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Lucy & Hip Dysplasia

Here is Lucy. The original Wanderdog, or Wanderwoo as her nickname is Mr Woo (don’t ask!) She is the heart and soul of Wanderdog – really where all our inspiration and passion for what we do comes from.

Lucy was born on September 8th 2008, so she’s nearly a decade old now!

She still looks and acts like she’s 2 though.

Lucy's story

I always grew up with dogs, so it was inevitable that I would eventually find one to bring home with me to call ‘my dog’. Just no one expected me to do it while I was still studying at the University of Bristol, especially not my parents! However, when I turned up one evening at my student accommodation, I surprised all my housemates with little 8 week old English Springer Spaniel Lucy Woo. Obviously everyone loved her, she has and still is an incredibly sweet natured, soppy girl, who feeds off fuss and attention. She makes friends wherever she goes!

Lucy has for the most part been by my side for last 9 years, and she is the most wonderful dog. We love her so much!

She has been mostly raw fed, occasionally eating some other more high quality foods such as Lily’s Kitchen. So nutritionally she’s been pretty sound. Whenever people don’t believe how old she is, or comment on how soft her fur is, I always put it down to her food. So health-wise Lucy has been impeccable! However, she had a hidden underlying issue that we did not know of. Sadly we can’t fight genetics! So many dogs these days suffer through terrible breeding practices that end up making them genetically flawed, some very much so! For spaniels this is hip and joint issues.

Admittedly I feel awful now that I didn’t notice signs earlier that Lucy has suffered with hip dysplasia for much longer than we knew about. For example, her hatred of running with me, despite how much I wanted a running partner. She would hide under the bed if I put on my gym kit. At the time I mistook for laziness, how wrong I was! The only reason I stopped taking her was because she would stop every two seconds so she could sniff something, greet someone, wee for the 10th time. Now I know that it was uncomfortable or even maybe painful for her.

Someone once described Lucy as Springer with no spring. I always thought this quite apt as she really was the calmest Springer I’d ever met. Maybe there was more behind that though?

Lucy wasn’t diagnosed with hip dysplasia and arthritis until October 2017. I had only taken her to the vet because she also gets these fatty benign lumps occasionally, but on this occasion two of them looked a bit different so I wanted them checked properly. On recommendation from a trusted friend and also my dog training mentor, I took Lucy to her vet that she has been with for a decade now. His name is Chris, and he owns two vet practices down in Surrey, both Alder Vets in Guildford and Crofts in Haslemere. While visiting him for a consultation regarding the lumps, I mentioned she had a bit of a limp after staying with friends. Her favourite activity was chasing balls from a chuck-it-stick and I thought she had overdone it. I was told the lumps were likely fine, but best to get them out for biopsy, but actually her hips were more of a concern. So I brought her back to Surrey for another day to have lump removals and x-rays. Turned out she had hip dysplasia and arthritis.

See here for a picture of Lucy's x-ray of her hips (left) compared to healthy hips (right), so you can see the difference. Essentially if you look at her femoral head (the bit that goes into the socket) it's doesn't fit as well. Through knocks and damage over time arthritis has formed. This causes bones spurs to grow and add additional bone, so it's fits even less well, and now causes her pain.

So given this new information, we went away more knowledgeable and with the intent to be much more careful with her.

So we made the following changes:

- significantly shorter walks (minimal running and chasing)

- lots of sit down breaks and attempts to find softer grass, rather than just pavement pounding!

- supplements for joint care (we use Yumove)

- a heat pad (to warm her joints)

- hydrotherapy (for low impact exercise)

- the aim to keep her very lean (to take that extra weight of her joints)

- preventing her running up and down our spiral staircase

- adding more carpets to get rid of slippy floors

- we bought her dog steps to get on and off the sofa & bed (but had a face palm moment when I realised that I am preventing her from going up usual stairs, so why am I buying her stairs and not a ramp!?)

There are some other things we’re looking into as well such as:

- acupuncture

- Golden paste (made from mostly turmeric)

- a ramp for bed, sofa & car :)

If you notice that your dog is hopping, skipping or bunny hopping (where they run with both back feet at the same time) please do get this checked at a vet. Whether it's just an injury or something more serious it is worth finding these things out as soon as possible so you can make changes to your dog's routine or life style as soon as possible.

