Skip to content

You’re Old and I’m Broke: Conversations With My Dog About Surgery

Remember that time my dog tore her cruciate from lying in the sun too hard? Yep, that would be Birdie. My 11.5 year old dog decided to go blow a ligament in her rear leg the other week. Super expensive surgery has been recommended. Beer, please.

Here’s the thing about working with dogs all my adult life: I’m pretty good at giving compassionate, reasonable advice to people who are struggling to make the right call for their dogs.

And here’s the thing when it comes to my own dogs: I am not very good at hearing the kind, reasonable, forgiving lady that lives in my head. She talks to everyone else, but clams up when I ask her to weigh in on my problems. Most times, I can only hear a weepy confused kid spinning around in panicked circles calling me a dick for not being a better dog owner. That kid is such a drag.

So during our recent consult with a very nice surgeon, I found myself suddenly fighting off hot tears when I forced myself to ask her what would happen if I couldn’t afford the surgery that Birdie needs. It made me feel like I was saying, “I don’t love my dog.” Which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s what the surgeon said, “You should feel supported if you choose not to do the surgery.”

You should feel supported. Those are some good words right there.

And she went on to say it was reasonable for me to weigh all the variables, including my dog’s age, her activity level, and my financial situation when making the decision to opt for surgery – or not.

Surgery is how much? Just cut it off. I have three more.

Surgery is how much? Just cut it off. I have three more.


The surgeon also patiently answered my two million questions about Birdie’s pain levels and what would happen over time to her other limbs since they’d have to pick up the slack of her bum leg.

We ultimately agreed that this was not emergency surgery and it was reasonable to give Birdie four weeks of rest combined with cold laser treatments and hydrotherapy (with an awesome physical therapist  Birdie knows and loves). And then we’d revisit the idea of surgery.


Of course, four weeks from now, if the results from physical therapy aren’t what we hope they’ll be, it still won’t change the gist of the conversation I had with Birdie on the way home from the surgical consult:

Me: Your dad and I are broke.

Birdie: Phumpfh.

Me: You’re kind of old.

Birdie: Phumpfh.

Me: We’re broke and you’re old. I feel like maybe it’s ok to choose not to sink an entire line of credit into one of your legs. Right?

Birdie: Phumpfh.

Me: Birdie, listen. I feel like an asshole trying to figure out how much your leg is worth. I don’t want you to be in pain, but that’s a lot of money. If you want the surgery, I’ll rob a bank to pay for it (or use a credit card). Just tell me what you want me to do. I don’t want to make the wrong choice and have you suffer for the rest of your life. I hate the idea of putting a dollar sign on your leg. You deserve all the bionic legs a dog could ever dream of having…I’m sorry I’m not rich. Just tell me: What do you want me to do?

Birdie: zzzzz-phumpfh-zzzzzzz.

Me: Dammit.

Birdie on bed rest looks just like Birdie on every other day.

Birdie on bed rest looks just like Birdie on every other day.


I wish dogs could tell us what they want. One of the hardest parts of caring for our dogs is making decisions on their behalf and feeling badly that we’re not doing the right thing.  A lot of us are beating ourselves up and second guessing everything – from the everyday decisions about diet and training to the excruciating choices we need to make at the end of their lives.

It’s no fun being the one in charge of making the call. As humans we carry around all these conflicting, painful thoughts – about the various options available and what the future holds for the dogs we love so much. Luckily, our dogs continue living in the moment. Knowing stuff is our burden, not theirs.

You might think that those of us who make a living working with dogs would have an easier time making choices for our pets. We know all the questions to ask about quality of life and the different scales to help measure their good days and bad days. Plus we have tons of personal stories from clients and colleagues, etc. to mentally reference in order to help us put our own situations in perspective.

Turns out, when it comes to my own dogs, like most pet care pros, I’m in need of the same sort of outside perspective and compassionate counsel as everyone else. The situation isn’t life threatening (for the record, I’m grateful the diagnosis wasn’t something more serious), but I needed someone else to help me get my footing. And to tell me I’m not a jerk.

