter ripped one of his dewclaws off.
  • Now Tweed is crumbling in his old age.  Booo!

Nine months, nine injuries.  Surely someone is going to start thinking I’m slowly trying to kill off my dogs!

It’s been two weeks since Tweed’s splint came off and he’s 100%, absolutely, no better.  We went back to see the vet again yesterday as Tweed has been tri-podding for two solid weeks.  Ultimately, Tweed’s never going to get better, is the answer I was NOT hoping to hear.  Whatever he did to his carpal joint included tearing or damaging all the ligaments around it, and those f*ckers don’t heal.

Our choices right now are to manage the pain and limp for the rest of his life with the help of an orthotic brace for his carpal joint, or a very intensive and expensive surgery to fuse the wrist together.  He won’t be able to bend it, but it won’t hurt him anymore.

I admit, I am torn.  I don’t know what option is best.  On the one hand, a brace is a much less expensive option; an ‘off the rack’ open foot splint is about $100.  It would stabilize the carpal joint, so it won’t hurt him when he’s running around like an idiot (an activity he likes more and more, the older he gets).  That’s assuming it works as advertised.  A custom-made splint would probably be more successful at being a perfect fit, thereby functioning more successfully, but it would cost closer to $1000.00, and would never actually heal him up, just manage the problem (but also the pain, since it’s mainly using the leg that is painful for him).

Surgery to fuse the joint would, assuming all goes well, be the most successful choice as it would limit the pain in his leg permanently.  At $3500.00, this is a bit daunting…but I’d find the money somewhere if I was confident this was the best choice for him.  However, as my vet pointed out – Tweed is going on 13 years old.  This is a major surgery.  And how many more years does Tweed have to run around like an idiot anyway? (*hands over ears* LALALALALALALALA).  And he’s right … to put an old dog through that kind of surgery might not be the best choice.  How many painful procedures to his feet and legs can I do to him?

On the other hand, how can I not do everything in my power to make sure he lives out the rest of his life pain-free?

And the more pressing question … how do I get Dexter to stop photobombing Tweed?

But seriously…what would you do?  Keeping in mind that $3500 is going to take you some time to scrape together, so you have time to really think it through.

Right now my plan is to buy the off the rack splint and see it he adapts to it, and how much of a difference it makes to his daily pain levels and exercise.  He still REALLY wants to run around and play, and he does it on three legs if he has to.  I find this encouraging.  If he were Dexter, I would expect him to run through the pain, but being Tweed, I expect him to complain loudly and pout if he is really suffering.  If he’s still running around, I have to believe the pain is manageable.  If a splint can keep him mainly pain-free, it might save him from undergoing yet another invasive surgery.

But I’m always open to hearing some other arguments for doing things differently, so feel free to share.

If it helps you “get in my head” you can look at this. doG knows I do every day!

Comments

  1. I would start out with the off the rack splint and, if all goes well, start saving for the custom splint. I probably wouldn’t go through with the surgery unless the outcome was damned certain. Keep him as happy and comfortable as you can. At the end of the day, you’ll do what’s best you Tweed and you.

  2. RKEdmonton says:

    ZOMG, I too have always wanted a cavalier, the only small dog I’ve ever really coveted. Wish I could have gotten dibs in.

  3. One of the things that would help me choose would be the risk of the actual surgery itself – from what I understand, with LALALALAolderLALALALA dogs there’s a greater risk of complications from the anaesthesia. Also, there is yet another long period of recuperation and inactivity. Trying the splint first is less invasive, and if it can manage his pain so that he can run around and have fun without being happy, why not? Then if he does end up needing to have the surgery, then at least you already have something that will help a bit while you save up for the greater cost. Bottom line, you know your dog. You’ll be able to tell if the splint can make enough of a difference to help him maintain his quality of life.

  4. For $100, buy the splint. See how it works. In the mean time start saving your pennies for one of the two more expensive options if the spint doesn,t do well enough, and if the splint does do the job you have money saved for the next emergency.

