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Mystery Tractor Lameness … Solved

Boy oh freaking boy. If you follow me or Ward on Instagram, or are a friend on Facebook, you know how stressful the last few months have been. It all started with a tractor …

On October 25th, I was loading the car with all of Ward’s stuff, getting ready to leave for his very first International Dog Show. I had Bentley and Berkley, my two Labradors outside playing with him, to help let off some puppy energy before our five hour drive. I turned around to check on them and make sure they were still close and all playing nicely, and right as I did, I heard a puppy scream and caught the tail end of Ward absolutely nailing a parked tractor.

Like I said, I only caught the end of what actually, happened – but it appeared that he was chasing his brothers, and turned the corner a bit too early, straight into the tractor.

I rushed to him, picked him up, and he screamed and screamed for about one minute. He stopped crying, and I put him back down on the ground where he refused to move. I lured him with a toy, where he presented obviously very, very lame.

I called my vet immediately, who of course, doesn’t work on Fridays. The office was able to squeeze me in about an hour later with another vet at the practice. By the time I got him there he had calmed down and was weight bearing, just not very comfortable. He was in pain during the exam and palpation, so the vet took x-rays of both his elbow and his shoulder.

When she brought his x-rays back, she told me she saw two fractures in the elbow, and that he would likely need surgery to put pins in. She sent off his x-rays to a radiologist, and referred me to the VCA Specialty Hospital in the mean time.

The earliest any specialist at VCA could see Ward was on Monday morning at 8:00. We were there at 7:30. The specialist looked at his x-rays, and knowing the first vet’s diagnosis, called in another specialist to look at him and the rads as well. Both she and the second specialist had surprising news for me …. they saw no fractures in Ward’s x-rays, and his bones and joints presented normal during his exam. They both recommended a round of anti-inflammatory and two weeks of crate rest.

By now, we’ve received feedback from the radiologist that the first vet sent x-rays to. He also believed Ward’s x-rays to be completely normal.

Two weeks of miserable crate rest goes by …. Ward is still lame. Much, much better – and doesn’t appear to be in any pain, but he had the slightest lameness in the leg that he hit. I called his specialist back, and she recommended two more weeks of rest.

Two more weeks of rest go by …. Ward is still lame. No worse, but no better. There is still a hitch in the front right. It’s been a month by now, and I’ve been talking with my breeder, and dog riends. One of my dog show friends, a Bloodhound breeder, recommended I take a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina to see one specific veterinarian for a fifth opinion.

Just hoping for an answer, we make the trip with crippled Ward to Charlotte. The vet did an aggressive exam, took an entire new set of x-rays, and looked at them for a long time before confirming – no fractures, and nothing at all out of the ordinary with Ward’s bones or joints. His best advice was to let Ward slowly return to normal activity. No more crate rest, just let him be a normal puppy again. He said call him back in two weeks with an update.

I was thrilled with this advice and happily took it. Ward started playing again and going on walks. I never really evaluated him or his soundness during this time, I just let him be. The only time I saw him move was short spurts of playing in the yard or a little trot here and there. Was he sound? Idk. Was he lame? Idk. It’s hard to tell when you only see a dog at the walk or moving in short little bursts.

We alllllmost made it to the two week mark, when I noticed lameness in the walk. Up until this point, he only showed lameness in the trot, and presented completely sound in the walk. He was taking shorter, uneven strides at the walk and had started head bobbing, which is something we hadn’t seen from him at the walk so far. I finally put him on the treadmill again, to get an accurate look at his movement and soundness. He was more lame in the trot than ever before.

I called the vet in Charlotte back, and after sending videos – he said that there has to be something else going on, and recommended I go back to the Orthopedist at VCA for further diagnostic that he is unable to do in his clinic.

Back to VCA we go …. the specialist took another new set of x-rays (seriously, if anyone want’s to see Ward’s bones – I have about 100 photos of them you can look through) and did another exam. She + another orthopedist at the practice carefully looked over all of his x-rays, new and old. She said both of them saw nothing, but wanted to send them to another radiologist to make absolute sure.

Within a day, we got news back from the latest radiologist that just as we thought, Ward’s x-rays are completely fine. That’s medical professional #7 to confirm no fractures or abnormalities. As you can imagine, at this point I am discouraged and ill – and just want to get to the bottom of this.

I booked Ward for an ultrasound with an equine veterinarian and sports therapy rehab specialist as soon as I could. At this point, I already knew in my mind that what Ward has going on is soft tissue. It’s OBVIOUSLY not a bone or joint problem.

Tired of getting the run around, misdiagnoses, and no real concern from dog vets, I was positive that the horse vet would give me an answer, and an answer is what I got. We got to her practice, which is at her personal farm. She had me walk and trot Ward in a variety of patterns and paths, and then had me stack him while she just looked at him. Before she ever laid a hand on him or put an ultrasound probe to his skin …. she knew exactly what was wrong.

While he was stacked and standing, she pointed to his shoulder and said “No one has said anything about this muscle atrophy yet?” Me : NOPE. I hadn’t even noticed it. Of course, I’m not a vet …. so I don’t quite know what I’m looking at, but when she pointed it out and I saw it, it’s severe. She palpated around his shoulder for a bit and did a full body soft tissue exam before putting him on the table for his ultrasound.

Within seconds, she confirmed via ultrasound that her suspicions were dead on the money. Precious little Ward has torn fibers in his biceps tendon, tricep, glenohumeral ligament, and bursitis in his shoulder. She said all of this was likely caused by the trauma accident which was the tractor, and likely intensified when he was cleared to come off of crate rest.

She’s given a four-five month estimate for healing, and we will go back every four weeks for an updated ultrasound to make sure that he’s making process in his healing. At this point, nothing requires surgery – PTL. As of right now, he is on very strict rest, with six, five-ten minute walks allowed per day. She has recommended cold laser therapy, acupuncture, therapeutic ultrasound, and thermotherapy, all of which we are doing to aid in the healing process.

We are one week in, and this is going to be a long, miserable process. However, we are doing everything we can to make sure Ward comes back just as strong and sound as ever, and it’ll all be worth it the next time he steps in to the show ring or bird field.

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