The critical part of Lucy’s recovery, according to my vet (and a neurologist she consulted) was whether Lucy could support her weight on the injured leg. If she could do that, there was a chance that she wouldn’t have to lose the leg… if not, then amputation was likely.
I am happy to report that Lucy not only puts weight on the leg, she walks and runs on it. She still stumbles and hops occasionally, and she still has some paralysis in the foot, but at this point my vet will re-evaluate at the six-month point on what our next steps will be. My personal opinion, unless the vet gives me a DAMN good reason, is that Lucy will keep the leg. Unless you had seen her right after the accident, you would have no idea she couldn’t use the leg at all for over a week.
I took this video about two weeks ago, and since then Lucy has improved even more. She still can’t go a long distance, but we can make it over to our local park and back, plus a good long run/wrestle with other dogs we meet there. It’s probably about 2/3 mile round trip.
Things have been pretty busy here lately — I’m lucky if I have time to check e-mail each day. We also had a bit of an accident last week that has kept the mood around the house a little sad…
Last Saturday (the 11th) I took the dogs out to Chatfield State Park to play in the large dog park. Once we were inside the park on the access road, apparently Lucy climbed up on the arm rest on the door with her back legs and squeezed her body through the window opening, which was only really open far enough for her head to stick out — or so I thought. She lost her balance and fell out of the window on to the roadway. Luckly, I was only driving about 25 MPH or this would be a very sad story.
Lucy had some road rash on her head, nose and front right leg, but no apparent fractures. It’s difficult to tell with puppies since their growth plates in their bones don’t fuse together until 10 months of age or so, but a comparison to her other front leg didn’t show any fractures. When I first stopped the car and ran up to her, although I knew an injured animal might bite me I still reached out to touch her head and comfort her. She bit the crap out of my hand and then realized who I was. She was in shock when I carried her back to the car and drove her to the emergency pet hospital.
Once the vets looked her over they told me there were no fractures but she appeared to have damaged the nerve bundle in the “arm pit” of her right leg. This nerve bundle controls motor function in the leg, and the reason she wasn’t putting any weight on the front right paw was because she could not feel it. With nerve damage, there’s not a good way to tell how extensive it is and they couldn’t tell me if the feeling would come back at all. In fact, they advised me that in many cases the nerves are so badly damaged that they recommend amputation of the leg, since it is just limp and is dragged around. If the limp leg was injured she wouldn’t even know it, and at the very least it would atrophy from lack of use.
Clearly, I needed a second opinion on this, so I took Lucy to her vet on the following Monday. The vet seemed to concur with the emergency vets’ diagnosis, but she wanted to wait quite a while before we make a decision about amputation.
In the meantime, Lucy doesn’t really act hurt at all. She does hop around on three legs, but I have seen real improvement in her leg and she even started reacting to pinches on the “dead” paw. We went back to the vet today and she was happy with Lucy’s progress, too, but said she had consulted with a neurologist who said that in most cases if the dog cannot support her weight on the injured leg it would never be useful to her. That’s our next milestone, then: to work with Lucy until she can stand with her weight on the front right leg and her rear legs. The vet wants to wait at least a month before we make any other decisions.
As much as I walk Fabi and take her to the park, she still needed more activity. Since I have to work for a living, there was not much chance of that, so I decided I would get her a companion that she could play with and wrestle with during the day while I am working.
I went down to the Colorado Puppy Rescue adoption event Saturday to get a 5-week-old black lab mix puppy that I had seen on their web site, but when I arrived and saw this cute yellow lab/Maremma sheep dog female, I knew she was the one. She’s 11 weeks old and rescued from a kill shelter in Las Vegas NM. I named her Lucero, which I shortened to Lucy.
Lucy and Fabi have become good buddies and have been playing constantly since she arrived. I think I made a good choice.