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Trevor's post-surgery lethargy: new explanations from vet
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Member Since:
30 January 2024
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23 February 2024 - 8:21 am
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Thanks for the advice on the February "Hoppy Hour" zoom the other day. (As a reminder, Trevor is a 3 year old Goldendoodle whose right front limb was removed on 2/14/24 for chondrosarcoma in the proximal humerus). On the zoom and elsewhere on this forum, I had brought up Trevor's concerning tendency to sleep a lot and to be difficult for me to move. Some of that lethargy of course is expected after surgery, and even our surgeon reassured me that gabapentin can really knock a dog sideways for awhile. I got advice on our zoom to talk to the vet about switching from tablets to capsules and potentially going down a bit on the dose that way, trying to find a balance of getting some alertness and mobility while also helping him rest and heal. There was also advice to try anti inflammatories like fish oil supplements (we're on those now!) and talk to our vet about another medication option, amantadine.

I've been keeping care careful notes on Trevor's activity level and alertness since we got home (today is Day 9 post op) and was noticing a sort of downward trajectory despite the incision area looking good and the seroma resolving. It was getting harder to rouse him for food or water or even a bathroom outing. Outside, he'd walk ten steps then flop down, then five, and yesterday, two or three steps at a time. The surgeon at our hospital advised stopping the gabapentin and bringing him to our local vet (or to them) to be evaluated. (The other medication he's on is carprofen, which I've been diligent about giving every 12 hours).

Our local vet did a thorough assessment and said the pain control around the incision site is well managed, he was able to touch and palpate the area. He checked range of motion on the other limbs and detected an issue with the right rear limb. Trevor is tentative on that limb and resisted having it stretched out. The vet thinks perhaps it's a strain or something caused by a sudden movement, a spill, or just getting used to using his muscles in a new way. He suggested keeping up the carprofen regimen, and adding back the gabapentin at every 8 hours - but on a lower dose in capsule form. He wasn't eager to suggest amantadine just yet - he said that's not typically their go-to medication, but could be an option to layer in - and he wants to give this NSAID + lower gabapentin dose a few days to see how it goes. But he's open to it. 

It's weird that he could have injured himself given that someone has had eyes on him nonstop since he came home, but he did do some leash pulling in the first few days, and the vet thought even that might have caused him to twist or strain his hind leg, maybe some strong movement he wasn't ready for. If it doesn't resolve, we may need to get X rays of the rear legs. Hopefully not a hip issue or arthritis, but he said there are other options we can explore if need be, including injectables. I'm really hoping it's a strain - the vet didn't hear bone creakiness or anything and thought likely a soft tissue thing. We were also advised to use a heating pad on the affected area. It's surreal to be essentially treating a whole different leg now and not so much the amputation site. Ugh.

Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions so far; I felt I was able to advocate for my dog more effectively having been on these forums and on that zoom. I'm also glad we're seeing a rehabilitation vet next week for our initial evaluation, and I can bring up the rear leg issue there too. Hoping it resolves soon. They'd like me to start working on getting him walking more, but between this new injury and the rain / mud going on outside, it's tricky. Maybe he'll do some hall walking later today! 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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23 February 2024 - 12:37 pm
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Diana, thank you for taking time to write such a fantastic overview of Trevor's situation, and what the vet advised. You are an incredible advocate for your boy! GREAT JOB! smiley_clap 

I think their treatment plan and timeline sounds fair. See how it goes over the weekend. I love that you are seeing the therapist next week, so you can get another expert to chime in and put their hands on Trevor. I will keep my fingers crossed that they can pinpoint the issue quickly.

And yeah even those indoor hallway walks are helpful! Whatever it takes. Don't push too hard and let him lead. Use tons of suuuuper tasty treats he never gets to encourage him, but watch that he doesn't do too much. Little bite-sized sessions throughout the day are better.

Muscle strains are not at all uncommon after surgery, so try not to panic. I'm guessing that seeing Katie's heartbreaking news today about Marion icon_cry isn't helping to ease your worries, so lean on us. We see a lot of recoveries here, and the vast majority of situations where mobility is up and down like this usually resolve after good pain control and therapy. Recovery for a major surgery is not a straight trajectory, ever. Some dogs just make it look so easy! 