  5. Whoops! Let’s play spot the cut and paste error in my first post :) If Tweed can run around and have fun without being happy he’s got bigger problems than needing a splint, lol! You catch my drift though…if he’s happy and able to have fun, then he’s maybe ok without the surgery.

  6. all boxers... for now. says:

    gah, how could you post a Cav today? a Cav is the only small dog i’ve ever given a moments consideration. they are ridiculously cute and every. single. one. i’ve ever met has been more charming than the last. we currently have a Cav friend at our park. he is crazy cute and my Boxer is just as crazy about him as i am. his owner travels all the time and leaves the dog with her parents. i keep telling the dad he better keep that dog on leash or he might disappear one day. LOL

    i’m not really qualified to chime in about the surgery/splint conundrum. i think your plan sounds good. hopefully the off the rack very affordable splint will work out well and you’ll have a solution. paws and fingers crossed for that. he’s smilin’, he’s always smilin’…. reckon that’s what happen when you have the very best life any dog could ever dream of at TFL’s house.

  7. I think I’d start to wish for readers to send me lottery tickets. Seriously. With as large a readership as you have, SOMEONE must have a chance at a winning lottery ticket.

    In the meanwhile… I feel your (and Tweed’s) pain….

  8. That’s a tough one — sorry about these unwanted “adventures.” I have 13 and 14 year old bearded collies, and always wondered: why do people say NEVER GET TWO PUPPIES! I know they’re a lot of work, but they grow up, don’t they? Yes: into two seniors who call your name to refill their water pitcher, change the channel, turn them over or close the curtains ALL DAY LONG. I made the decision for my ex-agility guy to manage his pain from arthritis/past injury/dysplasia? as well as I can, adding chiropractic and massage if/when I can afford to do it. I couldn’t swing surgery, even if he would benefit from a hip replacement — I can’t even afford that for myself! And I wouldn’t put him under after age 9-10 anyway. You know what’s best, but I say start with the simplest option, see how it goes, manage any pain and keep him as active as possible. Sounds like his will and spirit are still intact and will get you through any rough patches :)

  9. I would start with the immediately available splint and see what that does. And I would likely go for the custom splint if I felt there was still some pain to be managed and the off the shelf could be improved upon for fit etc. I would likely stop there and not put my 13 year old dog through an extensive surgery – cost would not deter me. But the risk of the surgery and recovery risk would weigh significantly in my mind. If however the splint options did not result in pretty near complete pain relief, I would look to accupuncture and chiro and message therapy (would probably do this anyway), and if that still resulted in ongoing pain I would be aggressive about looking at options. In other words, I would not jump to surgery by any stretch. I would look to relieve pain and restore quality of life.

  10. P>S> I have zero interest in Cavaliers and so can’t say anything positive about that one:>) So I’ll just shut up!

  11. Sorry to hear Tweed isn’t better. :-( When my dog was 11 and a half, he ruptured his cruciate and I had a TPLO done on him. The surgery was hard but the recovery was even harder. He never regained the mobility I’d hoped he would. I decided that I would never put an old dog through another major surgery unless there were absolutely no options. When he blew the cruciate on his other knee, I tried a brace for him. It didn’t work at all so I got him a doggie wheelchair. He loved his chair and even played Frisbee in it. I highly recommend trying anything but surgery. My Eddie was never the same after that surgery…not just physically, but emotionally. Don’t do it unless you have to. Try the brace!

  12. I’m another “try the brace” advocate. I’ve been unhappy every time Elka has had to be anesthetized for something, and she’s only 3. At 13, I can’t imagine voluntarily putting her through a surgery unless it was 100% ironclad, gold plated guaranteed.