I really appreciate that the surgeon told me not to feel guilty for considering my financial situation. And I could have hugged her for saying I should feel supported in trying a non-surgical option first.

It’s what I would have told myself if the confused, weepy kid in my head wasn’t busy shouting about how I was turning into Cruella De Ville for allowing money to pop up when thinking about what Birdie needs. It’s what I would have told any of you, if you were in the same spot.

Thanks for the compassionate advice Doc.

We’re starting rehab next week. In the meantime, Birdie still seems to love me, despite the fact that I’m thinking about the value of her leg repair versus the potential span of her life divided by my credit line. Maybe that’s because she’s thinking about snacks and smelly stuff to roll in, not surgery. That’s my job.


p.s. if you’re interested in some alternatives to surgery, this article at Whole Dog Journal is really helpful.


  1. J Bennett #

    My experience with a cruciate tear: 3 yr old GSD. While she was being examined by a vet…who also was doing chiropractic adjustments, Hannah screamed when the nice vet extended her leg. Hannah had not been limping or giving any indication of a problem with the knee previous to the exam. I had her examined by a Orthopedic specialist, she concurred Hannah likely had torn her cruciate. So after talking with all the vets ( I also had her examined by our “regular”vet) it was decided to not do surgery. Instead we decided to do 6 mths rest.(.she was an agility dog), walking on leash and various forms of exercise. We followed this program. Gradually, after the 6 mths , we re-introduced exercise. End result….she went on to compete in agility til she was 10 1/2yrs old. She did develop a medial buttress in the knee….and hence arthritis. Not advocating our choice…just wanted you to know about our experience. Good luck with you dog….

    July 24, 2013
    • Thank you for sharing – I do appreciate it. And I’m glad to know it was the right choice for your girl.

      July 24, 2013
  2. I. Love. You. Unless it is emergency surgery, something you have to decide then and there, I think you have to (especially with older dogs) go home and think. Try options. My last dog Max had laryngeal paralysis. It came on at a time the vet deemed him ‘likely’ too old to benefit or even survive the surgery. In the same moment, if left untreated might do bad things. He didn’t suffer from too many symptoms, mostly just a hoarse bark that made people stop and chastise me for having my dog’s vocal chords cut (oh yes, true story, happened several times. I didn’t even know vocal chords could be electively cut but they didn’t believe me). Anyway… it was slightly rough on him, but despite my deep love for him, I had to be and was ok with walking away from that surgery. This is the dog who at the end, I asked the vet if they could freeze him until advances were made to extend his life. Cut to Melvin, last summer, nuero tells me he needs a spinal tap (priceless look on my face) as he feels he has brain cancer. Several thousands of dollars later, he is fine. Nothing there.

    You are not alone!

    July 24, 2013
    • I know how much you’ve gone through with Melvin (medically speaking) so I appreciate your perspective! And I’m sure, like Melvin and Jake, Max wanted for nothing, so your advice means a lot.

      And seriously people? De-barking shaming seems like a real stretch when you encounter a stanger with a dog who has a hoarse bark. Can we all cut each other a little slack?!

      July 24, 2013
  3. Jessica,

    Thank you for articulating the internal dialogue that those of us who make dogs (and other companion animals) part of our lives go through as our pets age and their medical needs become more complicated and their trips and our chats with the vet become more frequent. I too find myself able to be compassionate toward others in these situations and able to help them work through their options, but I think your confused kid and mine are school yard friends!

    We’re here for you!

    July 24, 2013
    • Thanks Kate. I think our weepy inner kids would enjoy lying in the fetal position next to each other on the playground ; )

      July 24, 2013
  4. dognut #

    Thank you for writing this! While surgery is not the issue for my dog, I have felt very conflicted lately as to how best to care for him. He suffers from allergies which while not life threatening, are life altering. There is no easy answer. But people–I’m sure well meaning–have all kinds of answers and advice for you. The implication is often that I’m not doing the right thing for the dog whom I love with my life. It can feel very hurtful. While I appreciate perspectives, the bottom line is you can’t listen to everyone! The only thing you can listen to is your dog, your heart, and guidance from your vet. We all do our best.

