Dog + Delivery Driver + Paws through window pane ≠ good times
August 24, 2013 3:27 AM   Subscribe

Eleven hours ago our 80 pound dog, Oscar, put both his front paws through a small pane of glass in a set of french doors which resulted in lacerations to the "back" of both front legs. Thankfully we were home and reacted quickly by summoning our neighbor who is an exotic pet veterinarian. She was able to wrap up both legs and call ahead to the ER vet. Even with this quick reaction Oscar still lost a lot of blood and did pretty serious damage to one of his legs. The ER vet was able to repair the severed (partially or completely, they did not provide specifics) muscle, tendon and artery and we were able to bring him home about six hours ago. Now what?

I asked about after care, rehabilitation, and what to expect but the ER vet was not very clear, nor informative. I had to ask leading questions and had no real vocabulary for this as I wasn't knowledgable about canine anatomy. The vet who operated on him told us that the bandages should stay on at least 24 hours but could come off after. We asked if we should keep him as immobilized as possible and she said he could walk if he tolerated it and not a lot else. I finally asked if this would affect his gait/ability to walk and she said "well yeah, this was a really serious injury. That's why it took so long. He severed a pretty significant artery as well as the muscle belly clear to the bone." She went on to say all sorts of really gross things about the amount of blood he was losing, etc.

Ultimately after getting Oscar home I realized that in the discharge paperwork we didn't even get any notes about the procedure. I started researching online and I can't find much about muscle/tendon/arterial severing in a front leg, but there's lots of stuff about hind legs. Lots of it sounds like the after care and rehabilitation is much more serious and lengthy than this ER vet was indicating. There's lots of talk about casts, splints and immobilizers and all our dog has is bandages!

Our plan is to call the regular vet in the morning and explain what happened and schedule a follow up visit, have the ER vet send over their notes and hopefully this will result in us having more knowledge by the afternoon but I'm completely stressed about the best way to care for him. He woke up whining three hours ago so we gave him one of the pain pills, which required food and water - lots of water, he drank tons of it. Then two hours ago he was whining again and I had to help him outside by slipping a belt around his chest to try to keep weight off his front legs. Of course that was a disaster and he wouldn't go while trussed up like that, but did eventually hobble off a few feet to do his business. Then I helped him back in the same way.

Have you experienced something similar with a dog? What was the prognosis? How did things turn out? If your dog is/was big and heavy how did you help him during the early stages? Any tips, thoughts, warnings we should be aware of?

Obligatory pics pic1, pic2, and after his trip to the ER tonight: pic3
posted by FlamingBore to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
You may want to look in to getting a crate if you don't already have one. I know someone whose large dog did something similar and she had to basically be crated for several weeks to heal. I'll see if I can get more details from them.
posted by brilliantine at 4:14 AM on August 24, 2013

A crate could help you keep him quiet, but if he is not trained to it it might be stressful to be shut in. Give him pain medicine as often as recommended. He will probably want to move around and walk a little eventually but he may be pretty groggy for a few days. Sometimes a towel sling or a wider belt can help you take some of his weight when he is walking. Treats may come in handy for distraction if you need to do bandage changes at some point.
I'm guessing ( based on my knowledge of human muscles, IANAV) that it may take 6-12 weeks for him to fully recover. Dogs probably bounce back a little faster than people. They do have physical therapists for dogs also- your regular vet could refer you.
posted by bookrach at 4:32 AM on August 24, 2013

Building on bookrach's mention of therapy: is that your pool he's laying in, in pic2? 'Cause if yes, then once he's healed up and the bandages are off, that might be a good way to do some of his therapy, just like a lot of public pools hold water aerobics classes for elderly or injured people: moving with the support of the water is a good non-impact workout --- if it works for people, then it should work for Oscar!

(ps --- luv his thoughtful expression!)
posted by easily confused at 5:38 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it were my dog, I would take him to a orthopedic specialist for better care and instructions. Your vet should be able to recommend one.
posted by crunchysalty at 5:39 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've had varying experiences with ER vets, but it sounds like yours did not give you the information you need to adequately care for him. You're right to go to your regular vet, who may give you a referral to a specialist.