  13. FWIW, I agree with most folks–try the off-the-shelf splint, save pennies for the custom model, and pursue pain relief. Acupuncture, chiro, massage, drugs, whatever works for Tweed. I would not put a 13-year-old dog through major surgery. And I say this with two 13-yo in the house. I love them dearly, but the difficulty my girl had with major dental surgery at 12 really cured me of seeing surgery as a good option for an older dog. She’d had similar surgery 2 years earlier; I really wish I’d had all her teeth pulled then, as she recovered quickly. Now she has no teeth, which makes dinner time interesting, but she’s very happy and what the hey, I can always put a towel down for the spillage. But the recovery time was prolonged; I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I’d had to confine her and keep her immobile.

  14. I agree with the splinting too. I have a 6 year old Great Dane, which is like halfway to ancient in Dane years. They wanted me to have his teeth cleaned, but it required anesthesia. Nope. Not on a big dog, not on an old dog, most definitely not on a big old dog. I love Tweed to pieces too (almost as much as Red Dog, bless him) but I’d try the cheapest option first and see how that manages his pain. I know one day my Phantom will not be able to walk without pain, as he’s already having trouble getting off the floor easily. As much as I don’t want to let him go, as long as I can keep him comfortable I will try my damndest. Best wishes to you, I know it’s not an easy decision.

  15. I’m glad you’re starting with an off-the-rack splint. What is the expected healing time of the surgery? How much pain will it put poor Tweedles through? And, like so many above said, what are the risks involved in the surgery? I think, with Tweed being 13, he’s got to keep in as good of shape as possible, because the longer he keeps up his exercise and muscle tone, the longer he’ll be able to get around well. If surgery is going to have him crated for more than a couple weeks, it’s not worth it. Besides, if the splint will keep him pain-free, it’s a safe, painless option.

    Further, remember that time you needed donations a few years ago? Where’d that donation button get to, anyways? I’d be willing to throw $20 in the Tweed fund- it’s not a lot, but it’s a start. I’ll bet there’s several more people who feel the same way as I do.

  16. I would try the splint and try and keep the joint warm if he’s not wearing it 24/7. A friends dogs pasterns are dropping and we improvised a way of keeping it warm and increasing the blood flow (well, the hope was it would increase the blood flow), she appeared quite happy to have it on and she even started to want to do things again. We used some thin neoprene and wrapped that around the pastern and then just used a bit of vet wrap to keep it in place. I think you’ve had enough injuries this year – so no more ok?

  17. Look into Back on Track braces as well. They help increase circulation to the area which helps with healing. They really do work as I used them on myself for some tendonitis and it was like a miracle! Horse people swear by it and they make specific joint braces for dogs.

  18. I also would try the off-the-rack splint and see how he does. If not so great then I would try the more expensive splint. At his age it doesn’t seem right to put him through an extensive surgery with a long recuperation time. You know Tweed better than anyone so whatever decision you make will be the right one for you and Tweed. Maybe he will live a loooooonnggg time like Sport. It is a crap shoot to guess how long a dog will live. But when you know your dog you can make the best decision on surgery.

  19. First off, I am a physician.
    I would not do the surgery on a dog of this age. All surgery carries risks, and the risks increase with age, and the rehab period would be much longer with an old dog. There are no guarantees it would work, either. Surgical solutions are usually presented as correcting a problem, but they rarely do, bearing in mind that a very complicated and delicate structure is literally going to be ripped apart to do the surgery, and scarring would result.
    Dogs do better with pain than we do, and pain is just part of aging. Take my word for it — I am seventy years old (and I do agility).
    Some remedies that might help: Fish oil. Give him lots, you can’t overdose on it. It has very good anti-inflammatory effects. I give it to my dog with disc problems three times a day. He weighs 18lbs and gets one gram capsules.
    dlpa – this is an amino acid that boosts the body’s endorphin levels and helps with chronic pain. It really worked with my 7 year old terrier with multiple disc problems. You can figure out the dose by doing a search. It has no serious side effects. Give it on an empty stomach.
    Get the cheap splint.
    Good luck!! And don’t get freaked out by your dog limping along. It’s OK, he isn’t really suffering, he just has an owie when he bears down on the joint. If he was truly suffering he wouldn’t want to move around.

