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4.5 Weeks In

Whoops – haven’t been posting here, but have been busy in the forums! What an amazing place to get support.

So we are about 4.5 weeks in now, and things are still very, very hard for us.  A few days after the surgery, Marley ended up tearing her ACL – on the same side as her amputation. I feared the worst, that we would have to put her down, because obviously we couldn’t go back into surgery 84 hours later. We took her to our amazing rehab vet who did an exam and felt optimistic we could treat this conservatively – or at least try. That would involve a lot of rest and weekly laser treatments. We have our follow-up appointment tomorrow to see if the laser has had a positive impact on her or not.

Unfortunately, the hits didn’t stop coming there. We are still consistently getting yelping episodes, sometimes up to a dozen or more a day. It is damn near impossible to tell what is causing it. It always happens either when she’s just standing there, or lying down. Sometimes it’s when she’s bending her neck downward to lick her leg – but not always. And to have it happen when she isn’t moving AT ALL? That stumps (pardon the pun) me. Is it a muscle strain? Nerve damage? Phantom limb pain? We have called our surgeon today to see if he has any ideas…but this has to be the worst part of the whole ordeal for us because it leaves me feeling totally helpless when she yelps. It has also made her incredibly anxious, likely because she doesn’t even know what triggers the yelping/how to stop it, so she feels very limited in where she wants to spend her time and how she wants to move her body. She doesn’t want to spend time on the main floor with us, and feels safest in her crate in the basement (although she will still whine to come upstairs… and then refuse to lie down ANYWHERE once up here, so I move her back downstairs). She has completely stopped using any of her dog beds or sleeping in bed with me. Instead, she will only sleep in her crate. She will lie on the grass outside too, but that’s basically it. If those two areas aren’t available for her to lie down, she just won’t lie down. She will keep pacing, and keep hopping. It’s hard as hell to watch. It’s such a change in behavior and really breaks my heart, but we are going to try to press forward and get some answers.

I do have her on a cocktail on meds still, and we recently introduced CBD, which I think has really helped. We had a couple AMAZING days this week (about days 3-4 of introducing it) where she was calm throughout the day, but had her old personality back (something I rarely see anymore). Haven’t noticed a decrease in yelping, however, the general anxiety/pacing was much calmer for a few days. Last night and today it’s right back up to the high levels which is frustrating. The constant guesswork, changing things, taking things out, adding things in, seeing things get better, seeing things get worse – is overwhelming.

Tomorrow we talk to the rehab vet and I will bring up these concerns. Hopefully the surgeon calls back as well. If only I could talk to my girl and get some answers from her!

Happy on the lawn yesterday

Days 5 – 7 – Up, Down, and All Around

It has been a rollercoaster few days.

The surgeon called me back and didn’t seem concerned with the yelping – and didn’t think it was phantom limb pain, at least not the way it is currently presenting. He thinks it is more likely a strain and expects it to resolve in a week or so. 3 days later, and we are getting very minimal yelping, maybe once a day, so that’s an improvement! He also gave us the biopsy results and Marley had a confirmed grade 1 nerve sheath tumor that looked to be 100% removed by the surgery. He is not expecting the tumor to come back to another site on her body…so that is amazing news.

We now have a new issue, as Marley is getting…hyper?…agitated at having to stay in the basement and not exercise?…:

[I posted the below in the forums, but posting it here too as well.]

Yesterday, day 6 post-surgery, she was getting especially wound up. Howling at the bottom of the stairs (they’re blocked off) and hopping around quite a bit. My partner took her outside for a wee, and as he was walking back up the driveway to bring her back in, he texted me and asked me to come outside. She was at the edge of the driveway standing there, somewhat shaking, and did not want to move. He wanted to pick her up and bring her back in the house but she’s ~75 pounds and squirmy – I was really nervous to do this. We ended up bringing her dog bed out to the driveway so she could lie on it while we figured out how to get her back inside.

We ended up just loading her bed into our son’s wagon and rolling her through the backyard and back into the basement. She spent the day lying mostly in the same spot, refusing to stand up and go outside. She did pee herself a couple of times, similar to days 1-2 post-surgery where she didn’t want to get up at ALL. Today, she has stood up a few times, but I can see her back left leg is incredibly stiff, and when she is lying down, she doesn’t want to straighten it at all. Worth noting one of the surgeons who examined her 1-2 months ago said she had a torn cruciate in her right leg… but this new issue is on her left leg, and the same side as the forelimb amputation (of course). The right-leg issue seemed to self-resolve (maybe because tumor limb took precedence for pain). When I expressed concern about going for amputation with this issue, the surgeon said if she was already getting around fine pre-amputation, she would probably be okay.

I went to bed hoping she just overexerted herself and she’d be better in the morning, but she isn’t. I’ve gotten her out the back door, but she refuses to move further to go pee. (She really dislikes the sheet I’m trying to use as a sling too!) I’m feeling so heartbroken over this, that we went through the stressful decision of amputation and now her remaining legs are starting to bother her again so soon. Getting a proper diagnosis for her tumor was HELL and took 3 months, so I’m just so sad at the thought of hauling her back to the vet for more tests, more prodding, and likely more waiting for answers.

