Thursday, January 16, 2014

Update on Kenai: 5 Months Post-Op

If you remember (or if you don't here's an update anyway), Kenai had surgery on the cruciate ligament in both of his knees in August. It seemed surprising at the time - such a young dog (3) needing surgery like this. But we'll just have to chalk it up to genetics and make the best of what's happened. (While unaware at the time of purchase, Kenai has some of the TOP Siberian show lines in the country. His close cousins - his father's brother's pups - were featured in Snow Dogs. He's got > 50 champions on his mother's side alone. I think all of these generations of Siberians in the show ring have weakened tendons and ligaments because they're no longer working dogs. Their bone structure - and Kenai's - is near perfect, but the other supporting structures of their skeleton are lacking due to years without a true job. I know none of this for certain, but its the best hypothesis I can come up with re: what happened to his knees. He has a VERY active lifestyle with me. He's a husky that can be off-leash and recalls 99% of the time. He trail rides with me!)

Its been a long road to recovery since then. I'm fortunate that he was a really phenomenal patient, taking it easy most of the time, and pushing through rehab exercises as they were provided.

In November and December he was considered "healed" as far as paperwork on rehab goes. However, he was still not 100%. He wouldn't limp after a day of movement, but he would rise very stiff-legged. It would take several minutes of stilt-legged movement before he was loosened up and moving forward. He'd still favor a 3-beat gait over his old favorite, that lilting jog that floated him over the ground that is so specific to all spitz breeds.

This worried me for a time. A friend had consoled me, noting that his broken ankle (that had to be put back together with metal it was so badly broken) was stiff like that, too, for awhile. He assured that Kenai's stiffness would go away with time. I had to trust this. It was all I had.

With the advent of winter weather, consistently lower temperatures, and being a lot more active, Kenai has really shown huge improvement in the past month insofar as stiffness goes. I rarely, if ever, note the stiffness in his movements now.

He's quick and agile again. He has zero issues bounding into my car - whereas before it was hit or miss if he'd ask me to pick him up. (And yes, he would ask! He'd stop, turn, look at me, look at the car, and repeat until I helped him out. He's conservative about things when uncertain.) He chooses the 2-beat gait over the 3-beat more and more often. His movement during his jog isn't quite as light and free as it once was, but there is improvement every day.

His hair is far from normal though, 5 months post-op. I had originally guesstimated that March would bring about "normal" appearance for his coat, but I'm now fearing that this may not come to fruition. He's got all of his undercoat - it gets thicker by the day. But his guard hairs are still struggling to come in. And he has bald patches in a few places! There is a reason people advocate against shaving double-coated dogs! There is no guarantee the coat will grow back the way it originally was. If you have a working dog, or a dog with a job who is often exposed to the elements, having an ill-functioning coat could seriously limit the animal over time. I've found some opinions online that say that a Siberian's coat will take 2 years - 2 years! - to be 100% normal again. From my experience with Kenai so far, I believe it!

But overall, if you were to ask me if I thought the surgery was worth it, would I do it again, my answer would be a resounding: yes. Kenai is feeling so much better than he was before I opted to do surgery. He moves better and doesn't favor his legs at all after a long day of running or hiking or exploring. He's happy. He plays more. And his life through the future will be so much better for it. I'll have my fuzzy partner in crime, happy and healthy and able to keep up with my shenanigans far into the future. And this makes us both happy.

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