    July 24, 2013
    • Serious allergies are so hard to deal with – you have my sympathies. I’ve cared for many dogs who are suffering (and so are their owners) and it is such a long, slow process of trial and error. I can imagine the advice feels overwhelming. I hope you have a terrific vet or specialist as your partner on this complicated journey and I’m wishing you the best!

      July 25, 2013
  5. As dog owners our dogs have good lives. We are good people. We can only do the best we can with whatever means we have. Our dogs don’t know what we can’t do or can’t afford. In not doing surgery the alternatives might promote better non-surgical procedures. Our dogs only know what they feel and they feel our love and devotion. Happy old dog.

    July 24, 2013
  6. Here’s a helpful article regarding the effectiveness of cold laser surgery treatments on pets AND humans. Give it a read when you have a minute. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    July 25, 2013
    • Despite the article’s pessimistic stance, I’ve been fortunate to witness the benefits of cold laser (combined with other techniques) on Birdie and many shelter dogs in the past, so I’m looking forward to trying it again (this time based on a board certified surgeon’s suggestion). It may not be for everyone, but I’m going to try to stay positive about our choices right now!

      July 25, 2013
  7. Meredith Sterling #

    My approximately 12-year-old border collie mix tore her ACL and I was told by the vet that surgery was the only option. Come to find out that there’s something called the ‘conservative management’ approach — advocated by other vets depending on where you live and so on. So, that’s what we did (there’s also an excellent Yahoo group that deals with these issues — very non-judgemental regardless of what you ultimately do/don’t do), and Lexus went on to live limp- and pain-free (in her legs, at least) till she died last year at 15. Every dog and every situation is different but I’m discouraged that this approach isn’t suggested more often, at least as a first step. It’s similar to going to the doctor with a particular problem; depending on whether you go to a: sports medicine doc, orthopedic surgeon, internal medicine professional, or yoga therapy/PT — you get totally different recommendations.

    July 25, 2013
  8. Thank you for this article. My dog (my first) is still relatively young (approx. 5 years old), and luckily so far we haven’t needed to deal with any health issues any more serious than a UTI. However, I think health care decisions, both for ourselves AND our pets, are so personal and we should all try to be a little more understanding and a little less judgmental, assuming the person loves their dog and has their heart in the right place (as you obviously do). Good luck to you and Birdie!

    July 25, 2013
  9. I was very interested to read about your thoughts and your choice. It will be interesting to follow how Birdie is in the future. We made a similar decision on two occasions for relative small problems but early last year our 12 year old English Staffie had knee surgery. After the surgery we were told he had arthritis in that hip also so he may still have some discomfort. The three months recovery period was very hard on all of us and keeping an extremely active dog who lives to run, on a lead was not easy. He recovered, though chasing birds made it a little longer and four months later the other knee went. Surgery again? – plus all the follow up expenses cost us more than we paid for our (second hand) car! We did it again and it’s now 7 months since the second knee op. He has trouble squat sitting and when he stands one leg splays out at an odd angle. He is always on a lead or a long rope so any running is a short distance only and we have all adapted – except that my heart leaps when he jumps up in the air or off the furniture. He’s had a couple of illegal sprints with no apparent after effects. I’m not regretting our decision to have the surgery, even though it cleaned out our emergency account, but I do feel sad that we were not offered any alternative by our vet or any support if we could not manage the surgery. Before the second op I phoned around to find a less expensive surgeon, but it’s a specialist area apparently. University clinics had nothing to offer. I don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t had the money. Of course our dog didn’t know what the fuss was about, he is not aware that we have spared him discomfort – he’s just happy that he gets to sleep on the chair, sit in the car, lie on the grass in the sunshine and be adored by two aging humans who would do anything to keep him in their lives a little longer.

