Kirby may need surgery – how to prepare to meet a specialist

Kirby at the vet - not a happy guy
Kirby at the vet – not a happy guy

Kirby is an old dog. No one knows for certain how old he is but when I adopted him about three years ago, he was put somewhere around eight years old.

Thus his joints are “at least ten.”

He has always had luxating patella issues. His knees would pop out and he would shake them back in.

Kneecap slippage affects dogs of various different sizes and breeds. But in particular small dogs and toy breeds are especially prone to luxated patella so if you have a small dog you should get it tested quite early on. Kirby most likely had this problem since birth and it was never corrected thus as he aged it progressed.

Lately he has exhibited some pain and less motion. I actually found out how far the problem had progressed when we visited our vet for another concern. I thought he might be developing bladder stones again and when they tried to do an x-ray they found his back legs could not be straightened without causing great pain … Kirby screamed bloody murder.

Kirby prefers lying down but is still smiling
Kirby prefers lying down but is still smiling

Good news – no stones. He is however producing too little urine so we have a plan to increase his liquid intake.

Bad news – his back knees are getting worse and he is in pain and losing flexibility.

Even though luxating patella is not an immediate problem, it is one you need to pursue because it will only progress. Especially in light of Kirby’s unknown age, if it continues to worsen, he becomes less a candidate for surgery every day.

Since Kirby is small he can work while lying on laps
Since Kirby is small he can work while lying on laps

So we are going to a veterinary orthopedic specialist tomorrow to determine the level of his condition. If the knees are still Grade I or II, no surgery is indicated. He is currently on pain medication and perhaps the addition of alternative therapies such as acupuncture or physical therapy may help.

But if he has progressed to Grade III or IV injury surgery is the norm.

Diagnosis is made by looking at how long the dog has been exhibiting symptoms like limping and lifting his leg, physical exam and an X-ray of the thigh and the knee.

We're in this together for the long haul
We’re in this together for the long haul

So before we meet the specialist I have my list of questions and concerns prepared. Because just as with a visit to a human doctor, once you are there in the moment, all thoughts fly out of your head. You are only hearing negatives and I want to be certain to cover all of my concerns in a clear and thoughtful way.

  • Firstly, let me understand the Grade Levels and what is being recommended
  • What if we delay surgery and it worsens? Can pain medications be used over a long period of time?
  • Since both legs are affected, is it recommended to do a bilateral procedure or one at a time? Kirby has already walked on three legs when he had hip surgery, and since the leg would be in a cast, I would think one at a time is preferred, but that does extend the time of healing.
  • How long is the healing process and can Kirby continue to work if in his stroller and handled minimally?
  • If we do one leg and find he has not responded well, can we not do the other?
  • What are his risks with anesthesia? He has had several procedures this year and I am always nervous when he is put under.
  • Can he be bathed and groomed throughout the healing process?
  • Can he go outside to eliminate?
  • Will he need to be kenneled for weeks or allowed to move on his casted leg?

And of course there is the cost for such procedures. These surgeries are not inexpensive but a little guy like Kirby is worth every cent.

So tomorrow is a big day for us and will determine how Kirby lives the rest of his life.