Some pets make the perfect patients

3:24 PM, Aug. 12, 2013  |  Comments
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Sometimes I think people should be more like dogs. Not all dogs, but most dogs, tolerate adversity much better than most people.

Take Gretta for example. A grey-white, 11-year-old Shih Tzu with a fractured rear leg and pelvis. She was run over by a vehicle in the driveway (probably because she is older and has lost most of her eyesight and who knows what she really hears.).

After the accident, she casually hobbled herself toward the house with her right rear leg dangling.

I saw her the next day after the emergency clinic evaluated the fractures. She had on a temporary splint and sat calmly in the owner's lap while we reviewed the x-rays together. There was a oblique fracture of the distal right tibia (just below the shin) and a fracture of the pelvis that left a floating piece of bone somewhere in the muscles.

In addition to these breaks, the x-ray showed some damage to the femur, upper leg bone, that involved the hip joint.

"That looks like an old fracture to me," I said.

"We got Gretta as a rescue dog," the husband said. "We never new what happened, but she always ran a little funny when she was running fast."

I could not believe she could use the leg at all based on the damage I was seeing on the x-ray.

I explained fractures and repair to the owners. "You need three things for a fracture to heal," I explained. "The first is time. It takes four to six weeks for healing. Secondly, the two ends of the fracture need to be close together. And third, there must be no movement of the pieces during healing."

I continued to explain, "A more permanent cast should work for the leg fracture, but I am not sure what to do about the pelvis, and the hip joint. I can put on the cast, but I think you should consider seeing an orthopedic surgeon (bone specialist) to determine what to do with the other problems."

The owners agreed, and I sent Gretta on her way with a fiberglass cast on her leg. All the time she remained calm and cooperative, the perfect patient.

Several days later, the owners returned for a recheck and an update from the orthopedic surgeon.

They wheeled Gretta into the exam room in a newly purchased pet stroller. It looked like a baby carriage only made for pets: two sets of super-swivel wheels, dual brakes, contour grip handles, and a plush deluxe interior compartment. Inside the double zippered interior was Gretta snuggled in and smiling.

"Gretta is already running around using her cast leg like normal," the wife said.

"It's as if she didn't have a problem in the world," the husband said.

"What did the orthopedic surgeon say?" I asked.

"Oh, he wanted to redo the cast with wire and pins, rebuild her hip joint and amputate her leg if that didn't work. But look at her, Dr. Pope, she is happy and she runs around like normal on that cast you put on her leg. I think we will take our chances and let her heal."

I couldn't argue with that. Oh, and did I mention that the pet stroller had two cup holders for beverages. One for the owners coffee and one for a pet water bottle.

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