A dog's eye view of canine lameness

Hey, it’s me, Archie.  Don’t tell my mom I hijacked her laptop, OK?  Dad (a.k.a. Dr. Griswold) has been having so much fun with this blog thing, I thought I’d give it a try.  It took everything in me to behave and not keep the whole family awake by wrestling with Rana at bedtime, but I finally have a night outside my kennel as a result of my good behavior.  Good thing Mom’s laptop came with one of those fancy fingerprint scanners to log in with!

I wanted to share a recent experience with our canine subscribers (this is the point where you call your dog over to listen, human).  You see, I’ve had this mild but nagging limp in my right shoulder for several weeks now, and despite their best efforts, Mom and Dad just haven’t been able to get it cleared up.  I’m pretty active, and we all assumed it was a sprain or strain, but after three weeks of kennel rest and anti-inflammatory medications, they started to get worried.  That’s when they began twisting my legs to see where I was hurting, taking x-rays, and otherwise being annoying.  Dad was pretty sure he saw a problem on my humerus (the upper arm bone), but he wanted a second opinion, so he had Dr. Finn-Bodner at Arizona Veterinary Imaging look at my x-rays.  Dr. Finn-Bodner is a radiologist (a special veterinarian who only looks at x-rays, ultrasounds, and other medical images).  Sure enough, she agreed; I have a problem called osteochondrosis dissecans, or OCD.

Pawing through one of the surgery books my folks have, I learned that OCD is a defect of endochondral ossification that happens in young, rapidly growing, medium- and large-breed dogs.  What this means in real words is that it’s a problem with normal cartilage formation and results in cartilage flaps or “joint mice” in the shoulders, elbows, ankles, and/or knees.  These flaps release irritating substances into the joint and cause inflammation, swelling, and pain—and ultimately accelerate the development of arthritis, particularly if left untreated.  Many factors, including diet, growth rate, exercise and activity, and genetics contribute to the development of OCD.  I was eating a special diet for large breed puppies and avoiding excessive joint trauma (like from jogging while I’m young), but I play awfully rough and grew really fast despite the calorie and mineral restrictions in my diet; my folks are pretty frustrated, but understand that sometimes crummy things happen to good dogs.  The good news here is that shoulder OCD carries a good prognosis after joint surgery.  I’ll probably get some mild arthritis as I get older, but if I stay active and don’t get fat there’s a good chance I will only be sore after long days of working.

With this in mind, Dad and I visited Dr. Lirtzman at Veterinary Surgical Specialists of Scottsdale.  Dr. Lirtzman is a board-certified surgical specialist; this means that in addition to vet school he completed a three or four year residency in surgery, published scientific papers in a veterinary or research journal, and passed a really hard test.  Now, all he does is surgery; well, that and the anesthesia and pain management that makes surgery comfortable for his patients.  He had a look at my x-rays, performed a full orthopedic exam, and took some new x-rays to evaluate my left shoulder more fully (lots of dogs with OCD have it bilaterally–on both sides).  Sure enough, a spot was found on my left humerus as well.  After all this, Dr. Lirtzman talked to us about all the options available to treat my problem.

Dad and Mom spent some time talking things over that night.  They want to speak with a couple other doctors to get their input, but it looks like surgery is in my future.  I’m a little nervous—what dog wouldn’t be?—but I know any pain I might experience will be managed before, during, and after the procedure.  I also know that anesthesia is very safe when it’s administered and monitored with care.  Finally, I know my folks wouldn’t turn me over to anyone they didn’t trust completely.  So, it looks like I’ll be going under the knife in the next couple weeks.   I’ll keep you posted!