    July 25, 2013
    • I’m glad you were able to do the surgeries (though I’m sorry you had to do 2 and had no other options offered). I’m fortunate that Birdie is far from being an active dog, even when she’s not injured, so the tear is only having a small impact on her daily life right now. I imagine the injury and the crate rest must be awful with a very active dog.

      I’ll post an update in a few weeks, after we’ve begun rehab!

      July 25, 2013
  10. Christine Pinnow #

    My 9YO, 65 lb dog tore his ACL last August. Our vet went through our options and really recommended the TPLO since my “young” dog was so active. This was the worst tear my vet had ever seen, over 2 cm. We opted to do the surgery and our credit card survived. Couldn’t afford PT that a few friends recommended and don’t have access to a pool so his rehab was 12 weeks of crate rest with increasing slow walks.
    Fast forward to last week when the whole family went on a 10 mile overnight hike in the Sierras. The dog had a great time and I really feel the surgery was his best option. I still cring every time he races out the door to chase something as a high percentage of dogs tear their opposite side within a year but glad that he has the opportunity to be part of the family action.

    July 25, 2013
    • Glad you found the right option for your active dog (and your credit card survived)!

      July 25, 2013
  11. Susan Fill #

    Check out The Onyx and Breezy Foundation @ They may be able to help financially if you decide on surgery.

    July 25, 2013
    • Thank you Susan. If we have to do the surgery, I’ll put it on a credit card so that wonderful organizations like Onyx and Breezy can provide support for a family that doesn’t have the credit option or has a dog with life threatening issues.

      July 25, 2013
  12. Kim #

    Fortunately Sx not the only choice out there, and certainly not always the best choice for every dog. My Holly had TTA surgery last December to repair a CCL tear. She’s a young and very, very active dog…and she had spent the better part of that year dealing with other injuries she kept sustaining from having an unstable knee…back pain, groin muscle pulls, hip pain, etc. Now that her knee is stable again, as a result of Sx, all those other injuries have disappeared. So, Sx was the right choice for her. But…I did a lot of question asking, got several opinions, cried a lot, and did so much online research it was disturbing. Then I sold one of my old cars (luckily I had 2 old cars!) to pay for it.

    My sister has a 12-yr old 3-legged dog…missing her left front leg since she was a puppy. Two years ago she tore a knee. Given her 3-legged status and activity level, she was not a candidate for surgery. But even if she was, my sister could not afford the surgery and beat herself up about it (or tried to). She went with conservative management and had her dog fitted for a knee brace. It took a little over 4 months, but the knee healed nicely. Exactly a year later, she blew the other knee. Same management, same result. She’s got some arthritis in places she probably wouldn’t have had were she a 4-legged dog, but she’s a happy old girl that gets around amazingly well. So, surgery is not always the only option to keeping your dog happy and healthy in the end.

    Good luck with your weepy confused inner kid…I suspect your kid and mine have met before!

    July 26, 2013
    • Thank you Kim – hearing about your family’s different experiences is helpful and it sounds like you both made the right call for your dogs. My weepy inner kid says “sniff. Hi. sniffle” to yours!

      July 26, 2013
  13. Zabadu #

    Since I had a one year old dog who blew BOTH of her back legs for which I am STILL paying for, let me recommend this for your elder dog. I’d say a brace would probably be a welcome thing at this point. I’m with you. If something else happens to my dogs, I’m kind of out of luck (and money).

    July 26, 2013
    • Thanks – I have been looking at their braces and wondering if they may be helpful down the road. I’m sorry about your dog’s multiple injuries and I hope that’s the end of your medical troubles. Wishing you and your dog health (and wealth)!

