That’s my sweet Joey. Joey had his annual check-up at the vet this week and I got some unexpected news. While my other dog, Happy, has an ongoing liver condition, I thought Joey was my easy one. He never acts sick and is usually pretty even keeled. But Joey is a little clumsy and dumb me, I didn’t even think to mention this to the vet — life has me overwhelmed right now — until he began his physical exam and stopped while examining Joey’s hind legs. “Did you know his knees are popping in and out of the sockets?”
I did not know that. “Sometimes falls down. Is that why?,” I asked. Yes, it is why. When I adopted Joey, the rescue group told me he would sometimes fall; for example, when other dogs came running at him. He had his legs examined and x-rayed and everything looked normal. The falling was attributed to Joey having little muscle development in his legs. Joey was severely emaciated when he was rescued, so underweight that he couldn’t even sit up. With great foster care he was brought to a healthy weight but his legs were still weak. Here’s a picture of him taken shortly after his rescue:
It’s been two years since his rescue but he continues to sometimes fall down, especially on my slippery wood floors. It also happens sometimes when we’re out and about but he also gets nervous in new places so I attributed that to his skittish side. I thought it was his “normal” and that maybe his legs just would never be that strong. He doesn’t jump either. The vet’s diagnosis was a bit shocking since his prior exams never showed a problem but it’s nice to finally have a better explanation of what’s happening. The official term for his condition is luxating patella and it’s common in small dogs. A treatment for this condition is surgery. And because Joey has the issue in both knees, he’d actually need two surgeries — he’d have surgery on one knee then about three weeks later surgery on the other knee.
I’m not sold on the surgery. First of all, it typically costs $1,500…per knee. There might be a “discount” for two knees but the surgeon is currently off so I need to call back to confirm. But aside from the money — if my dogs need something, I’ll find a way to make it work — I worry about the general risks of surgery in the first place. Anesthesia alone is risky. A colleague of mine recently lost her dog from a routine teeth cleaning because the anesthesia triggered a heart condition they didn’t know about. Joey weighs just under 8 lbs. so surgery for him really scares me. The vet says he doesn’t need the surgery and the condition probably isn’t causing him pain. But the frequency of which he falls is area for concern. The vet also told me there isn’t any alternate therapies/treatments but I’m not accepting that as a certainty just yet either.
I’m dipping my toes into some luxating patella research and I’m also going to keep a record of how often he falls and the type of surface he’s walking on when it happens. Oh, and I’m going to start setting aside money just in case my baby does need to have the surgery.