Monday, 18 July 2011

Dog-leg diary: Fargo’s op

It hasn’t been the most pleasant week for poor Fargo, but I’m glad to say he’s coping amazingly well.

Fargo shows a bit of leg
We went to see the referral vet, last Wednesday morning. I’d starved Fargo since the evening before as he was due to be booked in for an X-ray and probable knee operation. However, when we got to there we found out that the vet had two fractured legs to deal with that day, so Fargo’s op was postponed until Thursday. We did have a full consultation though, and the vet explained our options very clearly and answered all our questions so we could admit Fargo for his X-ray first thing the next day. Fargo seemed to like the vet, and he thought Fargo looked like a womble! So we left feeling as reassured as possible.

If, as was strongly suspected, Fargo had ruptured his cruciate ligament, there were two options when it came to surgery. One involved stitching in a ‘tightrope’ – basically a replacement ligament. The second option was tibial plateau levelling osteotomy (TPLO), which involves cutting into the tibia and rotating part of it, fixing it with a metal plate to make the knee joint work in a different way. This would mean a shorter recovery time for Fargo but it would cost more than the tightrope surgery. Since Fargo is a big, bouncy dog with loads of energy, we decided that TPLO was the option to go for.

The next day, while we were in the vet’s waiting room, a beautiful-looking Staffordshire bull terrier came in and started snarling at him. I know that dogs react in different ways when they’re at the vet’s so I don’t think this snarling necessarily meant that the dog wasn’t a nice fella, but its owner just came and sat right opposite us, with the dog continuing to snarl! It wasn’t good for Fargo, who was already a bit nervous, so we moved to a quieter area thinking that some people have no manners.

The X-ray confirmed that Fargo had ruptured his cruciate ligament, so the TPLO surgery went ahead and he stayed in overnight. The veterinary staff called me several times throughout the day and evening to let me know he was OK, and I went to pick him up the next morning.

Two surprises were in store for me. First, the nurse actually walked Fargo out to me I knew that the TPLO option would involve a speedier recovery, but I wasn’t expecting that. The nurse said that Fargo was already putting some weight on his leg, and that’s a good sign. He also seems to have got on very well with all the staff at the vet’s, and the nurse said that when she’d taken him into the garden to relieve himself that morning it had taken about ten minutes because he insisted on saying hello to everyone he saw. That’s the Fargo I know, and it means that he wasn’t too upset by his operation.

The second surprise was that Fargo’s leg was completely shaved, apart from his foot. The shaving is to be expected when surgery is involved, but I had never thought about what Fargo’s leg would look like. It looked really big, pink and bare, a bit like a giant chicken leg.

Fargo came home with a collection of antibiotics, painkillers and an ice pack that I have to put on his knee for ten minutes, three times a day. He was pretty uncomfortable for his first afternoon back home, but the pain seemed to suddenly ease off around 4pm. He’s still a bit sore, obviously, but not as bad as he was straight after his operation.

The vet had warned me that Fargo’s ankle would swell up for a couple of days after the operation, as fluids accumulated in it. That wasn’t nice to look at – what with his bruises, his furry foot and bare leg, he looked like a granny in a bobby-sock. But it didn’t seem to bother him. The swelling’s gone down a lot now and I’m used to the sight of Fargo’s bare leg.

Fargo’s under strict instructions to rest, but he is allowed into the garden on a lead to go to the toilet. He’s been quite good about resting so far, but as he starts to feel better he wants to stand up and walk a lot more so I have to keep an eye on him. I’m amazed at how well he’s doing. I’d say he’s actually limping less than he was before the operation.

Fargo’s about to have his last super-painkiller and then on Friday, he’s going for his first check-up. After that he should be able to start going on some very short, very slow walks to make sure he puts his weight on the leg properly. He’ll enjoy those walks, as he hasn’t been allowed out for a few weeks. It's in his nature to bound about, so the challenge now is to make sure he progresses at a measured pace.

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