      July 26, 2013
  14. Jessica,

    You have won my heart over multiple times through various posts and projects of yours, and with these current thoughts you have once again renewed my admiration. I can’t believe that anyone who has ever been owned by a dog – no matter their economic means – has escaped feeling the cruel internal tug-of-war over how to best care for a beloved companion, without literally putting a price on life and limb. Your words are spot on. We do the best that we can – which is unique in every case – and moving forward with compassion and deliberateness, we deserve to be free of judgement (especially from ourselves!). You have my support in spades, and I wish you and Birdie the most successful results from whichever course of healing you choose to take.

    ~ Natalya & Oscar Dog (who has narrowly escaped serious CCL injury – twice, but HAS had a root canal, a brush with bloat, and a week-long, near-death hospital adventure that put mom in the poor house for some time)

    July 26, 2013
    • Is it weird to say that I have a wee blogger crush on you and your work? Well I do. So on top of your comment being truly insightful, compassionate, and nonjudgmental, I’m geeking out a little that you read my blog at all. Thank you for your incredibly kind words Natalya. I appreciate them so very much and so does Birdie Dog.

      July 26, 2013
  15. Janet #

    I have been through this dialogue and have made the choice both ways… go into debt for vet care as well as choose not to get the care because I couldn’t afford it. And as someone who nearly lost her house because she decided to pay for vet care instead of the mortgage… my advice is to not let money get in the way of the care needed for your pet. If you can get the care then do it, even if it means going into debt. You won’t regret it for a minute. (You will tell yourself it was a crazy decision, but you won’t regret it. 🙂

    July 26, 2013
    • I’m so glad you were able to make the choice that left you without regrets! I’m fortunate that opting to go into debt for Birdie is even an option. It makes me wonder what this is like for families without a credit card or emergency savings to tap out – I have no doubt they love their pets as much as us, but may not even have the option to take on debt. Ugh. This stuff isn’t easy!

      July 26, 2013
  16. EP #

    You made me cry. I hate this part of loving a furbaby. It sucks, flat out sucks.

    July 26, 2013
    • Oh no – sorry I made your face leak! But yeah, this is sucky.

      July 26, 2013
  17. You are definitely not a jerk, I support you and I can relate to the weepy inner kid/tough decision-making process, SO much. I’m sorry you are going through this, but you are probably (definitely) having a tougher time of it than Birdie. Hugs from Murph and I 🙂

    July 26, 2013
    • Aw, thanks. And you’re so right – Birdie is oblivious and getting around pretty ok. If anything she’s excited that she’s getting carried a lot and scoring extra “treats” (aka her new meds and supplements)! Hugs to you and the Murphster.

      July 26, 2013
  18. Orna #

    Hi Jessica,
    I’m so glad to discover your blog. My dog Pushkin tore his Curciate Ligament when he was about 11-12 y.o. The vet recommended hydrotherapy, not surgery. We proceeded to go through about three or four months of weekly hydrotherapy, with Pushkin walking slowly in a water tank toward a cookie waiting at the end… At the end of the three months, scar tissue formed around his torn ligament, stabilizing his joint, and he was (almost) as good as new. No surgery needed! He didn’t run any marathons afterwards (not that he ever did) but he was happily walking pain free, and what more can you ask for an elderly dog. The months of hydrotherapy were not cheap either, but they were cheaper than surgery and less intrusive and risky for Pushkin. I can warmly recommend hydrotherapy and think it’s very reasonable to expect that surgery will not be needed after all.
    Good luck!

    July 26, 2013
    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It gives me a lot of hope for Birdie! The truth is that even if we did have the money, we’d still be going this route first in an attempt to avoid an intrusive and risky surgery with a long rehab for our senior dog. It’s nice to hear that you were given this option too and it worked out well for Pushkin!

      July 26, 2013
  19. Pat #

    My 18 month old male Saint had a cruciate injury this spring. He had 6 cold laser treatments in 12 – 14 days and he has never looked back. Wishing Birdie well with her recovery.

