Sunday, August 21, 2011

Life After Knee Surgery

I haven't written in a long time, but I really wanted to update everyone on life after three knee surgeries in less than one year.  Jazz had his last surgery - to repair torn cartilege in his right knee the middle of last February.  He was released from all restrictions the end or March.  We have done most of the recommended rehab work.  (We have not done anything in the water.  No access and a dog who hates water and does not dry quickly!)  Jazz is still improving, so this is a progress report, not final.

I believe that the biggest hurdle to overcome has been confidence.  Jazz was very hesitant to trust his knees.  He rarely played and stopped as soon as he slipped or felt any pressure.  The same was true of agility.  In the last few months he has fallen down, slipped, and jumped with no bad results.  He and Coach have begun playing with real joy and abandon.  I hate to use this as an example, but I saw him humping Coach yesterday - I made him stop, but it does take a fair amount of strength and confidence to do that with "weak" knees!  We have entered NADAC agility trials and Jazz finished his novice tunnelers and open standard titles since the middle of May.  DoG bless NADAC!  Jazz can enter at the lower skilled level and in the veteran class.  This means he jumps 12 inches.  I know that is ridiculously low, but he loves to play agility and I love to run with him.  He could jump 16 inches I think, but he will never be able to comfortably jump his AKC preferred height of 20 inches.  He has always been a reluctant obedience dog and even if he liked it, he refuses 26 inch jumps.  I doubt if he could clear them, but he certainly shouldn't try, so no obedience.

He is still reluctant to sit and he doesn't stay in a sit very well, but we do have a nice straight sit again.  That didn't happen until June.  We work lots of sit to stands with a nice kick back motion to work those hips and legs.  He has been working on the exercise peanut to gain balance and strength.  Mostly he runs.  He doesn't run smoothly but he loves to run and actually caught Coach the other day.  They were both pretty surprised by that! 

I just want any of you out there that are working through knee surgery to know that progress is slow, but don't give up.  Jazz had his first surgery last July and he is still improving every day.  I am not a fan of the TPLO surgery because it forever changes the angle of the knee and affects the way the leg moves.  I think this makes the dog more awkward and seemed to confuse Jazz at first.  He would try to push with the left leg and the angle wasn't right and he would stop, look bewildered and give up.  He had the more natural Tightrope surgery on the right knee.  That leg moves more smoothly, but the tight rope material broke and the joint seems a little loose to me.  With two completely different knees, at eight years old, he is still running, playing, jumping and sitting.  I suspect the knees hurt him.  I believe that the only way to keep him healthy is to keep rehabbing and working for the rest of his life.

Those of you with dogs who are currently in rehab or living "life after" any kind of surgery - hang in there.  It is so rewarding to see your dog gain confidence and strength.  Good luck.