The Severely Abused Chihuahua-Pom
During the first week of her recovery, Honey demonstrated an unyielding drive to get up and move around. This had me quite concerned because she was placing all of her weight on her right hind leg, as she had done for the roughly two month period after she was beaten - fracturing and crippling her left hind leg. She would balance all of her weight on this leg, causing an incredible amount of stress on her repaired fracture site.
Limited weight bearing is actually beneficial on recently repaired fractured bones since it helps to prevent muscle atrophy, maintains neuromuscular connections and stimulates bone healing. The forces that Honey was placing on her leg exceeded the strength of the implants, breaking the stainless steel orthopedic pins. Seven days after Honey’s nearly five hour procedure, she would need another surgery. After learning a tough lesson from her over-activity, I knew that I needed to find a way to restrict her and yet support her weight by using some sort of external bandage. The problem is that with dogs and cats it is nearly impossible to properly stabilize fractures above the knee or elbow joints with casts or splints. So spending several days and nights considering the various options, I decided to try to place a body cast that would encircle her lower body and run the length of both legs, keeping them in slight flexion.
The surgery went well as I was able to remove the broken pins, enlarge the medulary canal and place a much larger pin in the right femur. And since she was under anesthesia, I made a small adjustment with the left fracture fixation, since the build-up of so much scar tissue prevented perfect alignment with the first surgery.
I was now completely satisfied with the repairs. My first attempt to place the lower half of Honey’s body in a cast went as well as I could have imagined. Recovery from anesthesia was uneventful and we maintained her on constant IV pain medications as planned.
Over the next two days, I tweaked the cast to give her more comfort and allowing her some limited mobility to get up and move over to her pee-pad. To prevent her legs from splaying out or crisscrossing each other, I made one final modification by placing a support pad between her lower legs.
On the third post-op day, she was transitioned to oral pain medications and I felt that it would be best to get her into a home environment where she could begin to trust people who really cared for her. For the next six weeks, every night when Honey and I arrived home, she would lay on my lap. Sometimes we would just look at each other, other times, she would sleep while I tried to do “paperwork” and attempt to keep up with my records. She needed constant reassuring that it was ok to void on her pee-pad – and it was during this time that I became deeply bonded to her, despite my attempts to convince myself that this was only going to be a “temporary foster”. I also learned some new things about her that I’ll share with you in the next article.
To be continued…
William T. Carlisle, DVM