A routine dental visit for my 12 year old border collie mix yesterday turned awful when the vet diagnosed a partial tear of his rear left acl. I didn’t even realize anything was amiss, no lameness, slight weakness going up stairs which I attributed to general old age. Vet noticed inflammation of the joint in palpation, then did the drawer test while sedated and found some movement, and radiographs show “minor arthritic changes.” Dog is on Rimadyl for minor, generalized stiffness/difficulty getting up after hard exercise (retired working cattle dog, has had old injuries over the years). Also on Dasequin and fish oil, and I am starting Adequan next month. He is a little overweight and has been on a diet. Dog only really shows any soreness after a long hike (more than 4 miles) or after playing fetch (which we restrict). With Rimadyl stiffness is gone, lameness occasionally shows up in left front leg, but radiographs of spine, shoulder, elbow and neck show no changes there. He accompanies me on rides daily, usually 1-4 miles (I leave him home if they’re longer than that). He takes his time when he needs to, and is not a crazy wild Border collie, he’s a zen dog, pretty chill. He is also extremely stoic, and highly work focused, so he will not easily tell me when he’s in pain and will always do the “job.” I don’t have my mind made up, but I do I have consultations booked with two surgeons (one board certified, one a traveling vet who specializes in joint surgeries and comes monthly to my trusted vet). Research and vets are telling me his best quality of life improvements will come from surgery. My gut says he’s probably been in pain for a while and I’ve never noticed because it’s all such tiny things (he’s gotten slower navigating stairs, he’s a little needlessly cranky with the puppy, he hesitates before jumping into the car), so if i can get him through post-op, he’s going to be MUCH happier because he can do his “job” relatively pain-free for a few more years.
My BIGGEST concern:
-Either way, surgery or conservative management, I am highly concerned about his mental state-- if he isn’t allowed to do his “job” (accompany me on chores and riding the colts) I’m afraid he’s going to get depressed and shut down, especially when I take the other dogs and he has to stay inside. I’m not so much worried I can’t keep him calm, it’s that he is so work-focused that I’m afraid without it he will lose his purpose to live and give up. How can I keep him engaged and happy during recovery? He is not food motivated, he does not like to play, he does not like the company of other dogs. His sole purpose in life is to follow me around and get the job done, whatever that job is. He is super serious about work.
Also the mystery lameness in his front left: since x-rays show nothing, I am a little less concerned about this, but what if we do the surgery to repair his back end and suddenly his front end is locked up anyway? Will it be a waste? I don’t want to cause him unnecessary stress and pain if it’s not going to result in an improved quality of life.
Sorry for the novel. I am trying to process. It’s all just so shocking, you know? Routine yearly dental cleaning you know, and suddenly it’s like “oh, feels like he’s blown his ACL. Surgery is really the best treatment for that, here’s the surgeon’s info.” Like, what? From zero to a hundred, my mind is reeling. I love my dogs, but he is my best dog ever, my one-in-a-million heart dog. This dog has stood off wolves for me, he has gone home to fetch help like Lassie for me, he tracked down my husband when lost in the woods, he even killed me a grouse for dinner once when I asked him to. His entire life purpose is making sure I’m safe and the job I’m doing is done well. I just can’t let him down.