  20. Janice in Ga says:

    I’m so sorry Tweed isn’t better. :( I’d be pretty hesitant about putting an older dog through a big procedure too.

    Like Diana said, I’ve been told that fish oil is pretty good for achy dogs. We’ve started giving it to my 8 y.o. Jasper dog, BEFORE he gets achy.

    I’ve known a couple of Cavs. Some are a handful, some are mellow. Many are very handsome. If I wanted a small lap dog, I’d consider one. As it is, I’ll stick with my larger dogs who will occasionally sit in my lap. :)
    Much love to Tweed and to you.

  21. I think your thought about testing the less expensive splint is really the best option right now.

    Couple more angles to consider:
    Surgery will mean more time off the leg, putting additional pressure on the opposite shoulder and leg, and in a 13 yr old dog that could create more problems on the opposite side then you are fixing on the other leg. If you can get him using all 4 legs with a brace consistently and manageable pain levels, I would think that is the ideal scenario at this point.

    Older dogs just don’t heal as well, so recovery may be slow and even more restrictive.

    For us, we are in running a senior citizen home so we have to be careful how we spend our money because too much on one could lead to no options for another. We have two 13 yr old GSP’s both with bad arthritis (and BOTH now lick granulomas from he**), an 8 yr old seizure dog, and a 14 and 13 yr old cat.

    I had to put my 17 yr old cat to sleep last week, and that was a long budget conversation. We could have been more aggressive with treatments, but she had no reserves so after 48 hours she let us know she was done and it made the decision easier, but I can say we were struggling as to how much we spend.

    Its so so tough, but I definitely would give the less expensive option a trial first.

  22. In this case, I would absolutely opt to splint rather than try surgery. The joint fusion surgery is big and invasive, and the outcome is not the kind of easy free mobility you’d hope for in a perfect world. My younger dog had a fairly catastrophic elbow break as a pup (prior to me getting her–she’s a foster fail) and our two options were the same joint fusion surgery you’re considering with Tweed and amputation. I opted to amputate, and I am wildly glad that I did that, since she’s now a speedy and pain-free little tripod, and I don’t think the ‘peg leg’ outcome of the surgery would have served her well (plus, the risk of reinjuring a fused joint is uncomfortably high for my taste). But she was much younger than Tweed, and the break was higher up and took more of the leg out of commission. So, uh, I’d brace (is what I’m trying to say).

  23. This may seem a bit drastic , but what about amputation? Bound to be cheaper, would solve the pain problemand if he’s tripodding anyway I would give it some thought. The tripods I’ve met have all been happy and active, perhaps increasing my comfort level with this option.

  24. I will just chime in and agree with the above. Inexpensive splint. If it helps and fits acceptably, you and Tweed are good. If it helps but doesn’t fit so well, save for a custom. Dismiss fusion surgery, since risk/benefit doesn’t really pencil out. Pursue alternate therapies as recommended above, if the brace doesn’t help enough or to augment the brace.
    I am the RN that posts at times, and MD or DVM, when the docs feel like they are letting you down, they will offer surgery, even when the patient isn’t a great candidate (due to any factor, including age/recovery/how much it might help). I get pissed off when they tell the patient or family what they want to hear without emphasizing the risks and potential negative outcomes enough. Oops, I digress!
    I love the Tweedles from afar. I wish you and he the best.
    PS. Gizmo was attacked by the neighbors’ off leash pittie 2 weeks ago and sustained a deep gash to his hock. At 12, he isn’t healing nearly as quickly as when he had his TPLO at 9. The stitches came undone despite 24/7 wear of the cone, and he is having to heal from the bottom up. However, I refuse to accept that he is getting LALALAolderLALALA. (Thanks, Alison!)

