Friday, February 18, 2011
To Be (Four-Legged) Or Not To Be: Fritz's Question
Last weekend was a busy one for rescue! One of our intakes was Fritz, a schnauzer/poodle mix with a tibial fracture (the tibia is the larger bone below the knee). After (likely) being hit by a car, he was brought into the PSPCA in early February, where the vets there did X-rays and decided to try to splint his leg, hoping that the break would heal properly. Unfortunately, Fritz was so painful from his broken leg and so overwhelmed by being in the shelter, that the staff contacted us to see if we had the room and the care to take him on.
Our first stop after picking Fritz up was the veterinarian. Because he had been splinted the weekend before, at the very least he was due for a bandage change! Poor Fritz was sweet with all of us, but didn't want anyone touching his leg, so our veterinarian sedated him so that he could be neutered and his bandage changed.
She first noticed that his bandage had slipped down his leg a little bit. Hind legs are notoriously hard to bandage, as they like to slip down the leg and create more pain and problems in bone healing. Even though we can sometimes get away with changing bandages only once a week, oftentimes hind legs need to be replaced more frequently. Fritz's break was also near the top of his tibia (basically at his knee) so it was very important that the bandage stayed put!
Fritz stayed at the veterinary hospital overnight and went home with his foster mom in the morning. By that that night, his bandage had already slipped again, much to our dismay.
We had a long conversation about the best thing to do for Fritz. Continuing to splint his leg for another 6 weeks, especially if the bandage continued slipping every day or every few days, was becoming a more troublesome plan. Sometimes animals let us re-splint their legs awake, but for Fritz, who was scared and very painful, that wasn't an option. Sedating him every 2-3 days was also not a good option.
If we had thousands of dollars at our disposal, we could contemplate having his leg pinned by an orthopedic surgeon, but that would still involve 5-6 weeks of cage rest after yet another surgery for Fritz.
After a long discussion, we unanimously decided that the best option for Fritz was to amputate his leg. Three-legged dogs, especially small dogs, do really well. Instead of going through bandage change after bandage change in a vet clinic that was scary to him for 6 more weeks, plus another 2-4 weeks of limited exercise, Fritz would undergo one more surgery and come out of it without any restrictions whatsoever. The other really nice aspect of amputations is that since the broken bone is removed, the healing process is much faster and much less painful overall.
Fritz had his surgery on Thursday and went home to his foster home today. Already his foster mom is reporting that he is doing so much better than when he had his splint on; he's less worried about her touching him and much more willing to walk around the house and interact with the other animals.
Finally, instead of being in our care for another 6-8 weeks, Fritz will be able to start looking for a home soon, and it's always in their best interest to go to their forever homes sooner rather than later!