Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bentley's Knees

The item most on my mind this week: Bentley's knees. His back knees, specifically.

Benny in Texas - 2007

Ben's first night with us - 8 weeks old
 Our tiny ball of fire with his floppy ears and tail wag that really wags his entire body  isn’t 100% right now. Ben has been having a weird 'thing' happen for the last month or so - almost not noticeable at first - but we still started thinking we should get it checked out.

Every night before bed, both dogs get a good long walk. We started noticing when we were on these walks that every so often (like once a week), Ben would pick up his back leg, let out a little noise, hop a few steps, then put his leg back down, trotting along like nothing had happened.

We tried to excuse it away - maybe he had a muscle cramp, maybe his nails were too long, or maybe he had a splinter in his paw. But, after ruling out everything we could think of, we decided it was time for a professional’s opinion.

There are not many veterinary clinics in Doha, but we have managed to find a decent one (which we've used since we arrived last year), and last Saturday, we took him in for a consultation.

His diagnosis: Grade 2 Luxating Patella

This basically means that Bentley's knee cap is popping out of place every so often, which could be a genetic thing, and will get worse with age. When he picks up his back leg (or, when he goes "lame", as the vet described it), his patella (knee cap) deviates from the natural groove in his femur.
Here's the thing - all the reading we've done suggests that if you are going to go ahead and do the surgery (recommended around stage 3) then you should really get a specialist who does this operation routinely, as the results can really vary if an inexperienced surgeon attempts this type of correction.

The vet here couldn't really answer all of our questions about Bentley's knee issues, and when Colin wanted to talk further about how involved the surgery would be, he proceeded to get out his handy 'Surgical Manual for Veterinarian Students' book (my confidence in him plummeted at this point).
I understand that there was a language barrier (our vet’s first language was not English), but I didn’t like how keen he was to do this to our three year old pup, who has only just begun to show any symptoms. He wanted us to book it right away. No discussion of any other options. Groan. I felt, knowing Ben, that this was/is not in his best interests at this point, without more information.

I believe his diagnosis is correct - pretty much EXACTLY how it's described online - and we've since found out that this commonly affects Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, as they are a smaller dog breed prone to joint issues. Performing such a major surgery here (with months of healing time involved) raises some red flags, though. Unless you are a camel, options for certain animal care here is a bit limited, sad to say. I know he will have to get surgery to have this problem corrected - I just hope it doesn't get any worse for a long while (our vet said it will probably progress slowly). 

Halloween 2009 - HATED his bee costume
We had some great suggestions from informed friends about dietary supplements and exercise that could really help, but talk about a bad scenario. It’s when these kinds of things happen that I really appreciate how fortunate we were in both Canada, and the USA, to have experts in any field (dog or otherwise) at our very finger tips.
We are going to try for a second opinion at another office we've heard decent things about, and until then, we'll do everything we can to keep him happy and healthy, with his tail waggin'. Neither C or I have seen him do the three-legged hop thing for over a week and a half. And believe me, we have been watching for it.

All suggestions, prayers and comments welcome!

 2011 - Never far from Cooper ... or Ella