Continued from Diagnosis
On Friday September 18th I dropped Beatrix off at Canada West Veterinary Specialists at 8am. They called me as she was going into surgery at about 10am, and the surgeon expected the surgery to take 5 or 6 hours. They would call me when she was out of surgery and awake. That seven hour period was by far the most difficult of this entire experience. Finally I got the call—Bea was out of surgery, and all had gone very well. Whew! They said they would keep her in for 2-3 days, so they could monitor her progress, administer her meds via IV and remove the drain before sending her home. This isn’t always the case, and while it was so strange not having her at home, it was nice knowing that if anything went wrong, she was in the best possible place. I had been expecting her to come home maybe Sunday evening or Monday morning. On Saturday morning the on duty surgeon called and said she was doing great, was standing up and finding her balance, and was eating well. Sunday morning they called about 8am and said she could come home by 11am, since she was doing so well!
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to get her, but I did not expect to see her being her normal tail-waggy self, all happy and excited to see me. They had a sling just behind her front legs, avoiding the staples on the wound. We prepared to lift her into the car, figuring out who would hold where, and when I opened the back hatch she jumped in! I had ahold of the sling just in case, but she did really well. My sister came along so she could keep an eye on her for the short ride home. She seemed fairly comfortable, and once she was out of the car I was amazed at how sure-footed she was already! I had a gated-off area inside with her beloved ottoman (legs removed) and a baby’s crib mattress that I had picked up, which ended up being the perfect place for her to sleep. She rested well the first day, I spent a lot of it on the floor with her, and she just dozed and was happy to get pets and treats. I had a patch of artificial turf set up on the patio just outside the door so she didn’t have to go down the stairs to the main yard, but she refused to use it and was determined to go down. And of course, being Bea, she did it no problem! I walked with her and had the sling under her just in case she lost her footing, the last thing I wanted was for her to fall and land on the wound. But there was never an issue, and by the third day home she took off from me and ran up the stairs and into the house!
I had been picturing 2 weeks of us spending most of our time on the floor, bathroom breaks being a big production, but it was much less complicated than I imagined! She had no trouble balancing to go to the bathroom and 2 or 3 days after arriving home I had gone over to the other house on our property (where Buster was staying for the most part that week) and had forgotten to close the gate to the little fenced-off area. She was snoozing when I left so I didn’t even think about it. When I got back ten minutes later, she was laying in her normal spot on the couch! She’s an amazing girl, and had no intention of staying penned up for long!
The wound itself was much less graphic than I had thought it might be. It was a long stapled line, basically, and the entire shoulder area was shaved. There were regular dissolving stitches on the inside, then the skin was folded over and stapled, so that by the time the staples came out two weeks later, everything was healed up nicely. There was a lot of bruising on the skin, and a lot of water buildup just below the wound the first couple of days, but it reabsorbed quickly. I will post a few photos below of what the wound looked like, for those who would like to prepare themselves! I put a t-shirt on her, they advised to keep it covered, especially since it was very rainy that first week. I had expected she would have to wear a cone any time I wasn’t watching her, but surprisingly, she never paid any attention to the wound. Once or twice the first day she sniffed around it and I just told her to leave it alone and she didn’t bother it again. I know that’s not always the case, and I think it can be tougher with a rear leg amputation, since it’s easier for them to get at that wound, but it was a nice surprise not having to add a cone into the mix.
About 48 hours after she got home was when the stronger IV meds would be out of her system, and I did see some signs of discomfort on that 5th day post surgery, but it was minimal, and was easily managed with oral pain meds. Because Bea’s kidney values have been showing very early signs of kidney failure for years (but not worsening), they didn’t give me NSAIDs, but most dogs would get Metacam to help manage pain. Bea took only Tramadol and Gabapentin for the first week, and Gabapentin only after that. It is calming as well, which I think helped her to adapt that much better. Years ago a friend was an ER nurse and told me that the key to pain management was to not let the pain break through, that getting rid of pain was much more difficult than keeping it at bay. People often want to cut their pain meds down too early, but taking enough that the pain doesn’t break through often means less time having to take them. I didn’t want to give her too much and sedate her, but I was careful to give her pain meds before there was any sign of discomfort. I highly recommend this approach, don’t wait for signs of pain to appear. She was very comfortable throughout and recovered so quickly.