Managing Pet Mobility: Post Surgery

Managing Pet Mobility: Post Surgery

By Naomi Oikonomou

Managing pet mobility post surgery can often feel like navigating a mine field for pet parents. Just as you feel you've found a clear pathway, the slightest mis-step detonates a series of catastrophic events. Sadly, adding to the ferocity of the hurdle is often the time in which initial mobility issues take to show and be seen. 

There are a large number of dogs and cats out there that have OA but have not been formally diagnosed. Why is this? Well let’s just look at three very common problems in dogs: 1) Cruciate ligament rupture of the knee 2) Hip dysplasia 3) Elbow dysplasia all of these lead to insidious or silent progression of arthritis” 

- Dr. Brian Beale

Bonnie's Mum (Aimee) did everything in her power to ensure her two Labs (Fergus & Bonnie) were raised to be in as healthy condition as possible. It was then a devastating blow receiving confirmation that Bonnie, her youngest dog had a fragmented coronoid. 

This is Aimee and Bonnie's journey so far:

Finding Bonnie

Bonnie was the puppy I had waited a long time for, I had been desperate for a second dog for a while. We did our research, visited several different breeders, meeting dogs and a couple of litters. Then I went to see Bonnie’s litter and fell in love with the only one in the litter to have white patches...Bonnie.

We were allowed second pick of the litter, so we had to wait another week to see if we could bring Bonnie home. We spent ages with all the pups together and separate and decided it had to be Bonnie that we chose.

Fast forward 12 months and we have had quite an eventful year with Bonnie; surgery and rehab (along with a global pandemic!). Its not quite been the year that we thought it would be. But luckily Bonnie is building up her strength daily.

5 Months Old

It all began whilst on a trip to a duck pond, when Bonnie was just 5 months old. As she was running across a field we heard her cry and on her return she was limping on one of her back legs.

We scooped her up and took her home and then to the vets. Bonnie was then assessed by a vet. However, by this point she was once again walking perfectly on all 4 limbs with no sign of pain or discomfort. The vet examined her and said she was fine, this was followed by bed rest for a few days.

11 Months Old

Whilst out on a walk Bonnie lifted her front left leg up as though she had something in her paw. I checked her paw and legs and she showed
no discomfort and immediately after this was fine and walked off happily. A few days later she limped on the same leg whilst we were in the garden playing and then again a couple of days after that. The limps were 3-4 steps each time and then she was perfectly fine. After the 3rd limp over the space of about 10 days I got an appointment with an Orthopaedic Surgeon where I work, he agreed to see her the following week.

Bonnie was then examined by the orthopaedic surgeon who stated that on examination she showed no pain or discomfort at manipulation of any leg joint. She had a good range of movement in all limbs and walked and trotted normally. But he had noticed that she didn’t evenly distribute her weight between her front legs.

A CT scan was discussed and we opted to go with it that afternoon. Straight after the CT scan I had a zoom telephone consultation with the Vet, who then confirmed what we had been dreading. She did have a fragmented coronoid process in her left forelimb and that surgery was the best option moving forward. She was booked for surgery the very next day.

3 Weeks Post Surgery

We now had a very long road to recovery ahead of us. By 3 weeks post surgery Bonnie had had two weeks of complete bed rest. We were now allowed to work up to two 10 minute walks a day.

What I hadn't anticipated was the time needed! The time for her recovery, to read up or the amount of physiotherapy post surgery. I’m not talking about taking her to see a physio, I mean physio that I have to do with her myself. In those first two weeks I was spending an hour three times a day doing physio on her and using an ice pack on her joint. Combine this with playing lots of brain games, teaching tricks and feeding with a multitude of different puzzle feeders, looking after Bonnie became a full time job for me. Not that I mind, I have promised Bonnie that I will do absolutely everything I possibly can for her to ensure she remains happy, comfortable and pain free. But it was exhausting.

Wondering The Why

Some common causes of Elbow dysplasia can be genetics, over exercising, obesity in puppyhood, or malnutrition. But Bonnie is from fully health tested parents with low (OO) scores on their elbows, she was not over exercised. In fact we were so cautious of how much walking she did, and often she was carried as a pup. She never had exercise forced upon her. She's a slender dog and has been fed on one of the highest quality kibbles on the market with added supplements.

I have spent hours and days blaming myself over this, wondering how, why and when it happened to her. Was it that day she was out playing in the field and cried out? Was it from an earlier walk? Was it from playing too roughly with Fergus? Was it because she decided she would use the stairs one day? Is it because she likes to have a stand up cuddle with me? Whatever, the answer is, we will honestly never know what happened. Only what happens now, going forward.

We obviously still have a long and winding road to recovery and I am expecting set backs at times. But I am optimistic that Bonnie will remain her happy cheerful self and live a fulfilled life with Fergus and I. You can follow us as we document our journey both here and over on our Instagram page.


Community Support

For many pet owners the stress of seeing their loved one(s) behave withdrawn or simply out of character can feel like an uphill battle in itself. Reducing this anxiety through quality of care is key! If you have concerns always consult your vet first.

For a space and community to share similar experiences with why not join our Facebook group, with tips and discussions on pet mobility from other like minded pet parents.

Or if you're looking for a more comprehensive guide to helping OA pets, you might also like to read: Helping OA Pets: With Cameron Black BVMS MVetSci PhD MRCVS

Related stories