Pablo, the Golden Retriever Puppy at 2 months old

Labrador Health

Pablo's story the Golden Retriever

Pablo the Golden Retriever (by Sue Tasker)

Although lab-health is primarily based on Labradors, we care about all dogs, and recognise that it is not just Labradors who suffer as a result of unethical and irresponsible breeding.  Here, Sue tells her story of Pablo, her Goldie.

The Background

Pablo, the golden Retriever

Before I start, Pablo wants me to apologise, he is not a Labrador but the next best thing, a Golden Retriever. He also wants me to start this story at the beginning and tell you about my first lab. Pablo says that this will explain it all!

My first lab wasn’t my lab at all…I got her as part of a marriage settlement! I moved in with my first husband and his dog, a yellow Lab Jane. Jane was a one man dog, always going to work with Frank, rambling across Dartmoor, struggling up Snowdon, until I came along. She was about 4 years old and clearly wanted a bit more leisure in life! The first morning after our wedding and honeymoon, my, then, husband said ‘Come on’ to the dog, who always went to work with him. She looked at him, looked at me and went back in to the living room and sat on her armchair! I think he was truly hurt, but the dog had chosen ME! From then on she was my little helper. Jane moved with us to Manchester and eventually died at 13 years of age. She was fabulous, except with dustmen and men in motorcycle helmets, who she hated with a vengeance. She once poisoned herself being greedy, eating meat which we think had been baited with rat poison, she made herself sick on many occasions stealing out of bins but all in all, she led a happy and healthy life. It never occurred to me to ask if she had a pedigree or was KC registered. I only knew she came from a local farmer’s wife who had had a kitchen full of pups and mum, who had taken over the place and were running riot in the kitchen units. We were lucky, but perhaps things were a bit different 30 years ago.

My next lab was Rolo. Dear chocolate Rolo, who is looking back at me from his photo as I type this. Eight years ago I was diagnosed and treated for Breast Cancer and had taken early retirement from being a College Lecturer. I was only working odd days and we had a collie cross Nina at home. We thought we would like another dog and a lab came to mind. We rang around some rescue centres and one near Southport said ‘Yes’, they had a big chocolate lab, 4 years old, whose owner no longer had time for him. We went just to have a look. Rolo was collected from his kennel and we waited in the farmyard. He rounded the corner, took one look at my husband John, and threw himself at him! He was big and boisterous and he chose us as his Forever Home. He was gorgeous and he came home with us, right there and then. We had all his papers and knew he had some ear problems……Yes, well, our vet rang his previous vets and they faxed all 6 A4 pages of his medical history. Poor Rolo had had extensive surgery on his ears to open up his ear canals to clean them more easily. I truly think now that if earlier advice had been sought this could have been avoided. We took him to a vet experienced in allergies and she believed that all of the problems stemmed from a simple allergy which left untreated had stimulated his immune system in to this massive general allergic response. So for the rest of his life we were giving him tablets, watching his diet and seeing him lick, lick, lick his paws. It sounds all gloom and doom, but it wasn’t . He was a fabulous lazy, happy, boy. He loved to swim in the river but equally, after coming home from shopping, we would discover him upstairs in bed asleep….under the duvet. He had a great sense of humour. Rolo came to live in Spain with us in 2001. Sadly Rolo started to develop tumours in 2005 and despite all the best care from our vets and the University Veterinary Faculty, he became constipated and after having scans and we discovered that the tumours had spread throughout his body. We had to let him pass to the Bridge in January 2006.

How we Found Pablo

Pablo lying down with a cat

I was totally bereft following the loss of Rolo and foolishly rushed in to buying another dog. After looking at adverts in the English press here in Spain, we bought Pablo from a breeder in Benidorm, knowing that he was not registered with the KC in the UK or Spain. His breeder owned a beautiful house with large grounds, she had a swimming pool with ducks and swans on it. The grounds were full of sheep, goats, chickens etc. She was a very charming English woman who had been married to a Spaniard for many years. The Golden Retriever Mum was a lovely dog, lots of energy and very loving. She had had 6 pups, 3 had gone and 3 remained. They were delightful fluffy bundles at 8 weeks. We chose Pablo, who was the biggest, paid our 300 pounds and took him on the 3 hour journey home.

Pabs was a great pup; at home we had 2 other cross breed rescue dogs and they put him in his place. If he got too nippy they would discipline him, especially Eugenie who is Number 1 dog in the pack. After very few nights, Pablo got the idea that you had to ask to be let out to pee! It is easier here as we live on one floor and have tiled floor, he could be let out quickly and within a couple of weeks he was clean in the house. Everyone loves Pablo, he is such a nice nature and always happy to see everyone.

The Symptoms
Pablo at 6 months old
It was during the Summer that I first suspected all might no be right. When he had been asleep for sometime and then had to get up, he seemed a bit stiff in his back legs. However by the next day this might have disappeared. On a routine check with the vet, I mentioned it and she said that in order to investigate properly he would need to be anaesthetised. At that time is was 35 degrees and just too hot to subject him to this. We agreed to wait until the Autumn when he was due to be castrated. At the same time they would take the x-rays.