  25. I agree with everyone else about trying the off-the-rack splint, seeing if it helps, and if you think he’d benefit, save for the custom one. I don’t think putting him through the surgery is a good idea, especially because — although you didn’t address this — isn’t there usually a chance it won’t work? A friend of mine put her horse through a nerve block surgery that was supposed to cure her of navicular (foot) pain, went through the long recovery process, and then discovered that it didn’t really help. Surgery is not a miracle cure, so if there is a way to manage the pain without surgery, I say DO IT.

    Your year sounds like mine so far, by the way, except the dogs are alternating with the cats and horses. Everyone gets their turn to get sick or injured and be the center of Mommy’s attention (and the focus of Mommy’s cash flow) for a while!

  26. Foodlady…my 0.2: I have a pack of dogs, as well, ranging in age from LA LA LA LA to SLOW THE “F” DOWN ALREADY! The way I look at health issues is thus: If I save and spend 3,500 on this dog, which in this circumstance the medical issue is not life-threatening but more of a quality of life issue, will I have 1,000 to spend on another dog tomorrow where I would KNOW FOR CERTAIN it need to be used for lifesaving medical therapy? Or sometimes, it’s even a matter of 1000 to 750. Depends on a persons financials on any given day. For me personally, if it were my dog, in your situation, I would go with the off the rack splint and some pain meds to help manage pain. At this point in Tweeds life we are looking at quality of life vs quantity (LA LA LA LA I know….). Sometimes I have been in situations with health issues with my dogs where I have to look down the road and ask myself, honestly, if I were to spend this amount on this dog and tomorrow another dog had a more serious illness would I be able to afford to treat. In those moments, I have to realistically evaluate the age of the dog in question and it’s overall health. Sometimes I’ve been able to treat with no expense spared and other times I have had to elect the more conservative treatments. It doesn’t make us bad dog owners. It’s the reality of owning more than one dog, cat, horse, hamster. With all that being said, I know you will choose the right medical therapy for Tweed and you no matter what. And no matter what, it will be the right therapy for Tweed and you. Love you all….Jill

  27. If he were mine I would hunt for every option short of surgery. Painful recovery, the danger of teh anesthetic and to be frank, $3500 is way out of my league price-wise. Even if it weren’t i would opt for simpler options first.

    I didn’t see it mentioned, but acupuncture to relieve the pain could be a very good option. If you have a *good* acupunturist in your area you could try a session and see how he does. I’ve never experienced it directly but have seen how well others have responded to it.

    So that and the brace would be my suggestion. And yes, if the brace helps I would spring for the custom one. I’m getting that this would be on him the majority of the time for the rest of his life? Then you will want the best fit possible to avoid irritation, rubbing and so forth.

    Good luck to Tweedles!

  28. BRACES! And a lot of prayers that it will be enough. Tweed is my absolute favorite among the bunch and he’s not allowed to LALALALALA….. =)

    Best of luck FL!

  29. First let me say I have enoyed your blog so much, laughed at the funny bits, and felt so sad at the serious ones. I haven’t commented before, but Tweed’s problem struck a familiar chord with older dogs I have had, there seems to be a running theme here, first the braces and if all else fails surgery. and I agree with that thought, ( the surgery and all it entails is so hard on the older dogs) I also 2nd the fish oil, does wonders for my guys, I also have 1 dog on Recovery SA (from Purica), it solved the severe arthritic pain problems in my collie x, no pain, no limping, vets also use this as a surgery recovery treatment, you can get it for horses as well, I use it everyday, and don’t use as much now because it worked so well on her. you can google it, but out in Chilliwack I got it at Pharmasave lots of good dog holistic products, also another line I am looking at is OmegaAlpha.ca, check their website, might be something you can use for Tweed there (also at Pharmasave) the older I get, the more I am looking for natural ways of helping my dogs, I’ve tried accupunture and I know it works, I went to Elena Petrelli out in the Dewdney area. It can be so confusing with all the decisions and options the vets they give you, kind of like the forest and the tree thing. Personally I try the least invasive first, then work from there, mangement of pain and quality of life, You will make the right decision for your boy, thanks for letting me put my 2, no make that 4 cents in, best of the best for you and Tweed