Keep us posted.  Tripawd Power is being sent your way! 

Livermore, CA

Member Since:
18 October 2009
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24 February 2024 - 2:23 pm
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It's actually not too surprising that Trevor is sore, even if his activity has been monitored.

I've used this analogy before:  years ago I was a work out fiend, in great shape, both strength and cardio. I was doing 10 mile hike/runs once a week without being sore at all.  During some bad weather I was doing my cardio in the gym and decided to try the skating machine, something I had never done.  Well!  I was sore for days after, just because the movement was slightly different than usual.

Trevor's body is coping with a big change, he's putting a lot of stress on that back right leg to compensate for the missing limb in front. 

I'm really glad you are seeing a rehab vet next week- hopefully Trevor is just adjusting to his new normal and they can help him feel better and get started on a good program.


Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls and Boy

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

Member Since:
30 January 2024
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1 March 2024 - 6:29 pm
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Thank you for these encouraging and reassuring responses; they were so helpful! Last week was so hard, watching mobility and lethargy seem to worsen every day. Today is just over two weeks post op and we are seeing huge breakthroughs!

DAY 14 was our first day of feeling real hope - we saw a lot of promising signs! He was suddenly able to walk / hop farther than he had; he went by himself to the door for a bathroom outing, and went unassisted in the yard. He bypassed the ramp, which he had been preferring, and took the three short steps from the door to the walkway! (Both ways!) We reduced the gabapentin even further, but kept him on the carprofren, and he was just a lot more alert and "in the world." He wanted to sit outside again and be in the sun, even though it was cold, and was alert and watching things. Prior to that, he'd spent almost all his time sleeping, and could only hop ten or fewer steps at a time. 

Day 15, yesterday, was our evaluation appointment with a rehab vet. She is amazing. She spent over an hour with him, and did some deep massage work even as she was talking with me. She said he's not injured, but just very sore, both back legs and hips affected. All his muscles felt tight and knotted. She reminded me he's been through something massive, redistributing his weight, using his back legs in new ways, and has not yet "figured out how he wants to move through the world." She promises in two more weeks he'll be a really different dog. 

I am so grateful for this community for stressing the importance of rehab. I now see a path forward. I'm excited! We'll be seeing her twice a week for six weeks. I have home exercises I can start now, like helping him do some gentle stretching. He'll be doing some hydrotherapy at week four. 

I don't know if it's time or the massage or what, but today - Day 16 - we saw huge improvements. Sitting posture looked straighter. He reunited (on leash, very briefly) with a dear dog friend from down the street, and was happy to do some sniffs with him. Still not interested in toys or puzzles and things, but I feel that may come. He's able to wag his tail today, and was happy to see some friends and neighbors for brief visits. He even sat up and put his good paw on one person's shoulder. I do think he overdid even though the activity was minimal, as he's wiped out tonight; I also put him back on the carprofen and heating pad as he seemed to be stiffening up again in the back legs. 

Fingers and paws crossed that we are on an upswing (and haven't overdone!) It felt great to get him out in the car, too, for a little drive... glimpses of normal life! 

The Rainbow Bridge

Member Since:
25 April 2007
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1 March 2024 - 8:27 pm
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WHEEEEEE!!! This is the best news, thank you for letting us know how things are going. We always hope it's just a matter of time and TLC when a dog slows down suddenly, so this is fantastic! And by sharing your experience with the rehab therapist, you are showing others that even if you just go for peace of mind, it can be really helpful.

Your therapist did everything we hope they will do for a new patient. They sound great. Feel free to leave a review in the Veterinary Specialists Forum!

I would ask your vet if it's OK to keep him on some form of daily pain medication consistently, even if he's only on the NSAID. Trevor clearly does better without the sedation effect of Gabapentin, but his body still needs time to adapt. Inflammation is the response to new and unusual loads, and NSAIDs are the best tool to keep it under control. And as long as you're doing regular labs on him, they can be a really safe way to provide ongoing relief for better mobility.

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