Dog Wrestling

"Easy, Meadow; easy." Three of us were trying to position Meadow on a small, stainless steel table - on wheels - so that an X-ray of her hips and legs could be taken. I wanted to try this without anesthesia, but that required that we get her on her back so that Janet, the vet, could pull on her hind legs until they were fully straightened. The vet tech, standing at the head of the moving table, had one hand on Meadow's collar, another on one shoulder, attempting to control her head movement. I was standing on one side of the table, leaning over Meadow's chest while holding her other shoulder and torso, trying to use my body weight to keep her from flipping over onto her side or off the table. The vet tech and I kept murmuring to Meadow, "Easy girl; you're fine...," trying to calm her, but every time I glanced at her face, her eyes were wild with fear. When we finally got her positioned to Janet's specifications, her husband threw the heavy X-ray shield blanket over me and Meadow, and took the picture. (The photo above is not Meadow's knee, but rather an example of a sound dog knee.)

Whew. Not fun, for Meadow or any of us. I'm thankful she's as mellow and good natured as she is; many dogs would have been growling or even biting. It's not easy to pin an 85 pound dog on her back on a slick and moving table!

The X-ray showed excellent hips and knees, although perhaps a small shadowy area on the right knee that could be a partial tear of a tendon, but not what Janet would have expected had Meadow completely ruptured her ACL. In all other respects, it looked just like her left knee. Good news. Earlier, during the physical exam, Janet noted very minor "drawer" movement, or shifting of the right knee joint (and Meadow reacted rather strongly to it) when she manipulated it, movement that was absent in the left knee. Still, Janet said it wasn't enough to make her think theACL was ruptured and that more likely Meadow suffered a strain or sprain.

My own theory - and fervent hope - is that Meadow sprained her knee joint. Just like when I've rolled my ankle badly, and stretched the tendons, the join remains weak and loose for some weeks after, yet there's permanent damage. The minor movement Janet detected in Meadow's right knee could be the result of tendon & ligament stretching and temporary weakness from a strain. This would explain Meadow's discomfort during that part of the exam; when Janet tried the other leg, Meadow was calm. If there had been a complete ACL rupture, I wouldn't have expected Meadow to show so much discomfort, and instead, would have expected more weakness and limping in her movements after just the first day or two. (Or, perhaps Janet was really pushing on that right knee joint in an effort to see a drawer effect, because my description of sudden lameness is the hallmark of ACL ruptures.)

So for now, I watch her closely. Another week or so of limited activity. No more anti-inflammatories, which would mask any pain or lameness. It will be so hard, keeping her from running and playing as she wants. Maia eggs her on, missing their usual romps together. Meadow still insists on jumping all the way up into the car, refusing to use the Twistep, as Maia does. "Rest" will mean taking Maia running while leaving Meadow behind, the sound of her howls killing me as we leave the house without her. Yet the surest route to getting her back on the trails is to force her to rest and recover fully now. Sour medicine, indeed.