Oh man, I’ve been avoiding this topic too. I can’t seem to find a way to forgive myself. So many things went wrong the day I ran her over with the tractor and bush hog. Wyatt and the dogs were supposed to be inside while I mowed and Dusty worked on fences. I’m pretty paranoid when it comes to the tractor as it is so hard to see everything when on it and I’m so focused on the path I am mowing.
As I was turning to go up the hill, I saw Wyatt out of the corner of my end and immediately slammed the tractor and bush hog off. He came running over to ask a question and the dogs came with him. Hey had left the house when he did and followed him into the pasture. Before I knew it all three of them were crawling onto the tractor and I yelled at them to get off. I agreed to drive Wyatt back down the hill to the gate and then he had to go inside or with his dad. I switched the tractor back on, thankfully leaving the bush hog off or this would be a very different story, and pulled slowly forward gripping him tight around his waist in fear he would fall off. Waggy had apparently stayed by the tire and she was run over by the back tractor tire and then trapped under the bush hog.
It was a scary bad day.
We knew immediately that she had broken her back left leg and took her to Dusty’s clinic for radiographs and to make sure that she didn’t have any additional trauma we were not aware of. Turns out she had a comminuted fracture to the femur and Dusty had her into the orthopedic surgeon the next day for surgery where she received a plate, pin and circlage wire. She left with instructions to remain on cage rest with assisted walking for bathroom breaks for 6 weeks.
The issue was that even after the repair she still wasn’t bearing any weight to the leg which is atypical. Dusty began working on PT stretching and ROM exercises as instructed but something wasn’t right. Then a week after surgery, Waggy became even more painful than prior and a new radiograph confirmed our fear: the intramedullary pin had backed out and was causing soft tissue injury with ROM of the hip. The surgeon couldn’t get her in for two weeks, which was pretty unacceptable, so Dusty removed the pin himself. Waggy was immediately improved with the pin removed and no longer cried out in agony with any little movement.
However, she still refused to bear any weight on the leg and when Dusty tested her sensation she did not react to any stimulus below the knee. He took her to a neurologist to confirm what we now already knew: the sciatic nerve was damaged. Whether it was from the accident or that pin, we don;t know and it hardly matters anyway. The neurologist was optimistic the nerve would heal given enough time and so Waggy went back to the clinic to remain on cage rest.
Dusty brought her back home 12 weeks post injury. The bones were healed and there wasn’t any improvement to be gleaned from being in a cage any longer. The nerve at that point had improved to the just above her ankle level which was a quicker recovery than expected. The biggest issue is that she walks on the top of her foot, dragging ti against the ground as she has no proprioception to tell her to correct and and even if she did the muscles required to correct it aren’t getting any signals to function.
This has created a bit of a cycle of trauma to the foot. If left open, she rubs the skin raw and the nails off which bleeds and gets infected. If we keep it bandaged up, she gets a yeast infection and toes get raw. We have tried two different braces to hold the foot in the correct posture and allow for weight bearing to occur on the pads, but the force they exert on the leg to do so creates large pressure sores and then we are back to treating open wounds all over again.
Her current status is bandaged and dragging the foot. This is a nightmare in this wet weather as the bandage can’t get wet so every time she goes out she gets the foot stuffed into a plastic bag. In case anyone else ever has to do this, the heavy duty IV fluid bags work really well and last the longest.
We are giving her as much time as we can to declare what she needs. Amputation? Maybe. I know lots of dogs can handle being three legged and losing a back leg on a big dog is better than a front, but her right hip isn’t good. Its been bad since we brought her home, but radiogrpahs always come back clean. She limps on the right after long exertions and we have known from the time she was 6 months old that that hip would be her downfall in old age. Losing the left leg would be devastating to the right and would significantly shorten her life. I’ve researched dog prosthetics and while they are made, the literature isn’t good on them. They don’t work as well as in humans.
For the moment she will remain with all legs attached, but the time for regeneration is ticking away and we haven’t seen any improvement since the initial jump from the knee to ankle. The neurologist gave it 12-16 months for full regeneration and I am fine with waiting as long as we keep infection at bay, wounds to a minimum, and a happy dog throughout. Waggy has remained her loving, happy, friendly self through it all which makes it even worse that this was inflicted by the human who was supposed to protect her and provide her care. She isn’t holding a grudge although she does refuse to enter the pasture since the accident.
Time will tell and we are constantly re evaluating what is best for her long term. She is only 1 1/2 years old and still a pup.