The grubby bandage wrapped around the right foreleg of a young Koolie left staff in no doubt that there was something wrong, but it took x-rays and the expertise of one of Melbourne’s top orthopaedic specialists to save his leg.
“Koolie’s aren’t that common; we don’t see a lot of them coming in,” commented General Manager Sue Conroy. “It’s odd: his owner would’ve paid a fair amount of money for him. The bandage on his leg shows that they’d noticed something was wrong, yet they hadn’t cared enough to put any ID on him, or bothered to look for him when he went missing.”
The Lost Dogs’ Home Veterinarian Dr Caroline Butler carried out the initial consultation on Doug. “Doug favoured the leg when he walked and would raise it off the ground even when sitting. When I removed the bandage I could see his leg bent out at the wrist. X-rays showed the two bones in his foreleg were different lengths, caused by the premature closing of the growth plate near his wrist. It was a congenital condition, something he’d been born with – not the result of an injury.”
Dr Butler contacted specialist small animal surgeon, Dr Sam Snelling of Advanced VetCare, to confirm the x-ray findings. Dr Snelling recommended Doug undergo an ulna osteotomy – a highly specialised orthopaedic procedure.
“Without this surgery, the condition would cause arthritis and severe joint damage – a life sentence of pain for a young, active dog like Doug,” Dr Butler said. “But there were a few of hurdles to overcome. The cost of the surgery itself runs into the thousands, but we knew that donations would cover this. However we don’t have a vet with the specialist skills and training needed and our hospital simply isn’t equipped for surgery like this.”
While a solution to the problem was sought, Doug was placed in foster care with Alisa.
“Despite his leg, Doug was hyper, super friendly and would bounce all over the place. He was also destructive, with a fondness for table legs, mobile phones and glasses! Thankfully this was discovered in the first 24 hours, so the damage was minimal,” she said.
Exercise was restricted to two walks a day with added enrichment to stimulate his brain, keeping him entertained and out of mischief.
“To begin with, Doug was really nervous and lacked confidence when in unfamiliar situations. He’d get stressed and agitated around traffic and barked at other dogs and people. We had a training session with Planet K9 and got some great advice on techniques to use to help calm him,” said Alisa.
During this time, Dr Snelling generously offered one of his resident vets to perform the ulna osteotomy and to supply the required equipment so it could be done at the Home, giving vet staff the valuable opportunity to observe such surgery.
“An ulna osteotomy is where a section of the bone is cut, leaving a gap, so the bone can stretch out and grow correctly,” explained Dr Butler. “It was fascinating to watch such a highly technical procedure.”
Doug went back to Alisa’s home a few days after surgery. It wasn’t long before the cheeky youngster was ready to for action. “I took to calling him Douglas when he got a bit too full of himself,” she laughed. “He’s very intelligent and active, so it was tricky keeping him quiet and sane during recovery.”
“He’s outgoing, cheeky and a big smoocher! Despite his size, he loved slinking into my lap for a cuddle. He loves his toys and playing fetch and he’s obsessed with chewing – I’d give him a stockpile of bones and chew toys to gnaw on and he’d be occupied for ages.”
So quick was Doug’s recovery that the decision was made to move him to a new foster home, this time a carer with other dogs so we could assess Doug’s suitability with them.
“He’s good in the car, good with other dogs and polite with his food,” confirmed Doug’s last carer Ryan. “He’s eager to please and just wants to do the right thing by you. He’s become calmer, more settled and much more confident. The training Alisa did with him at the beginning, and what I continued with, is really paying off.”
Doug’s now ready for his forever home. “We’re thrilled with how the surgery went and how smooth his recovery’s been. We’re seeking an experienced, active owner for Doug. Someone with the time to put into continuing his training. He’s already come a long way from the shy dog we first met,” said Sue. “And that’s down to the vital role our foster carers have played in his development.”
If you can offer Doug a home, please call our North Melbourne shelter on 03 9329 2755 and quote animal ID 912905.