Picture of Penny, the black lab as a pup

Labrador Health

Keira's Story

Penny (by Trina Martin)

This is the story of Penny, the gorgeous black labrador who was diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia at just six months. 

About Penny
Penny on her first day homePenny was born on 14 May 2003 and we brought her home on 14 July 2003. She was our first ever dog, although my husband had always wanted one.  She was a gorgeous puppy very friendly and loving. We were recommended to a very good vet and we took her down to get checked over and to get her inoculations. The head nurse at the vet ran a puppy socialisation and basic training class, and so we arranged to take Penny there. She loved it, and she learned quickly. She could only go to puppy classes until she was 20 weeks old, and so we decided to look for an adult training class for her.

Our neighbour suggested one just up the road that she had taken her dogs to and so along we went to register. Penny's first class was on 12 November 2003. The class was in a very large hall, similar to an indoor football hall, and there were 33 dogs in the class. Penny was only small and this was very exciting for her. Our first task in the class was to walk round with our dogs to heel. Of course, with so many potential new friends all Penny was interested in was going round to introduce herself. The 'trainer' came over to me and said that I wasn't controlling her properly and took her lead from me to 'demonstrate' he yanked her so hard that her legs splayed and he proceeded to drag her on her belly. Needless to say I wasn't too pleased, we left and decided not to go back.


The Symptoms
The next night we were sitting having dinner and Penny was in her usual place, right between us, ever hopeful. As she got up and moved away I noticed that she was limping and favouring her right rear leg. We got her to walk up and down and the stiffness wasn't wearing off. She was no better the next morning and so we arranged to take her to the vet. On examination the vet felt that there was some swelling and inflammation around Penny’s right knee and so prescribed some painkillers and anti-inflammatories, advised reduced exercise and arranged for us to take Penny back in a week.

When we went back the vet felt that there was still some swelling there and gave us a couple of choices. We could either continue with the medication or we could have Penny x-rayed. As she was fully insured we decided for the latter option. I really didn't want to waste any more time. X-rays were duly taken and when we went back for the results the vet advised that she believed Penny had an OCD (Osteochondrosis) in her knee but more than that she suspected HD in both hips. The vet admitted that they didn't see enough six month old Labrador puppies to be sure, and therefore she wanted to send the x-rays to an Orthopaedic Surgeon in Stirling. We agreed and waited for his opinion.

A week or so later we had a call from the vet to say that the surgeon had looked at the x-rays and that in his opinion Penny did indeed have an OCD in her right knee and HD in both hips, but that he would like to see her in order to examine and x-ray her himself. On 22 December 2003 we went through to Stirling for the first time so that Penny could be checked over. We left her with Andrew (the surgeon) for several hours and when we went back he confirmed the initial diagnosis.


The Surgery
Penny, as an older pup, standingPenny required a TPO (Triple Pelvic Osteotomy), a procedure that entailed making incisions on three sides of her hip in order to rotate the hip so that the ball and socket fitted more snugly, on both hips, as well as keyhole surgery on her right knee to remove the damaged cartilage. A date was arranged and a month later we took Penny back to Stirling for her first surgery, which would be on her right hip and knee.

We left her with Andrew and returned back to Glasgow to wait. We got a call late afternoon to say that her surgery had gone well and that we could collect her the next day. She was shaved from her waist down to her ankle on her right side and had wounds which were stapled on her knee, bum, hip, and a wound that was stitched on the inside of her top thigh. She really seemed to take it all in her stride and other than lack of fur and the wounds, you really wouldn't have guessed what she'd been through. Obviously curtailed exercise, only out on lead for toilet purposes and then back in.

Three weeks later we were back to Stirling for the TPO for her other hip. Again surgery went well, however, she was kept in for two days that time and was obviously in much more pain when we brought her home and she had to be carried in and out the door for toileting for the first couple of days, and now of course she was shaved on both sides from the waist to the ankle. She looked very peculiar with her black furry 'socks' and a tail that appeared to have been an afterthought.

In the lead-up to her first operation we had begun crating her because we had been told that she had to be kept still and quiet, not an easy feat with a six month old Lab! She had taken to the crate really well and at least we had the peace of mind that she would be safe when we were out, or so we thought.

At the time of Penny's hip and knee operations buster collars only came in white and she was absolutely terrified of it. She became very distressed every time we tried to put it on and in the end the vet advised that it just wasn't worth the upset it was causing her. The downside of that unfortunately was that Penny took a dislike to her staples and removed them all. Back to the vet to be stapled up again (with no anaesthetic and not a whimper) only to remove them all again! By that time, however, the undersides of her wounds had healed well enough and the vet decided that although it may mean that her fur might grow back strangely (and if you look closely enough you can see the lines of the scars) this was preferable to knocking her out and opening and closing the wounds again. At least she saved the vet the job of removing her staples!


After the Operations
Penny's hips shaved after the operationFor five weeks following her second operation, her exercise was curtailed to on lead for toileting working up to 10-15 minutes on lead round the block. Several visits back and forward to Stirling for check-ups, but the healing process, in the main, went very well.

By the middle of June she was completely back to normal all her fur had grown back in and she was as stupid as ever. At the end of August we found another training class – which has been excellent – and started to take her there. They run an agility class once a month and the consultant was pleased enough with her recovery to say that there was no reason why she couldn't go. We took her and she loves it.




Several things we have learned from our experience.
Penny after her operationFirstly insurance. We were advised to take out lifetime insurance for Penny which is what we did. As a result we had no hesitation in getting her the treatment she needed. It was very expensive coming in at over 3,000 and not everyone has that lying around, we certainly didn't. Also because its lifetime insurance her hips are covered which, with an annual policy, wouldn't be the case.

Secondly, training is really important but having no trainer is preferable to the wrong trainer. We don't know if the rough handling at the training class caused Penny's OCD, but every cloud has a silver lining I suppose and if she hadn't become lame, we wouldn't have had her x-rayed and we may not have found the HD until it was too late. The vet told me that if we hadn't had the operations then we would most likely have faced the choice of putting Penny to sleep when she was about two years old.

Lastly, exercise. Penny was our first dog and we didn't find Labrador Forums until she was two. We didn't know anything about the five minute rule or keeping an eye on a Labrador puppy’s exercise until they are fully grown. From information we have obtained and advice we have been given it would appear that we didn't 'cause' Penny's HD, however, our not controlling her exercise as well as we might more than likely exacerbated her condition, and for that we will never forgive ourselves.

Penny Now
Penny and Kara out on a walkPenny is great now, you really would never know there had been anything wrong with her but it could all have been so different. Our latest addition Kara has just turned one and insofar as we could we definitely adhered to the five minute rule with her. We weren't taking any chances second time around.






Disclaimer:  Please note - all prospective labrador puppy owners are advised to ensure that both parents have been hip-scored and hold current clear eye certificates, and to follow the exercise and dietary advice from their breeder; this can vastly reduce the risk of your puppy suffering future problems.  It does NOT however give a cast iron guarantee your puppy will not have problems.

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