    July 27, 2013
  20. Rebecca Anastasio #

    My 10 year old pit bull damaged her CCL. We were npt sure if it was a full rupture so we opted for 4 weeks of crate rest followef by lasrr and swim therspy and acupuncture. It was very suvcessful and 1 yesr later she has a normal gait and is pain free.

    July 30, 2013
  21. Audrey #

    I can’t tell you how much I can relate to this post. It’s so much easier to give advice to other people than to take your own advice on your own problems! I do that all the time. This post also breaks my heart. Poor Birdie! (Great name, by the way) I went though a similar dilemma with my “elderly” dog. To be blunt, it just sucks. I see someone else had suggested a WoundWear brace–I had luck with their brace too. I’d recommend it if rehab isn’t cutting it for you. It was much cheaper than the surgery I was quoted for and as far as I can tell, the recovery was a lot easier on my dog. Good luck and I hope rehab is going well!

    July 30, 2013
  22. You have shared a really nice blog post, as we know that our dog loves attention. In this way we should always spend time with our dog even just lying in front of the TV together and resting together.

    August 23, 2013
  23. Hey there…just had the very same conversation with myself, my partner, my vet (who also just happens to be my boss – yes I am a vet nurse/tech), the specialist, my friends etc……my not yet 8 year old Rottweiler succumbed to the dreaded Rotty curse – cancer! Bone cancer to be precise and it was in his right shoulder.
    Now my options are amputation or euthanasia …. With my background, I am wholly for amputation, dogs have another three legs – I am a huge advocate of animals with disabilities and I even help clients find disability aids including wheelchairs for their pets.
    However front limb amputation is so much harder for a dog to take as they carry most of their weight through the front legs. My bot is a very heavy chest dog. Plus to add salt into the wound (no pun intended) my boy is not a very brave dog….he will yelp in anticipation of a hurt, whether and actual one occurs or not.
    I struggled with the decision given how I knew my dog. My partner was in no doubt he wanted the surgery but he also understood my concerns (after all it’s my job) … boss gently steered me towards euthanasia but also encouraged a second opinion with the specialist. By this time the specialist pointed out that Chevy was technically already a three legged dog and appeared to be coping fine.
    I also have to admit the cost of the surgery, even with a substantial courtesy discount for being in the biz…..came to $3500 and that is not including 5 chemotherapy visits at $350 a time! We are on struggle street, this is a huge amount of money …….but I can be honest when I say, we would find the money somehow (my boss, bless him, offered to do the surgery in an effort to save me money but I could tell he really didn’t want to do it and I really didn’t want to put that responsibility on him ….or me for that matter, as I would have been assisting. I felt his silent sigh of relief when I said no. And he agreed it would be a huge thing for me to have to assist in.
    This all happened over a matter of two weeks. By one particular day we had to do something, he was in so much pain with his leg, something had to be done and done now! … I looked at Chevy and aside from his painful leg, which he clearly wanted me to stop, he was also just as clearly NOT ready for euthanasia.

    We amputated, I extended my credit card limit to pay for it……it is now day 10 post surgery and we are praying we have made the right decision. He is slowly making improvements, but as I suspected he is struggling some with the whole balance thing but he is trying.

    BTW the people from Dog leggs ( have a cruciate brace which is a little less costly than the surgery

    September 21, 2013
    • Gillian, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. This is your dog Chevy, right? These kind of choices are so difficult, but I think you did exactly the right thing: you weighed all of the individual factors (his age, his health, your resources, etc.) and made a choice you felt was the best option for your family. I’m also hoping I made the right decision for Birdie, just like you are for Chevy. It’s what we honestly felt was best at the time, so our intentions are good, even if we wind up having some regrets later. Wishing you guys well in your recovery (and thanks for the dogleggs tips)!