  30. i,thought I’d comment here,as one of my dogs,a very heavy set Boxer,fractured his wrist.He had surgery to insert a plate which made the joint unable to flex,and to stabilise it.
    He was supposed to be in a cast then splint for 2 months,but it ended up being 3 months,but after that he never had a single bit of trouble with it,for the remaining 2 years of his life.
    He didn’t even walk with a limp.
    good luck to Tweedle :)

  31. I concur with the brace (ots or custom) and give him as much alternative care as possible. We do fish oil as well as Flexadin and something called Wobenzyme-M for Skye’s joints. And I’ve heard great things about aqua-therapy, but I don’t know if you can access this where you are. I also would think long and hard before surgery; others have mentioned its not simply cost (which like you, I wouldn’t necessarily be frightened of – esp coming from someone who’s spent thousands of dollars on chemo last year) but also recovery and risk of complications for an older dog. Poor Tweed. But honestly, he does keep on smiling doesn’t he?
    BTW, the only Cavalier I know spends hours fishing never with any success :c)

  32. I am of the same opinion as most. here. Do the splints. I had a friend whose male dog went out a second story window after a bitch in heat. He is sporting custom splints on his front legs for five years now and does GREAT! I think surgery for that would be needless pain for his LALAALALALALALAKLALALALA age.

  33. I’d go with the custom splint right off the bat. It’s expensive, but I’ve not seen much good in the haphazard fit of off the shelf braces. Your mileage will vary.

    Glucosamine (Glycoflex 3 rocks), Tramadol, Metacam.

    I don’t consider him to be old yet. In the last 5 years I’ve lost 3 dogs that were 17, 16 , and 19 (BC, BC, and Aussie). ALL 3 were beat up by good used lives, but had good quality of mind and joy until the last. You have to learn to turn away from the limps and gimps – I assure you *they do*. Tweed will tell you when he’s had enough.

    Surgery – not my choice. The downtime for healing – the muscle loss, the pain in other joints/muscles when the fused joint doesn’t move as it should…etc. IF I put him through it honestly I would look at amputation. People will recoil at me saying that – but better in my experience to have 3 good but old legs than 4 when one of them creates constant pain or worse…surprises him with pain and instabilty at any given moment.

    Just my 2 cents. I’ve enjoyed following your dogs since the long ago days of BC-L and BCs4Me and only wish you all the best.

    Wendy

  34. for what it’s worth sheena..i avoid orthopedic surgeries on the geriatric dogs…my experience has been once we start seriously messing around with one limb, we seriously screw up another and we never do get the results we are hoping for. the older they are, the more surgery takes out of them and the recovery periods are painful and difficult.
    pain can be managed with medications if needed and the splint is a good option for stabilizing the joint. have a look at handicappedpets.ca they have some good splinting options.

    we just can’t fix all of the deficitis we all develop as we grow old.
    best wishes to both of you..love the cavalier pup! i have a parapalegic cav right now and he is a prince charming…great little dogs!

  35. kt, Mitzi, Pickles, and Sage says:

    .Hey FoodLady. As much energy as Tweedles has, I still don’t think I’d go through with the surgery. I’d stick with your current plan of using the off-the-rack splint, and seeing how that goes first. Then, if that’s not good enough, you could look into the more expensive splint. For his age (and his previous track record with injuries involving his feet), I don’t think the surgery would do all it’s supposed to, and he’d be cooped up and healing for a long time. You can always supplement his care with medication, so that he’s as comfortable as possible. Is he on any kind of glucosamine supplement for his joints? While it won’t fix his foot, it may make it a bit easier to deal with.

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