August 14, 2006

A little about Murphy

Our Introduction

For starters, my first name is Kendra and my husband's name is Rob. We are currently living in Washington DC, as my husband is in the military. This blog is dedicated to our wonderful 2-1/2 year old Yellow Lab named Murphy, who is about to undergo knee surgery in both legs!

Why I choose to create this Blog?

Well for starters, Murphy is an 82 pound Labrador Retriever, one of American’s most popular breeds. I searched the internet and didn’t readily find any documented TPLO surgery accounts that involved Labs (not saying that there may not be any out there).

Secondly, we live in a 3-story apartment and in my searches I didn't find any past recovery cases from TPLO that had this many stairs involved!!!!

Our first level is where Murphy will be confined to during both of his healing processes, it consists of the laundry room and foyer. The second level is where we spend the majority of our time because this is where the kitchen and living room is located. Murphy typically camps out on the couch, but during his recovery he won't be allowed to come upstairs at all. Our third level is where all the bedrooms are located. Murphy is used to sleeping with us as well, so that will be another change that he isn't going to like.

Thirdly, a blog is an easy way for our family and friends to keep track of Murphy’s progress, as well as give anyone who may face a similar situation what to expect during and after a TPLO surgery.

Murphy's Arrival

Murphy became an addition to our family in February of 2004. I drove 5-1/2 hrs to Meridian Mississippi to get him for a surprise for my husband for Valentine's Day. From the moment the two met they have pretty much been inseparable. Their together time consists of wet kisses and playing fetch. We have been blessed with Murphy's temperament and personality. He was no trouble to potty train, and discipline came very easy for him. He has never been a chewer, is trained by hand signals, and even passed puppy kindergarten with flying colors (Except for getting into trouble from flirting with his 'girlfriend' who was a Chocolate Lab).

Past Medical History

Murphy has really only had one minor health problem. He was diagnosed with food allergies after an ear infection sporadically came and went for his first year. We were prescribed Z/D Ultra by Hills by our local Florida vet, and we were told that he could no longer have any normal types of dog treats as well as no table scraps. Taking away the table scraps was easy because he hardly ever got them, we were adamant about him not being a moocher. However, taking away his normal dog bones, and vanilla wafers was a little sad. His treats now consist of carrots and ice cubes. Occasionally Rob will sneak him a tiny piece of pizza crust, and a few pieces of popcorn.

The Final Straw

We noticed about 1 &1/2 years ago that whenever Murphy would wake up from a nap, he would be slow in getting up, and that he often limped for a little while until his muscles warmed up. The first thing we thought of was hip displacia, however his hips were guaranteed as a puppy, and he didn't do it all the time. With that in mind, we literally chalked it up to him just getting older. We did however make sure to question two different vets about it, the last being this past March. We were told that he was over weight (95 lbs at the time) and that it was probably putting a strain on his joints. This really wasn't any NEW news to us. We have been told since Murphy was six months old that he was over weight, but we had a hard time believing it. Labs are supposed to be big and bulky, have thick necks, and broad shoulders. It was also hard to believe because the only thing he ever really gets is his dog food. We took the recommendation to heart and decided it was time to be proactive about his future. We cut his food back to 4 cups a day, and began the use of a measuring cup.

Fast forward to a few days after the Fourth of July this year. We were in the middle of our move, and were staying at a local hotel that accepted pets until we got housing. We tried to take advantage of Alexandria's many dog parks, and about 3-4 times a week we would walk him to the nearby parks in an attempt to give him some normality, as well as continue with his daily fetch routine.

One day, after waking up from a nap he was slow in getting up, and refused to put any weight on his back right leg. He continued to do this for two days. It was then that we decided that it was time to have x-rays done so that we could finally get some answers.

Since Rob is military and we move often, we decided that it would be best to start using Banfield Pet Hospitals as our primary vet. They are attached to most PetSmarts which makes them easy to find, and they have a Pet Wellness Plan that carries from state to state.

On July 19th, Murphy was seen by Dr. Caliolio at Banfield and by that afternoon we had our answers. Murphy’s hips and spine were picture perfect, however, both of his knees were cause for concern. Based on the X-rays Dr. Caliolio diagnosed Murphy with a possible cranial cruciate rupture and joint effusion with apparent bilateral stifles. I didn’t quite understand what all of that meant, but Dr. Caliolio was wonderful in explaining it to me and even went as far at to pull out a text book to help. He advised me that he was going to refer me to a local orthopedic specialist for confirmation.

The Diagnosis

On August 3rd, I brought Murphy to South Paws Veterinary Specialists for his referral appointment. I met with Dr. Daniel Brehm, who looked at Murphy’s X-rays and did several tests. He determined that Murphy indeed had partial Cruciate Ligament tears in both legs.

The following is a link to South Paws website for an explanation of a Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

After careful consideration, we decided that the TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery would be the best choice for Murphy. The main reason is because we still don’t know exactly how he injured himself to begin with, neither of us can recall any events within the past 2 & 1/2 years where he may have hurt himself. Unlike other surgeries that rely on scar tissue, TPLO uses pins to fuse the bone together and eliminates the need for the ligaments. It is our theory that with the TPLO it will be harder for him hurt himself again, and that it will be worth doing it right the first time. The TPLO surgery is relatively more expensive than other types of surgeries, the cost being $3000 per leg (* However, that price includes everything, including his follow-up visits). The TPLO has a healing period of 6-8 weeks, and history has shown that dogs that have it will typically develop arthritis the same as any other normal dog. The plan is to do one leg, go through the 8 week recovery, and then do the second leg.

Current Activity Level

Murphy isn’t what we would consider a very active dog. His days consist of lying on the couch until we come home from work. Then he wants to go straight outside to take care of business and do what he loves the most..... play fetch!!!

Since the Diagnosis we have had to cut back on his play time which has made him a very unhappy camper. There have been several days where he has been vocal about 'what time it is' and has even gone as far as to go pout in the corner for an hour when he didn't get his way. As you can probably tell, he is our only child!

Winter is coming, and Murphy has spent all of his winters up until now in Florida. This winter will mark his first snowfall, and we are hoping that if we get started on the surgeries ASAP that he will be able to enjoy the snowfalls like a normal dog, and spend the rest of his years happily running and playing fetch like any other dog!

The Date for Surgery No. 1

We broke down and scheduled the surgery for this Friday, August 18th. We decided to start on his right leg first since this is the one that bothered him last. Since he has partial ACL tears in BOTH legs, there is a chance that he could further injure his left leg during his recovery simply because it will be bearing the brunt of his weight for at least the first few weeks. We are hoping that there will be no complications and that his left leg will hold out.

Other Helpful Links

The following are some GREAT links that I found of other people who have had success stories with TPLO: