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A Waggy Filled Update

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. 

My beautifully goofy girl

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. 

Puppy Waggy was the cutest fur ball

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. 

One of my favorite pictures of Waggy and Dusty

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. 

Waggy makes room to snuggle. You can see her left foot bandage here. 

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. 

She has grown into a gorgeous young dog

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.

26 thoughts on “A Waggy Filled Update”

  1. Oh gosh. =( So hard to watch them go through this stuff! My fingers are crossed for regeneration. I know it can happen and really hope it will for Waggy! A friend’s shepherd mix jumped out of his truck a few years ago and lost all use of her hind end for a few months. They carefully rehabbed her – even taking her repeatedly to a friend’s pond to swim with her for aqua therapy during the cold autumn months – and to see her today you’d never know she was paralyzed for several months!

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    1. I wish we could use the aquatred Dusty has access to, but she can’t go in it in a bandage or with an open wound and every time we heal one, so goes and gets another no matter how well we bandage or brace. We tried yet another new brace yesterday for 1 hour and she turned up bloody from it. She hates water, so no swimming in the pond unless we force her.

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  2. So we had a boxer that had some paralysis in her back leg due to some spinal trauma/herniated disks (she wasn’t my dog and I was in and out at that time living at home so I don’t know all the details) and he basically lost all use of one of her hind legs. She may have done better with amputation (she had no feeling in that one leg, and minimal feeling in the other), but my step father didn’t go that route. Anyway, she got crazy strong with her front end and did really well for a few years before we lost her to cancer. She wore boots on both hind feet whenever she was outside and had multiple pairs to rotate so that she didn’t get rubs either from the boots or from dragging her legs. She also did a lot of aqua therapy at a dog pool. She was NOT a swimmer or fan, but really grew to do well with it and even a enjoy it thanks to the therapists. They used a harness and everything.

    Anyway, she has options. My step father’s boxer was 7-9 when all this started and Waggy is much younger. It was the cancer that got her, not the leg issues. My mom’s house has crazy steep hills and she flew down those hills after deer on 2-3 legs and back up again. Just keep that in mind.

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    1. Dusty wants to amputate. I;m the one still on the fence. She does use the left leg for balance and bears weight on the top of the foot. But she doesn’t use it when running or jumping so I’m not sure how much function loss she would have. I’m still holding out hope the nerve will come back

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      1. That was similar to Lexus. She used it mostly to rest lightly against and a tiny bit for balance but it sounds like Waggy has a little more use than Lex. Hugs to you either way. But Lexus had a good life even with her leg.

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  3. i was just thinking is there something more hard shell to put over her foot (If not i bet dusty can make it!) and be able to pop on (kind of like bell boots or easy boots for horses). I am glad she is happy. I hope she starts to improve. I had a dog that had an open wound on her leg for years but it was a BITCH to care for (Not that I cared I did it cause she was my dog)!! We lost her to a blood infection at 8 but I am sure that that wound caused part of it! 😦

    Fingers crossed you come up with a solution. I would totally frame that photo of Dusty and Waggy. SO adorable.

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    1. He has it blown up on canvas in his office.

      We have tried hard plastic braces, a new brace that has a bungee cord that slips between the toes and attached tot he front of the leg and softer braces, but all have to exert force somewhere to pull the foot up and allow her to walk. Every brace we have tried creates a new open sore somewhere and then we are back to wound care yet again.

      I know the bandages bother her and I know she isn’t using the leg much but amputation is …so final. Which is an odd stance for me. I amputate all the time in my job and recommend it to a lot of people going through chronic wound care. It is hard to take my own advice.

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  4. My family dog escaped from our backyard after the fence was damaged by a winter storm, and was hit by a car. The damage was too great to save his LF leg, and it was amputated at the chest. He recovered marvelously, and as someone noted up-thread, became incredibly strong on the remaining 3 legs. He was just as fast and playful once he healed from the surgery and it never seemed to bother him or slow him down in the slightest. And he was not a young dog when it happened. That’s my first hand experience. 🙂

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  5. i’m so sorry 😦 uncertainty is the absolute worst, and i hate that there aren’t any clear and immediate answers here for you yet. my fingers are crossed that Waggy continues to improve and that you are able to work out a good plan for management that works for everyone!

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  6. I’m so sorry for you feeling so bad for Waggy: an accident and he is still happy, so all will be all right in the end. I know you’ve read plenty of anecdotes about other dogs, but I’ll add one more: ranch dog was hit by a car, useless leg for more than 2 years, then one day was just running around on all 4, so strange! Amputation seems like a hard choice, but I’ve known happy dogs with that too. I think making pet health decisions has been the hardest thing in my adult life, since they can’t just tell you. Best of luck with hard decisions…

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  7. (((Hugs))))Accidents are just that- accidents. Looking back at what you should have done serves only to punish yourself. Your focus was on making sure that Wyatt was safe. I say this but it took me a little no time to forgive myself for Steele’s death so I understand. Guilt is a destructive emotion

    This may not be helpful but dogs don’t know how long they live or that there r lives are curtailed by a ‘handicap’. They live in the moment. d’Arcy lived a long time without being to fully control his right hind leg. Over time it took on a club appearance but he seemed fine with it.

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  8. Poor Waggy and poor you 😦 I got anxiety just reading the recap at the beginning of the entry. I’m sorry to hear she’s having complications and that the nerve regeneration doesn’t seem to be going well. I hope that she will heal more completely (enough to keep all four limbs, at least!!)

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