Happy Sunday! It's been two weeks since my luxating patella surgery, and I know it will be good to share some answers to questions that others in a similar situation may have. Mama thinks that the information online is not as comprehensive as she likes, especially in the caregiving context. Hopefully, my personal experience can help prepare other mamas and papas out there with furkids who are also suffering from this condition.
1. Does my dog really need surgery?
As much as we don't like the idea of a surgery, sometimes it can help improve your dog's quality of life whether now or in the future. In my case, my left knee popped in and out so easily, it would eventually wear out my cartilage, causing arthritis. Although I can still walk well most of the time, it would be too late once I develop arthritis, which is extremely painful and incurable. There is also a chance that this condition may lead to a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament.
On the brighter side, there are some dog owners who told mama that their dogs lived with luxating patella all their lives without problems. It all comes down to individual situations, such as the severity of the condition. Hence, it's best to consult a trusted vet (or two) before making a decision.
2. How much does the surgery cost?
I had my operation done by Dr. Hsu from The Animal Clinic. The surgery on my left knee cost the humans $763.60, including post-surgery medication. However, it may vary depending on the complexity of the surgery and other surgical variables. Dr. Hsu initially advised mama that the surgery would cost about $900, so she's happy that the final cost is less than that.
3. Do I need to make any preparations for the surgery?
Even though Dr. Hsu told mama that it's not necessary for her to stay home to care for me, she still did for the first two weeks. I'm glad she made that decision because I was feeling extremely manja the first few days. It helped a lot that she was around to accompany and comfort me.
Cut your pup's nails as long nails will affect its balance, especially with only three legs!
Mama bathed me right before sending me to surgery because I wouldn't be able to touch water for the next 2 weeks
If you don't already have one, get an inflatable or e-collar to prevent your furkid from licking and nibbling on the incision area
I had to refrain from food and water after 10pm the day before surgery
4. What's going to happen on the day of surgery?
Mama and papa told me I was going for a walk! We got into the car and arrived at the clinic at about 9.30am. That was when I realised that we weren't going to the beach or the park. My heart was pounding because I am scared of clinics! When a kind lady called my name, mama carried me into a room and put me in a metal cage - something I fear more than the clinic. To make things worse, mama told me I had to stay in there for two hours before the surgery!
I gave her a disappointed look as she left me, and I was sure I saw tears in her eyes. I couldn't believe that the humans left me all alone to face this by myself. At 12pm, the nurse took me into another room full of metal things. This was bound to be the worst day of my life. Thankfully, I somehow fell asleep and woke up at 2.30pm. But my left leg felt different and mama was still nowhere in sight. I was so weak and terrified :( At about 4pm, the nurse came in and carried me outside where mama and papa were standing! I was really drowsy but my tail just couldn't stop wagging - I was so happy!
When we got to the car, I could see that mama brought my bed along and she rested me on it. She sat with me in the backseat and we arrived home pretty quickly. Mama left me in her room the rest of the night. They kept the house quiet and dark so I could sleep well. I was eager to get some dinner but mama said I couldn't have any until the next morning. That was 34 hours of absolutely no food! I would have protested if not for my drowsiness.
Throughout the night, I could sense mama listening to my every movement. She also woke up a couple of times to feed me water and give me massages so I wouldn't feel too stiff on one side.
5. How will the incision look?
Nothing could prepare mama for this - a 10cm long incision. She knew it was going to be long and ugly, but she was nonetheless heartbroken. The sutures were undissolvable, but they were sewn on the inside and didn't need to be removed.
6. What can I expect post-surgery?
There was no need to clean my wound, but it was crucial to keep it dry for two weeks. I was able to walk with three legs the very first night that I was back at home. My family was amazed by how resilient I was. By the third day, I was already raring to go! So much so that mama had to stop me from jumping and running too much. I started putting full weight on my left leg on the fifth day and was gradually allowed to do light exercises, such as a five to ten-minute walk on my second week.
One question mama had in her head before I went for surgery was how I was going to pee and poo with three legs. I proved to her that she didn't have to worry at all. I was peeing and pooping all by myself the second day (I didn't have any pee and poo the first day back). I surely didn't soil myself!
Mama chose not to confine me to a small area in the house because she knew I would try hard to get out, which would definitely involve jumping. Do what you think is best for your pup's recovery.
7. Can I apply Frontline to my dog after surgery?
My vet said yes! [We no longer use or recommend Frontline. Use natural flea and tick preventative sprays instead.]
8. What is the toughest thing I will have to cope with?
As a young pup, I was ready to go back to my normal activities as early as my second day back from surgery. The boredom was overwhelming because the humans didn't allow me to run, jump, or play too hard. I was a pup with pent-up energy, and nowhere to release it. I even begged mama to chase me like she used to do and jumped excitedly and ran in circles every time I heard noises outside the door, driving mama mad.
Even though I was feeling okay, my knee needed far more time to heal. I had to be careful for at least six weeks, which was an impossible task. Mama had to keep watching and nagging at me whenever I got too active. To keep me occupied, she let me play IQ games and chew on oxtails and brought me on really short walks outside the house.
9. How long will my dog take to fully recover?
It should take 6 weeks to 2 months for your dog to fully recover. The external wound would heal in days, but the inside needs a lot more time.
10. When can my dog start running, jumping and swimming again?
Your dog should be kept on light, short, and dry exercises for at least two to three weeks. Refrain from letting it do anything too vigorous for the first six weeks.
Not sure whether your dog really needs luxating patella surgery? Dr. Brian Loon from Amber Veterinary Practice shares with us when surgery is needed.