This month’s braveheart is sadly awarded posthumously. It goes to Una who in the short length of time she was with us brought a lot of people a lot of joy.
She was brought to this country by a rescue charity as a puppy from Spain. She was a Podenco Cross which is a Spanish hunting breed. In August, at the age of nine months, she became progressively lame on one back leg. Examination made us suspicious that the pain might be coming from her hip. X- rays confirmed that she suffered from hip dysplasia. This was present on both sides but was significantly worse on one.
Hip dysplasia develops as puppies grow. Sometimes it is started by an injury and other times the dog is just genetically predisposed to the condition. Ultimately it results in the ball and socket of the hip joint being a very poor, loose fit which means that when the dog bears weight it partly dislocates, causing bone to rub on bone and stretching all of the joint structures. This causes the pain and lameness seen.
At Una’s age there were 3 possible solutions to her condition.
1) Manage it conservatively with pain relief and exercise modification.
2) Perform a total hip replacement.
3) Perform a femoral head and neck excision arthroplasty.
We tried conservative treatment for several weeks without success and the hip replacement was not achievable financially so we were left with the latter. We decided to do the worst side first knowing the other would probably have to be done eventually.
We essentially operated to remove the ball of the ball and socket hip joint. This removes the joint structures and is meant to reduce bone on bone rubbing which removes the source of pain. The dog is left with just muscles attaching the hindlimb to the body which is similar to how the front leg is held on in dogs and cats.
Results are usually very satisfactory with many dogs appearing normal within a few months. Unfortunately this was not the case with Una. After initial improvements her pain levels began to increase. She was re-X-rayed and there was lots of new bony growth where the bone had been cut that was assumed to be the cause of the increasing pain.
A second surgery was performed where the bony growth was removed and a strap of muscle put between the cut surface of the thigh bone and pelvis to reduce rubbing. There was slow improvement following the procedure but after a fall in the garden Una become suddenly a lot more painful.
At this stage everyone decided that sadly Una had had enough. Despite the fact that she still wagged her tail when she came into the vets, she was suffering. Any light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be getting further away and there was still the prospect of having to go through it all again with the other hip. And so it was with a heavy heart that she was put to sleep.
Just as with human surgery, complications during or following procedures are a fact of life. Everyone does everything they can to avoid them but for each procedure there is a recognised percentage of cases that do not work or go wrong in some way. You may say ‘was it fair to put Una through as much she went through?’ but the balance of probability at the outset was that by now she would have been running around, pain free, like a normal dog. Knowing the statistics doesn’t make coping with individual outcomes like Una’s any easier. We were all really touched by Una’s resilience and spirit and glad that she came into our lives as brief as it may have been.