Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A scary day

Yesterday morning, Silver was reclining on the papasan when she made one of those tentative washing-machine noises that might or might not mean a dog is about to vomit. I immediately jumped up from my chair and ordered her off the furniture as a precautionary measure.

Silver obediently leapt off the papasan, but when she hit the floor, her legs crumpled under her. And suddenly my beautiful girl was flailing uncontrollably, almost convulsing, on the floor, and there was not a thing I could do to help her.

I think I screamed, because within moments the s.o. was out of bed.

By then Silver was lying nearby, wild-eyed and stress-panting. I asked her if she wanted to get up, and she did, but her back legs were stiff and uncompliant. She settled back into a sphinx position and stayed there.

In a few minutes she hobbled across the room, then lay down again. Every few minutes she got better, but what chilled me to the bone was that she wasn't right.

I cancelled my afternoon appointments and took her to the vet. And once we were in the tiny examination room with the doctor, the words spilled out of me. Not only was this morning's incident terrifying, but it confirmed my worst fears. For weeks, Silver hadn't looked right. She seemed a little sluggish and stiff, and she'd put on a few pounds. Two weeks ago, I had playfully goosed her on the hindquarters and she had screamed. The s.o. had tried to quiet my fears, saying I had just startled her, but I knew she had seen me coming. Something was very wrong.

The vet talked with me a little (she really was comforting and helpful--must remember to request her in the future) and then took Silver into the back for blood tests and x-rays. I tried, without much success, to interest myself in a copy of Dog Fancy. But it took less time than I expected, and soon the vet brought Silver back and gave me the news.

The good news was that Silver's blood panel is perfect, and that her hips look great. There is also nothing wrong with her spine.

The problem is her knees. Silver has a condition called medial patella luxation, meaning that her kneecaps don't stay within the grooves they're supposed to slide in, but tend to displace toward the middle of her body. Her left is worse than the right. It was the one that had popped completely out that morning, leaving her flailing in pain and fear.

She may have to have surgery on one or both knees in the future, but there's also a chance the problem can be managed with drugs and neutraceuticals. It turns out that both NSAIDs and glucosamine/chondroitin supplements are available as meat-flavored chewables.

And she has to lose some weight, inactivity or no. That should help take the stress off her knees, and maybe they'll be able to work smoothly.

I don't mind taking a little extra care of my girl, and I don't mind paying for drugs and/or surgery. What bothers me is the knowledge that she has been in so much pain, and that there might be more to come. Imagine your kneecaps going out! -- okay, don't, because when I imagine that, my stomach churns from the mere thought. She's been walking around with her back legs stiff because on some level she has figured out that her kneecaps stay in place better when her knees are extended. God, I just feel so bad for her. I love her so much, I just want to scream "STOP! This can't happen!"

But we can hope for the best. And I don't know how fast NSAIDs work, but she does seem a little happier this morning.