A few days ago we received a call from a client with a 6 month old mixed breed hound. While vacationing on Cape Cod this weekend the pup began to limp on a rear leg after running through the sand. No cry was heard, no catastrophic event noted. But there was no question that for the next day and a half “Jo Jo” would not put his leg down. Upon returning from vacation the pup was presented to our office. During examination he was bright, active and would put some weight on the leg but not all. Palpation or careful feeling and manipulation of the leg revealed mild pain in the tibia, the long bone between the knee and the foot. X-Rays were suggested but the client felt that Jo Jo was doing better and that she would prefer to wait. After two additional days during which the puppy neither improved nor worsened imaging was performed. The X-Rays revealed a complete break in the tibia with only the fibula (a very thin bone that helps to support the foot) preventing a total break in the leg. Had Jo Jo continued to use the leg even in a reduced capacity he likely would have completely broken the leg. This would have necessitated a very involved and costly surgery involving stabilizing the leg with stainless steel screws and plates. In Jo Jo’s case, however, a padded splint will be worn for a few weeks and additional images taken to ensure the healing is progressing. There is every expectation that the puppy will heal well and return to a normal active pet with no residual problems.
The case is worthy of note in that it makes an important point. Whether it is related to the pain threshold or the mental aspect of injury or disease our pets tend to mask the severity of a problem. The behavior of dogs and cats is not necessarily a good indicator of how serious this problem may be. It is always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of our pets. As the adage goes “they can’t really tell us what is wrong…..they just show us the signs and we have to figure it out”. Given our inherent responsibility for our pet’s welfare as well as the importance of pets in our lives it is certainly worth the figuring.