      September 21, 2013
      • Thank you, yes Chevy is my dog.
        I am please to report, with day 14 today, staples to be removed. Yesterday (after we got him a mini massgae on the sunday) he made a change for the better and is now voluntarily moving about and eating without coaxing….he now has a genuine happy face on and waggling his butt furiously
        even if we only get another year for him, it will be worth it.
        However, we have had many negative comments, with people suggesting we should have “just put him out of his misery’ (we feel we have, just not the way they mean) or we are cruel for making him a three-legged dog or why on earth did we spend so much money on “just a dog”
        on th eflip side, just as many people have been totally supportive with purely positive comments, many congratulating us for giving him a go

        September 23, 2013
  24. ..ops cancelled the follow

    September 21, 2013
  25. LC Wilson #

    I just read this and I just want to thank you for showing me I’m not the only one that feels like a complete mess. My 9.5 dachshund has a break in his spine near his tail for 2 years now. he was given steroids and did get for the past two years. Two days ago he started limping and whining again. My vet recommended a $6k surgery and I have not stopped crying . I’ve had my dog since he was 12 weeks old. I have no idea what to do, I just know I can’t watch him in pain. I can’t even pet him at this point. Being poor sucks…

    November 20, 2013
  26. Jenn #

    This article was very helpful. Thank you. My 9 year old English Bulldog has a luxating patella. She had surgery on the other leg when she was only 1. It was an easy decision then, she had her whole life ahead of her and the surgery cost about $1,000. Now, with a life expectancy of 8-10 years for this bread and the surgery costing more than $2500, and having an 18-month old child to care for, the decision is not as easy.
    I’m feeling like a horrible pet-parent and the vet is ready to schedule without any discussion of whether or not this makes financial sense. If her blood work comes back “clean,” she’ll be having the surgery and subsequent weeks of physical therapy.
    I feel horrible, but I’m going to have to take some time to think about this.

    August 1, 2014
  27. mperdue43 #

    I just found out yesterday that my job is being eliminated. The same day I came home to my German Shepherd not being able to walk at all after 4 days of limping. My kids are both adamant we do surgery, but I also know I only have until the end of August to receive a steady paycheck. I am devastated. Thank you for your post. I have no idea what to do.

    August 2, 2014
  28. Karen Kusserow #

    Our dog had TPLO surgery 2+ years ago. It worked out very well for her. She was 11 at the time. She has just torn (not completely) the ligament in her other leg. She is 13.5 years old and 65 pounds. We are not considering surgery this time due to her advanced age. It is my understanding that this injury will most likely not heal itself and the only hope of her using her leg would be if some scar tissue were to develop and help with the stability. I need advice! Do we just let her hobble around and keep her on meds? I don’t think that would be a very happy life for her. I really need to hear some thoughts from all of you. Thanks.

    August 26, 2014
  29. Roberto #

    Thank you for your post, I’ve been on the internet for over a week reading stories of hard choice dog owners face for surgery, or euthanasia. My 12 year pit/mix was diagnosed with Bone Cancer (Ostersacoma) not curable. My options, Amputate her leg along with Chemo and hope all goes well cancer will come back but this has best chance to slow it down maybe 10 months. Or medicate to help her manage the pain until she just can’t and then I have to make that final decision! I’m heart broken, mad, confused and feel guilty because the choices make me feel like something has to be done but I can’t decide…

    October 10, 2014
    • I’m so, so sorry that you and your dog are going through this right now. Not sure if this is helpful, but my advice would be to focus on quality of life. What would those extra 10 months be like for your dog? Good ones or painful/scary ones? You’ll have to make that difficult final decision whether or not you do the amputation/chemo. So focusing on how you want to spend the time you have left together and how you want her to feel during that time might help guide you to the answer that’s right for you. Wishing you both peace, Jessica

      October 10, 2014
  30. Roberto #

    Thank you so much for responding!
    Your advice is so welcome at this confusing time. You are right quality of life is my priority. All the “what if’s” are what makes this so hard. What if I do the amputation/chemo and she is a miracle dog and lives happily ever after. What if I do the surgery and she is sad and miserable the remaining time with us.
    I know no one will be able to tell me exactly what to do, it’s my choice. Being able to read all the post, positive and negative lets me know I’m not the only one who has gone down this sad path!