My dog, Annie, had similar damage to her front legs when she got hit by a car. I know how scary this can be to watch your beloved pet go through this. Try not to be too emotional around Oscar because he can sense your distress, which is stressful for him.

Here's how our experience went... Maybe it will be helpful for you. Annie was at the emergency vet for several days until she was stable enough to go to a surgical specialist who repaired the soft tissue damage. He told me she was not out of the woods right after the surgery and she could still lose one/both front legs if the recovery did not go well. When I brought her home she was extremely lethargic for several days. At first I carried her outside to use the bathroom (she was only 40 lbs), then I helped her walk with a towel sling. Other than that, she rested for the first couple of weeks while the wounds heeled. I gave her the pain meds as recommended, which made her groggy (which was a good thing) and hopefully minimized her pain.

During this time, I tried to stay with her as much as possible, both because she was distressed and tried to follow me when I left and also to make sure she didn't chew at her bandage (which she still did a couple of times, requiring a return to the vet to sew her back up). Don't rely on the Elizabethan collar to prevent this - the front legs are easy to get to even with it on and opening the wounds increases the risk of infection.

Once the wounds were healed, I pretty much let her lead the recovery. She slowly began to do more and more, gain more strength/stamina, and return to her old self. The recommendation to look for a canine physical therapist is a good one, if you can afford it and there is one in your area (I'd imagine there are some in the St Pete/Clearwater/Tampa area).

It was a very trying time, which I hope I never experience again, but we got through it and she went on to live to the ripe old age of 16. She did have some arthritis/pain in her front legs later in life, which eventually required daily medication.

Hang in there - with your love and care, Oscar will get through this.
posted by jshort at 6:44 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

My two visits to emergency vets were much the same. Great emergency care at the time but no real follow up in terms of what to do. On our second visit it occurred to me this is how they work. They get your pet through until your normal vet opens and you can go to them for follow up care. Make an appointment with your vet, give them the notes you have, they can get more info as needed from the emergency vet and they will organise with you what to do in terms of care and explain what to do in terms of rehab etc. Think of it like a people ER, they stop you dying and then other doctors handle the follow up care.

Go see your vet asap, if they are local to the emergency place and you have their details they may even have had your dogs file sent to them as they usually have arrangements with the emergency vet. Ask them all your questions, now is a better time to ask anyway as you are no longer as stressed and can take in details.
posted by wwax at 6:59 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Definitely talk to your regular vet. When my dog experienced a much less severe laceration that required attention from an emergency vet, I had a very similar experience to yours. Luckily, my regular vet was able to provide plenty of advice and feedback.

Nthing that he will probably be groggy and not fully himself for a few days. This was the case for my dog after much less intense surgery. I didn't really anticipate how out of it he would be. Between the anethesia, the painkillers, and the huge honkin' leg bandage plus elizabethan collar, he was completely checked out for the first couple days.
posted by Sara C. at 7:28 AM on August 24, 2013

Take him to regular vet immediately to get followup care instructions. As wwax notes, this is a continuum-of-care model. The ER vet is a trauma specialist, not a longterm care specialist. Call your vet right away and get him in ASAP. Your regular vet's staff will also probably call the ER staff to collect the relevant info, labs, etc.
posted by Miko at 8:11 AM on August 24, 2013

Yup, all the posters above are correct in telling you your regular vet is the place to go next with your pet and any questions for follow-up care.
Since it's Saturday morning, your next move should be planned carefully, because weekend hours are different for everyone and I think it's very important this be handled exactly right, especially in the beginning.
So first call up your regular vet and get their advice about the 'bandage removal in 24 hours' thing. They may have you come in today if they are open or go back to the ER, or even take them off yourself. My guess is that a Dr needs to do this the first time (maybe every time? I suspect this first bandage won't be the only one), and they will tell you the next time they want to see you and what to expect until then.
If your regular vet is not open today you must call up the ER and let them advise you.
Whatever the case, I really must stress that you should not wait till Monday for the next visit, or attempt to remove the bandages yourself, unless you are explicitly told to do so by your regular vet's staff, or the folks at the ER.
Please give Oscar his pain medication preemptively as scheduled (I mean if it says every 8 hours as needed, assume he needs it right now), and keep him eating/drinking.
Good luck.
posted by bebrave! at 9:06 AM on August 24, 2013

Thank you all so much for your information and care.

