For those of you new to the Doc Holliday Show, allow me to quickly summarize his medical history for you: We brought him home with a raging case of kennel cough (AKA bordetella) that was cleared up after hundreds of dollars’ worth of x-rays, vet visits, and antibiotics. Next, he swallowed a huge rock that required emergency surgery and cost us the equivalent of two mortgage payments (AKA our initial down payment for a house.)
Fearing that he hadn’t yet accomplished all in life he was supposed to, he ate another thing that we were told would require surgery to remove. After we decided to give him to another home (because we really couldn’t afford another surgery) he pooped out a massive amount of hay and hair and we got to take him home again. We removed all the hay from his kennel and prayed to never visit the vet again.
In February, he hurt his leg and started limping around. We were told by our vet (over the phone) it was probably a sprain. He got better, then worse, and then last weekend his other leg started acting up. Since he was due for all his vaccination boosters anyway, we thought we’d have the vet take a look.
The verdict is in: he tore the ACL on his left hind leg. Compensating for this injury likely caused him to walk differently on his left leg which resulted in his knee cap (patella) to slide out of place. After months of bearing all the weight from his left leg, his right hind leg now has a sliding knee cap as well (AKA a luxating patella.) A luxating patella is likely a congenital defect that was exacerbated by his ACL injury.
Our vet recommends that he undergo two surgeries eight weeks apart: the first surgery will repair his ACL and luxating patella on his left leg. After eight weeks of resting, she’ll operate on the luxating patella on his right leg. Both surgeries will cost about a mortgage payment apiece.
Besides being horrified at the prospect of yet another gigantic vet bill (actually, make that two gigantic vet bills) there are other things to consider. Things like:
- Arthritis has already set in in his left leg. Even with the surgeries, he’s likely to suffer from arthritis much earlier than normal. Labs normally live 9-12 years, so this means we may only have 5-6 more years with him in good health.
- The ACL repair surgery will use a wire to replace the ACL in his knee. This wire will hold for 2-3 years, and after that he’ll either need another surgery or there will be enough scar tissue to hold things together. To prevent damage to the fake ACL, though, he’ll probably never be allowed to run really fast or put any stress on the joint (which means no more playing with other dogs.) His life will consist of laying around and going for slow walks. No fetch, no playing, no chasing Buns.
- After having both knees operated on, it’s likely that he’ll never use them normally again. Physical therapy may be required.
As I hope you can see, we’re in an absolutely no-win situation here. I kid you not, this is dog-owner Hell. We’re still looking into other options, and we’ll probably get a second opinion from our neighbor (who’s a vet), but even if we manage to find someone who will do the surgeries for hundreds instead of thousands, we still can’t afford it.
I hate to bum everyone out with bad news, but in regards to Doc, that’s kind of all I have to give. The only ray of hope we have at this point is that none of his conditions are painful. As the arthritis sets in he will get more and more uncomfortable, but for now he’s not in pain and we have time to make some decisions.
When we decided to get a dog, many people warned me that something like this could happen. It seems like some people get a dog and the dog is problem-free forever. Other people get a dog who has a great big bulls-eye on his back. Regardless of the fact that our puppy appears to be fortune’s fool, he’s still the best dog in the world. The trick at this point is going to be for us to figure out how to get him taken care of best while making sure we’re still taking care of each other.