Not sure what I am looking for here – maybe just some support. This has been such an incredibly hard year seeing my formerly spunky dog decline so rapidly. I am so grateful for this community and have read many posts over the past month while I prepared for amputation. I’ve read a few posts about amputees going under for TPLO but I don’t know if I can do it. It is so much to ask of her, and selfishly, me.

Day Four – An Okay Day

Today has been an okay day for Marley! Again, a few very bad squeals and yelps, and we think we’ve narrowed it down to when she has her head lowered a bit. She did it while she eating out of (raised) food dish, and she does it outside when she’s leaning down a bit. Other than that, we aren’t sure why it’s happening, and it doesn’t seem to happen ALL the time when she’s leaning down (i.e., she was chewing on a bone while standing and seemed perfectly content).

I sound like a broken record, but it was unnerving. Thankfully I will talk to the surgical team tomorrow and get some more information on whether this is normal or not. It does not feel normal. I will be upset if we have to drag her back in to get assessed as she’s already been through so much.

On the positive side, she seems really happy. Wagging her tail and really wants to go for a long walk. She keeps eyeing the couch as she wants to jump on it, and also wants to come upstairs to the main floor where we usually hang out. (Either my partner or I are down here with her 24/7, so she isn’t alone – but she knows the main floor is the main hub of the house.) Of course, we won’t let her upstairs or anything for at least a couple of weeks. I am really taking her healing and recovery seriously, especially as we already seem to have one issue. I am amazed at her resilience and perseverance. I knew deep down that she could do it, but wow… she’s really doing it <3

I love you Moo!

Day 3 – Oh Boy

Today has been the worst day by far. Last night, she managed to sneak into the spare room down here and hop onto the bed. This is the bed she and I had been sleeping on for a month pre-surgery – there is no box spring, so it was easier for her to get onto when she could no longer make it upstairs to our bedroom to sleep. (Poor girl.) Anyway, my partner was on duty during the night and only noticed she was even up there when she squealed, likely because it’s an uneven surface and she fell into her stitches.

She has been doing the squeals / yelps on and off since we picked her up, and they are awful to hear. It honestly sounds like she is being hit by a car or stabbed…very guttural. I’ve never heard anything like it before. Thankfully, it only seems to last a couple of seconds, but we cannot figure out what is causing it. It only happens when she is standing and it happens more frequently when we are taking her out back on her leash. It happened probably 5 times today.

She is more mobile today, and seems quite happy, but due to the issue above, we were advised to increase her percocet from 2x/day to 3x/day to see if it helps. The ER vet felt that she was likely just anxious as that’s how she was acting after the surgery. I don’t want to say I felt brushed off by that, but…I did. She is comfortable the vast majority of the time. But what is causing this? Is it normal? I’ve never had stitches–or lost a limb–so I’m not sure exactly how painful it all is. I’m terrified it’s some sort of residual nerve pain, which will just break my heart. This was all supposed to eliminate pain, not keep it around and/or increase it. Unfortunately, the surgery team is off all weekend + Monday as it’s a holiday here, so the only thing I can do in the interim is increase the dose and wait until Tuesday.

Day 2 – Picking Up Our Girl

The vet tech opened the side door, and out hopped Marley. Half of her body was shaved, and there was that awful incision – I won’t downplay it, it was incredibly tough to see it. We had a hell of a time trying to get her into the backseat and onto her bed. At 75 pounds, she isn’t a small dog, and she hates being picked up and squirms like a madwoman during any of the approximately 4 times in her entire life I have tried. My partner and the vet tech each took a front and a back and got her in. She ended up squealing quite a bit, which immediately made me feel disgusted with my decision. And helpless. So helpless. She looked confused and sad and not her usual self – all of which I knew was normal, and I was expecting it, but it was STILL tough to see. I sat in the backseat and scratched her head for the 40-minute drive back home.

Getting her out was another big problem. We didn’t want to pick her up due to the squealing previously. Her incision was incredibly high up and there didn’t seem to be any “good” spots on her body to pick her up. We gathered several couch cushions and positioned them as stairs for her. She was 0% interested in moving. She was on her dog bed so we very carefully just moved it down each “stair” until finally, it was flat on the pavement.

She hopped through to the backyard, but it was painful to watch. Again, I KNEW to not expect much, but seeing it firsthand with your own dog vs reading blogs on the Internet is much more heartwrenching. We managed to get her into the basement (her spot for healing and where she had spent the vast majority of the past 3 months given her sore body) and she laid down on the carpet. I have to admit, she looked like an adorable seal.

She was really sleepy (they said she didn’t really sleep much at the hospital and was very vocal / anxious) and passed out for a couple of hours. She refused to get up and peed herself a couple of times, so we put puppy pads down and decided we wouldn’t force her to get up, not on day one. She had been through enough.

The night was mostly uneventful although she did bump her stitches when she stood up to readjust herself on her bed and yelped. As I was sleeping beside her on the couch, I just tried to reassure her and give her pets. She quickly fell back asleep.

Marley’s Journey is brought to you by Tripawds.
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