October came and Pablo went in for his operation. When I collected him, the vet’s face said it all. ‘It’s terrible news’, she said. ‘He has extremely severe Hip Dysplasia.’ At this point I laughed. ‘It isn’t life threatening is it ?’ I asked. ‘No’, she said. I then informed her that it was indeed bad or even disappointing news, but he was not going to die, we would sort it and he was a happy, healthy dog in all other respects.

Terrible news is the news that your beloved pet is going to die, not that they have a manageable condition. Nothing had changed for Pablo from the day before. He had HP then and he still had it 24 hours later. The most important thing was, what were we to do about it?


The Treatment
We took Pablo to the orthopaedic vet at the University and they confirmed his diagnosis and also took blood tests. It was a possibility that they would try a Triple Pelvis Osteotomy but they said he had too much arthritis for it to be a success. They say they only need to replace one hip as he will compensate for the other. This will be done when he has finished growing around June of this year. There is another orthopaedic clinic about 3 hours away and I have still the option of taking another opinion. Which I might do. Either way, it will not change the fact that Pablo should never have been born. He has  not been over exercised, we do not have stairs etc, so all the problems are down to genetics, his parents should never have met.

Pablo and his friends, two other dogsHaving said all this, I love him to bits. We do have insurance but here in Spain it is very limited and clearly states that problems of a genetic cause are excluded. Veterinary care here is much cheaper than in the UK, largely due to the fact that insurance claims are not pushing up prices. For example vets prescribe children’s antibiotic drops at 2 pounds a prescription rather than the 2 pounds a tablet my UK vet would charge. If I need to give drugs my vet will give me a syringe to inject my pet. Far quicker, and surer than trying to give a tablet. 

Pablo’s operation will cost around 1,500 Euros plus hospital charges, so not much change from 2000 euros. We will pay it and move on with our lives. I carry a huge burden of guilt about the dog and yet I know that with us he has love and security . I dread to think what might have happened if he gone to a home less caring or without the cash to get him well. When I expressed my regrets to the Orthopaedic vet, he was very angry, and told me quite clearly that I had nothing to reproach myself for. It was the breeder who should be ashamed. I hope she is …but somehow I doubt it.

Only last week I was walking with the dogs past a cottage that is being renovated. The builders said ‘Good Morning’ …in Spanish of course. The boss asked me if Pablo was male or female. I said he was male. ‘Oh that’s a shame, my sister has a male. If he had been female we could have mated them’, …..and that is how it happens, litters of ‘pedigree’ puppies from god knows where, sold to anyone with the money to buy them.

Pablo enjoys his life and later this year he will have a new little brother. Joseph, is a black labrador puppy born on 5 February. Mum is a bitch from a show kennels in Yorkshire, which has a high reputation of producing dogs with excellent health and temperament. Dad has qualified for Crufts. It took a lot of research and advice from some excellent UK breeders, to settle on this little chap.


Sue's Thoughts
Pablo, the Golden Retriever as a 2 month old pupIt is just a pity I didn't take more time and care before. After all it is only common sense. Most of us spend more time thinking about buying a pair of shoes, which will last us 6 months, than a puppy who will be with us for over 10 years. Only by educating people and spreading the word can we change this.

Sue Tasker
Spain , February 2007.


March 2007: Pablo Update

Today, we have taken Pablo to the Policlinica Veterinario in San Vincente. ( ) Our vets recommended the orthopaedic vet there, We collected the x-rays from the University yesterday and we surprised to see the blood test that they taken showed that Pablo was/is anaemic. No-one advised us of this. However today the vet said he thought it was unrelated to the HD as anaemia here in Spain is most often caused by ticks and mosquito bites. Anyway, more bloods have been sent to a specialist laboratory, and the euros go on the bill!

The Specialist said that there was no doubt the hips were a problem and then did a full series of x-rays. We now know that Pablo has arthritis in all 4 legs. We were advised that as he is happy, healthy and mobile, surgery is an option for the future and not for now. They want to manage his condition conservatively with weight loss ( Oh, no says Pablo!) a reduction from 32.5 to 30 kilos, moderate exercise and dietary supplements containing Chondroiton and Glucosamine etc.

It was also mentioned that there is a new surgical technique which if I understood correctly takes a piece out of the bone of the pelvis and also inserts some kind new edge on the socket joint. It is not TPO, but was described as half way to a hip replacement but effective and much less invasive.

I was delighted we had taken the second opinion, as for Pablo, surgery is hopefully a last resort in years to come and at least I feel that I can contribute towards his continued quality of life.

In order to take the x-rays, Pablo was given a large injection of tranquiliser, that was 4 hours ago and although he has bravely (LOL) managed a meal, he is in his bed sleeping off the remains of his drugs. Who knows he may think it has all been a bad dream!

We go back in 3months for a check up.


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