I came across your website after doing some research and I was hoping you could help me. I have a Border Collie-Golden mix, he is medium sized. He had FHO surgery on New Years and the discharge instructions from the vet were no heavy running but just to let him be himself, no rehab instructions or anything. I’m in Mexico and there are no rehab specialists in town, so internet research is all I have.
My dog was toe tapping the first week or so, but he has a really fast walking gait so he started cheating and keeping the leg up. Now, two months later, he is basically not using the leg at all. He sets it down when marking/peeing but you can tell all of the weight is on the front legs because half the time the rear just lifts completely while peeing. I also need to mention that he lives in a large backyard and he has always been a highly energetic dog.
I started this last week to do the rehab exercises since the vet seemed concerned my dog was not using the leg. I have followed them as best as I can but my dog seems not to trust his operated leg. I have tried to do the slow leash walks but he wont set his leg down. He is also reluctant to use it when I do the weight shifting exercises. I don´t know if this is just him getting used to being on 3 legs or if there were pain or discomfort.
All advice I have found is for immediately Post-op but how do you deal with a dog that is just starting Rehab 2 months after surgery?
Thanks for your time
It turns out that so many of the FHO rehab cases I see come about weeks and usually months after surgery. That surgery is one of the least-attended-to surgeries for post-op care and there seems to just be a lot of vague idea among vets regarding recovery after FHO.
The short answer for now is that 100% of the time the disuse I see soon after this surgery is due to pain. This pain can come from the femur scraping against the acetabulum or scraping against raw tissue, can come from tearing of newly-healed tissue, and can come from tearing of scar tissue, among other sources of pain.
I recommend you read my post about pain after CCL surgery and that you work on getting at least two analgesics into your dog just as if it were right after surgery.
There is likely a lot of the wrong type of scar tissue built up along with muscle atrophy and therefore not much muscle displacing the modified femur from the pelvic area.
Here in Austin, I’d talk with the vet about scripting an anti-inflammatory for 2-4 weeks in order to start walking drills successfully along with moderate-to-high doses of Tramadol for the same reason.
After the first 4 weeks of success, we’d at least continue the Tramadol for exercise success for another 4-6 weeks, reviewing response along the way.
See what headway you can make with that, and if you get the meds on board, barring another unforeseen issue, I can almost guarantee he will use the leg and then you may start at the beginning and achieve success.
If you cannot gain access to pain meds, for whatever reason, then you may resort to trying the vibrational massage (which I recommend anyway) as I have cited under ‘Videos” elsewhere on this site and use ice before and after the walks. Both of those interventions can go a long way to help with soft tissue pain. If acupuncture is available, you could gain some brief pain relief from that as well. There are a lot of “helps” for pain relief besides pharmaceuticals, and some of them are over the counter “natural” anti-inflammatories and supplements. Your pet may or may not be able to tolerate those, so please check with your vet or a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about those interventions. You really want to use oral analgesics as a tool and not just load your dog up on stuff 🙂