Friday, April 13, 2007
Bernice, the subject of today's post
(Yes, I'm reusing a photo. That's probably the best shot of her I've ever taken, so I'm using it again.)
As I've mentioned recently, our eldest puppy isn't such a puppy anymore. She's 9 years old, and she's been having some issues. Today I took her to the vet to address her recent issues. The main one is what appeared to be arthritis in her back legs/hips.
One of the things I feared was hip dysplasia, and that's exactly what it is. Both of the femoral heads in her back legs (the top of each bone, where it fits into the pelvis) are badly degraded. They have maybe 15% or so of the bone size/shape they should have.
As the vet went over the x-rays with me, he explained some options. Before we go down any of the paths leading to surgery, he's going to consult with a veterinary orthopedist, but the most likely option is a femoral head resection. That involves removing that end of each bone, so she'll support her weight back there with just the strength of her muscles and connective tissue. No bone-on-bone support.
That should relieve her pain and give her a good quality of life. There are negatives, of course: 1) the surgery will be traumatic and draining for her; 2) there are risks to any surgery; and 3) it costs a lot (at least $2,500, not counting the $500+ I spent today and whatever other visits come before actual surgery--nice to have this while I'm unemployed!). Actually, the money is the least of my concerns. Not that we're rolling in money or that the timing is good. It's just that things like this matter more than money. She's a member of our family and is our responsibility.
The toughest part is the realization that she's getting older. Yes, we all are, but we love her, and the fact is that she can't have more than a handful of years left with us. That's the nature of a dog's life, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier. It's even tougher for me to grasp, since she may just have a few years, while the dogs we've had in the family in the past were a bit smaller and usually made it to 15 or so. I'm hoping for that with her, but I understand that it's unlikely in a dog her size.