Dear Dr. Narda, My dog came up lame this morning. She (Bessie) is a 7-year-old pit bull mix and all I know is that she was outside running with her buddies and when she arrived back in, she refused to put weight on that right hindlimb. I am beside myself. My husband said that she probably needs surgery and that I should take her in immediately to the specialty center. What should I do? I just had a new baby two months ago and am in overwhelm. Help! ~Distressed in Detroit
Dear Distressed, I completely understand the, pardon the pun, “kneejerk” response that makes us a) assume that pelvic limb lameness indicates a cruciate problem, and b) that the best solution to that problem is surgery. Not so! With the evidence supporting medical acupuncture, laser therapy, medical massage, and rehabilitation, growing steadily, we can now confidently recommend a course of non-invasive, supportive, restorative treatments as the initial approach. Especially for dogs, if Bessie’s problem is indeed at least in part a torn cruciate ligament, this issue arises due to a chronic inflammatory disease state. It is usually NOT an emergency. Yes, we need to make dogs with lameness comfortable and not withhold proper analgesia (that may or may not include medication, depending on your veterinarian’s advice), but whisking them into surgery is what I typically think of as, “before they get better on their own”. Because many do turn around in a few days to weeks, sometimes on their own, more reliably with integrative pain medicine and rehabilitation.
I have written several columns on this topic in Veterinary Practice News. Their links appear below. Please feel free to email me if you have further questions. I wish Bessie all the best.