See this video for more information on how to recognise hip dysplasia:

Here is our Lucy at Hydrotherapy

So changes were made to try and make life easier for her, but arthritis is not curable and can only get worse, not better. Our big scare was when we took Lucy with friends to a local dog friendly pub and at some point that night she hurt her right leg. She refused to get up and walk, so we collected the car and drove her home. We took her straight to a local vet the next day who told us that she has been overcompensating on her left leg, and so her right leg has serious muscle wastage. They gave us pain killers and explained that she would be on them for life now.

However Metacam (an anti-inflammatory) alone didn’t seem to provide enough pain relief as Lucy was still refusing to walk or even leave the apartment to go to the loo. So we went back to the vets earlier than planned and they inspected her again. They decided she needed more x-rays and put her on Tramadol. So back to the vets again the next day, for a full day working day there. Poor Lucy didn’t enjoy this!

Here are her new x-rays:

Results at first were disappointing, as the vets couldn’t see more than we already knew. However, they sent them along to their specialist and he said that her right leg had deteriorated so much that she needs to have a total hip replacement (THR). This would cost roughly £6k. Or our slightly cheaper option would be a femoral head ostectomy (FHO), this is where they just cut off the ball of the bone so nothing goes into the socket. This wouldn't work for humans but dogs and cats can manage with this done. This operation was roughly half the price.

Feeling a little unsure about this, I decided to confer with our vet in Surrey, Chris. He kindly gave me advice on all the options, and suggested not jumping into surgery without looking at other non-surgical options first or at least seeing how she copes on long-term pain medication - surgery would always be there. More reassured I decide to give it a bit more time, and up the ante on her hydrotherapy.

However, our local vets got in touch again. This time to say that the specialist has looked at her x-rays again, and now thinks Lucy also has cruciate ligament disease and will need knee surgery as well. They also told me Lucy shouldn't be out walking at all, and should definitely not be going for any hydrotherapy. My partner and I decided we wanted a second opinion and drove to Guildford to see Chris.

News goes from bad to worse though, when Chris very quickly discovers that she has a lump on her spleen. No longer are we focusing on her hips or knees but now she has a life threatening tumour. Chris took us immediately to look at Lucy under ultrasound where we see the lump first hand. It was roughly 4x4cm, so not insignificant! The only saving grace is that this would have caused no pain for Lucy. However, because of the location of the tumour there was no other choice than to have emergency surgery to have her entire spleen removed. Even benign it could rupture and lead to internal bleeding, which could be fatal. If malignant, considering its size, it’s likely it would have spread by now and she would inevitably only have a few months to live. So we rushed back for another full day at the vets. Luckily surgery went really well. The spleen was extremely taught though, and we were informed that it would have likely ruptured in the next couple of months had it not been removed. We took Lucy home minus one spleen, and plus one cone of shame, for a week or so of rest and recuperation!

See below for an x-ray of Lucy's stomach, where you can see the size of the lump and her spleen with the lump (bit gross, but there you go!), and some pictures of Lucy's very neat surgery wounds and her cone of shame (and a dopey drugged up Lucy!)

The great thing was the biopsy results came within 4 days, and to our relief the lump was benign!!!

Now we can concentrate back on her hips and knee again! We are booked into see orthopedic specialists Anderson Abercromby Referrals on June 11th to discuss the best options for Lucy as she is.

More to follow...

Update (25th June 18) -

We took Lucy to the specialist and they checked her over. We can for now manage her condition with medication and other therapies. She will have good times and bad times, but if those bad times become too bad or too frequent then we will head straight back and discuss surgical options. This is really positive news!

We just want to write a big thank you to the amazing vets at both Alder and Crofts Vets – for finding what other vets missed! The idea that she could have gone through very stressful surgery on her hips and knee, just to have a ruptured spleen, is pretty hard to swallow! If you're ever unsure about something, get a second opinion - just for peace of mind!

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