    October 10, 2014
  31. Jane #

    we have a 14 year-old Australian Shepherd, rescued when she was 1 1/2. She had symptoms of another anal abscess, so was taken to the vet. The vet did blood work. Liver profiles were somewhat high. We requested an ultrasound just to be sure there wasn’t something else going on. Ultrasound was done without shaving. Diagnosis: hepatocellular carcinoma 8 cm.

    There are no symptoms. Her coat, gums, eyes, look good. Apart from the expense, which, frankly, is not something we can manage, health problems with us are cause for concern for aftercare. There would also be a 2-hour one-way trip to see the veterinary surgeon. We would not leave her there overnight without staying nearby, and would want her to spend two days at the surgery in order to be certain she was stable.

    Her appetite is extremely good. She has lost 4 pounds since the Spring. She has cataracts, but can still see fairly well. Her hearing has very recently become poor. This is the only dog we’ve ever had and we’re not going to get another.

    A biopsy would confirm her condition. Once in, removing the mass regardless of its state of pathology, would be done. I’ve taken care of three cats that were very ill, with varying outcomes. At a total loss as to how to proceed – the local vets, so far, have only given the advice, “It’s your decision.” That’s what all the physicians here say as well.

    This may read as though a decision not to pursue this has been made; it hasn’t. Your thoughts would be most welcome.

    November 20, 2014
  32. chris #

    I just wanted to share my story here. my 12 yr old rat terrier was diagnosed with grade 4 patella luxuriation and torn acl’s on both back legs and to top it off degenerative arthritis in both legs and breast cancer. my dog was born beside my bed and was her sires last litter ( he died saving my life) everyone says im her human not the other way around. me and her have almost identical medical records lol. anyway i was told that due to the severity of the damage it was going to be a total of $8-10k for all the surgeries. im afraid that more than i can afford . i about ran out of options when a vet friend of mine put me in touch with a specialist who ares more about the animal then money. i called him and explained my situation and he said he could do all the surgerys for less than $2k. this vet does not charge for a lot of his work beause he wants to make sure animals get the care they need regaurdless of families budget. his standard policy is if your pet passes away on his table then no charge. i dont know what i would have done without him.

    May 20, 2015
    • Sherri #

      Wow, he has to be the most compassionate and dedicated vet I have heard of! Because it could be helpful to so many struggling financially to provide care would you be willing to share his information? I have an ortho dog who so far is up to four surgeries. Thankfully I have been able to keep up paying for them, but so many aren’t as fortunate.

      June 9, 2015
  33. emily #

    My dog (not yours….so hopefully you can talk the child in head off the cliff) is a tri-tri-pod (front leg). In a very non-traumatic walk he broke his other front leg this morning. We ended up at MedVet who said it’s a bad break above his elbow. They can do surgery, but it’s complicated, screws, plates, and they can’t promise it will fix .. he main still have pain, greater chances of arthritis, etc. They said if he had all 4 legs they would suggest amputation but since he’s already dog a leg, amputation would come with its own issues (wheelchair, what happens when we’re at work). I’m sure it doesn’t need to say, but both of these options are expensive. He is an otherwise happy healthy 8 year dog…which is why I’m having such a hard time with the 3rd option, sending him to wait for us at the gates. I have so many what ifs playing through my head – what if we spend the money and he s miserable but what if we don’t spend the money and he could’ve lived another happy 5 years?

    July 20, 2015

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. When it rains, it pours |
  2. The Week in Tweets – 2nd October | Some Thoughts About Dogs
  3. Calling Team Future Us: It’s Time! | notes from a dog walker
  4. No Surgery, No Problem: Treating Our Dog’s ACL Tear | notes from a dog walker
  5. DIY Wobble Board For Your Dog | notes from a dog walker

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: