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Chet a la Vet

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Today was Chet's long-anticipated visit to Dr. Lori Lutz, to see what might be going on with his left hind knee. I innocently reported his skipping gait on my blog, to be met by Boston owners and a bona-fide veterinarian expressing concern that the behavior might indicate a slipping patella (kneecap)--something Bostons as a breed are genetically prone to. Yipes! Add this to the vast galaxy of things I knew nothing about.
I kept my mouth shut, did a lot of online reading, consulted with Chet's deeply concerned breeder, consulted further with Katdoc, and made an appointment to get Chet's knees checked out by Dr. Lutz.
This morning, surveyors showed up to shoot the corners on our property, part of a conservation easement we're working on (don't worry, we're not putting in the Indigo Hill Mall). I let Chet out to chat with the surveyors while they were having lunch and typically he followed them deep into the woods for the afternoon. I started to get worried about him around 12:30, and began calling him in earnest around 1 pm, when I was packed up and ready to go. I had to make a big circle around the house, calling and whistling, before the sound waves reached him. When he finally heard me he must have been all the way down to the back forty, but he came galloping up, panting and muddy and thoroughly delighted with himself for having escorted the surveyors around the borders of our 80 acres. I always knew he'd come back--he knows our woods like the back of his paw--but still! I didn't want him to miss our appointment!
On the way into town, we followed this truck. What's that on Poooooh's paw? I'm sorry. I have to do this. It is the kind of humor endemic to my region of Appalachia. Good thing there's a sign that says "Sewage Only." Somebody might accidentally put pasteurized milk in there.

Even though Chet has boarded there for as long as nine days, even though he gets his shots there, he loves to go to the vet's office. He loves the vet techs, the boarding staff and especially Dr. Lutz. He does stick rather close to Mether, though, sitting on my lap like a little beggartick as he watches the goings on at the front counter. This is one situation where my little old Olympus shines. I cannot take a picture of a dog on my lap with the Canon EOS, no way no how.
Dr. Lutz was busy with other patients, and we had to wait in the exam room. Chet listened intently at the door to the howlings and yowlings of other patients, cocking his head and swiveling his bat radar ears.
He was nervous, panting and yawning. I yawn when I'm nervous, too. I could empathize. It's OK, Bacon. Dr. Lutz is just going to feel your legs.
Finally Dr. Lutz arrived, sat down and allowed Chet to wash her face. He adores her. She said she would like some of her other patients to observe him and perhaps follow suit. While he sat on her lap she began his exam, then put him up on the table to follow up. He is SUCH a good boy for her.
Patellar luxation (slipping kneecaps) is something to watch for in Boston terriers and many other breeds, including dachshunds, Yorkies, and chihuahuas, to name just a few. Some of them are born with too-shallow grooves in the end of the femur, and that allows the patella, nestled in a long, straplike ligament that covers the knee, to slip from side to side, out of that groove. Both Chet's parents have been checked and are clear of the defect, as are his grandparents.

The more Dr. Lutz moved Chet's kneecaps around, the more convinced she became that they were fine. The right hind kneecap moved a little, but it wouldn't even rate a 1 on a scale of 1-6 for patellar luxation. The left patella moved more, but tenderness in the knee joint (evident when she tried to flex the joint from side to side) and some loss of muscle mass in the left hind leg (from favoring it) indicated that this was probably due to a strain or stretching of one of the cruciate ligaments inside the knee, which in turn stretched the tendon holding the patella in place. In other words: Chet's knees are built fine. He has just hurt himself somehow.

I cannot imagine how he might have hurt himself. Dr. Lutz described Chet as an "athlete" who is subject to the same kinds of ligament strains and tears that a basketball player might incur. This is the Michael Jordan of dogs, people. He flies with his tongue lolling out. He lives to hear guests exclaim, "MAN! That dog can JUMP!" or "He got me right on the LIPS and I wasn't even bending down!!!"

So that's the good news. We know why he holds his left hind leg up occasionally, and it isn't because he was made wrong from birth. I can hear a big sigh of relief from eastern Maryland. There certainly are some sighs around here, not least from my new Certificate of Deposit account.

Now the bad news. Dr. Lutz has prescribed two weeks of couch potato behavior for Chet. Aggggghhh. And two weeks after that of leashed walking. No jumping, no racing after deer, no bounding, no humpty running, no leaping up to kiss us or grab sticks held high. I don't know how we're going to accomplish that. The thought of taking a woodswalk without my pied sprite is killing me. Leaving him to watch me walk out the meadow alone? Unthinkable.

Maybe it'll rain for a month. Maybe I'll be able to slip outside while he's sleeping, and sneak up on deer, fox and turkey like I used to do. The silver lining is that Chet's patellae are fine, and that this is something we stand a chance of achieving a cure for, without surgery. Yayyy!Dr. Lutz is well aware that she's palping a blogstar here. I thank her for allowing me to use her image in this report. Any errors in the translation of her diagnosis will be mine.


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