I was up most of the night with him and my partner took the morning shift so I could sleep a bit. She handled calling the vet. They advised to keep bandages on and we'll see them first thing on Monday. We're trying to keep him off his feet, but it's a real challenge to help him go outside due to his size. The towel sling is not quite doing it, but I'm going to look at fashioning a halter type sling this afternoon.

FWIW, the ER vet just called to check up on him and I relayed my concern about keeping weight off and getting him to go potty and they said "take him out on a leash and walk him around to some of his favorite spots." Really frustrating.

Thanks again and please feel free to share more, we're all eyes.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:05 AM on August 24, 2013

These folk are some of the best in the Tampa Bay area when it comes to specialty vets. They performed ACL surgery on both hind legs of my Great Dane Chelsea. Also you might want to look into Wendy Kelly at Pet Peeves animal training in Pinellas Park. As I mentioned earlier, I have Great Danes, who, if not trained not to, could easily go through windows and doors when in the mood. Words can not express the peace of mind that comes from having a large pet that is properly trained. I wish for you and Oscar a quick and speedy recovery.
posted by HappyHippo at 10:58 AM on August 24, 2013

I'm so sorry for your dog. If you need to talk to a competent vet, and it sounds like you do, have you tried looking on Angie's List to see if you can find one open on the weekend who can help you? I've found it surprisingly (emphasizing 'surprisingly') helpful at finding people who are competent.

I hope he feels better soon -- poor guy.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:04 AM on August 24, 2013

This is ABSOLUTELY something you should see a orthopedic specialist about. Your regular vet will not be equipped to handle this kind of aftercare. You should still plan to go to your regular vet, just so they can check him out and take a look at the bandages/incisions, and you can get a specialist recommendation from them, or check out the place HappyHippo mentioned.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:29 PM on August 24, 2013

Oh Oscar, you're a gorgeous big hunk of a dog, aren't you?

Poor thing - I actually feel like crying looking at his bandaged legs. I'd be hovering over him like an old hen until he got sick of me.

Yes, please get all his records sent from the ER facility to your regular vet and make an appointment right away to talk with him. He'll know whether an orthopedic specialist will be necessary or not, and he can surely do a better job of explaining the whole story to you. Oscar will be okay - dogs come through some ferocious injuries if they make it past the first 30 minutes - and he's young and full of energy so he'll push himself to get back into bounce mode again ASAP.

Give him a hug and a treat - and please give us an update from time to time, okay?
posted by aryma at 12:48 AM on August 25, 2013

Thank you all.

Oscar's regular vet visit was much more comforting. He is out of bandages and we will need to restrict his activity and minimize quick movements, etc. but she feels confident that he's got a shot at a full recovery without the need of ortho specialists. He'll go back in ten days to remove sutures and check progress at that point.

We've been instructed to restrict activity and minimize quick movements to allow his muscle, tendon and artery to heal properly. We picked up a crate per the suggestion here, even though we had concerns about his reaction to it. They were totally unfounded - he went right in and seems at peace there. We did all the right things - made it comfy and left the door open all day so he didn't feel trapped. We spent a couple of hours away from the house yesterday and he was fine. He returned to it willingly later in the day. I think this is a great way to restrict activity when we're not home and ideally to make him feel safe too.

She also had a referral to a behavior specialist to deal with his anxiety about the door and we're going to look into working with Wendy Kelly. Thanks for that tip!
posted by FlamingBore at 9:27 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yay! So glad to hear he's doing so well! Yay!
posted by bebrave! at 8:20 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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