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A question for those of you who have dealt with dogs with broken legs

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Hi everyone,

Willow came out of her splint last Friday. She had a nasty pressure sore on the inside of her ankle area, but that seems to be healing well. My question is this: How long after slpint/cast removal has it taken for your dogs to use the affected limb fully? I get the sense from the last thread about Willow that many of your dogs were up and running (so to speak) as soon as the splint/cast was removed (but most of these seemed to be front legs too).


While in the splint, Willow used the leg some, but then the splint tended to rub near the front of her hock area and I think she found it more comfortable to just carry the leg.


The problem is that she's still carrying it. I guess that the muscle atrophy and possible ligament shortening resulting from carrying it for 7 weeks has made it uncomfortable to now put the leg down. When she forgets or loses balance, she will put her leg down, but for the most part, she runs around with it up in the air.


At first I thought that the pressure sore, which looked rather painful, was causing her not to want to use the leg. But that's healing now.


So I have been taking her to work with me and taking her to a local park at lunch and make her swim in the pond, since she has to use that leg to swim. She does tire rather easily, but while she's in the water swimming after a ball or bringing it ashore, she does use the leg.


Do you think it would help for me to spend some time stretching/manipulating the leg in addition to the swimming exercise?


By the way, my vet was a little surprised that she wasn't using it more, but he wants to wait another week and see if there's any improvement. He did have me put her on enteric coated aspirin twice a day and I am soaking the foot in epsom salt (mainly for the pressure sore). Am I just being paranoid? Is it too soon for her to "want" to use the leg? Is it sort of a vicious circle in that hte more she doesn't use th eleg, the less likely she is to use it? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


J. and Willow, the three-legged wonder

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Hi Julie,

I wouldn't worry just yet. It actually seems perfectly normal to me for her to not be using the leg fully at this point. The swimming will be great for her but actually fully using the leg (weight bearing use) may take a couple of weeks or more depending on the extent of the original injury. One of the vet's I used to work for had a choc. Lab that bailed out of a moving truck window and broke his rear leg when he was around a year old. It had to have a pin instead of a splint and it took him over a month to build the leg back up again once the pin was removed. He was also dragging his toes, which worried everyone about possible nerve damage but eventually everything came 'round right.

Sounds like you're on the right track with Willow.

Good Luck!


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you want to make sure she's swimming in warm water, as that stimulates the blood flow into the muscle and full range of motion. swimming in cold water will cause the muscle to contract, rather than expand, and while I'm not sure that it's harmful...its definitely not helping the rehab process.


Best Wishes for Willow's speedy recovery!




p.s. we're lucky enough to have this place - www.rivermeadowfarm.com - near us...maybe you can find similar facilities near you - ?


[This message has been edited by JEL (edited 06-12-2002).]

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Try to locate an animal physical therapist. I had a friend with a corgi that had surgery on a rear leg. I know she used PT to get him back into performance quickly. I know some have used a ping pong ball taped to the good foot to force the dog to use the bad leg. And there are stretching exercises. Swimming is good exercise, but not sure how good it would be for forcing a dog to use the leg on dry ground.



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Thanks everyone for your responses. Great suggestions!



Probably the nearest facility like that would be the VA Tech Vet School Equine Clinic at Morven Park in Leesburg, VA. I don't know that they have an aquatherapy facility for horses, but if any place did, it would be them. Of course that's about 5 hours from here....


The pond she's swimming in is fairly warm after many days of 90+ degree weather. Plus it's brackish, so her foot is getting a salt soak at the same time. Nice of MOther Nature to do that for me, huh?


The good news is that she does seem to be using it a bit more, at least when she's standing around, and when she's carrying it, she's carrying it a bit lower, so that's progress of a sort.


I've got her back working, and she seems a little off (not as keen/intense), so I'm just taking it slow. I am just doing simple stuff--when I need to sort in tight spots, etc., I use Boy because I would guess that's where Willow would be most likely to put too much strain on either back leg.


I'll let y'all know how she's doing. Thanks again--hearing from y'all makes me worry a bit less.

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Have you done a search for animal swim centers? If not, try it. I know that there are facilities just for rehab of animals, etc....there is one in Middleburg, Va called the Northern Virgina Animal Swim Center....you can try contacting them and they may be able to point you in the right direction since I am not sure where you are located.



Centreville, VA

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You might also just check with something like an orthopedic vet specialist....I found one in the Denver area that had a GREAT setup - a treadmill in a tank of water. It didn't take my dog long to get used to it.


The water provided some floatation, but there was still some weight being put on the dog's leg. The water also provided some resistance, so the dog got a LOT more exercise in a short time than she would have, just out walking. The treadmill rather forced the dog to keep putting weight on it. Not cheap, but seemingly a great invention! Maybe there's one nearby....best of luck.



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Hey, Diane...

the place I mentioned above has that underwater treadmill too..isn't it cool? they can adjust the amount of water in the tank to give more or less resistance, and after they'd shut off the treadmill and turn on the jets and give the dogs a whirlpool/massage!

They also gave quantity discounts if you booked and paid for several sessions at once....ends up cheaper than a herding lesson - LOL smile.gif


Seriously tho, I know of 2 dogs that underwent similar hip surgeries, and the rehab made such a difference in the speed of recovery....

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