My dog needs 3 complicated surgeries, can you talk me through this?

(28 Posts)
EntropyRising Mon 30-Sep-19 17:54:57


My 4 year old retriever needs three surgeries: one to shave down her front elbow, and each of her hips will need to be replaced in time.

The total cost of all these surgeries is in the region of 17,000 GBP. The best case scenario is that our insurance would cover 9K (more on this). We can afford 8K, strictly speaking, but it would impinge upon some nice-to-haves.

We're all madly in love with her and I don't think we can stomach the thought of putting her to sleep but she will undergo one very invasive surgery in a couple of weeks an in time will need two more.

She is very placid and laid back at home but is skittish outside of her routine and hates the car/veterinarians etc.

I'm torn on two fronts; one, money, obviously; two, her quality of life.

I'm also wondering if the overarching issue is arthritis, if anyone is knowlegeable about how the insurance company (Pet Plan) will view these three surgeries - are they all a single condition (I have a limit per condition), or will each be considered a new one e.g. the limit is re-set?


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tabulahrasa Mon 30-Sep-19 19:12:51

Is it elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia? Because if so, yes they’re separate conditions... but it would be 2 conditions - ie elbows is one and hips another.

If you’ve lifetime cover though you could also time them to be either side of the renewal date, so they’re in a different year.

EntropyRising Mon 30-Sep-19 20:10:47

It is hip dysplasia, but I'm not sure about the front. That's reassuring about the insurance, thanks.

I'd really love to know if anyone has experience with a skittish dog having three major surgeries.

thanks all.

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Lonecatwithkitten Mon 30-Sep-19 20:30:34

Presented right PetPlan may cover it all the right hip is not the same as the left hip.

EntropyRising Mon 30-Sep-19 20:36:35

I have a 3K limit per condition, so there's no chance of that.

Does it make any sense for me to shop around for cheaper surgeons? That seems wrong.

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BiteyShark Mon 30-Sep-19 21:12:46

* I'd really love to know if anyone has experience with a skittish dog having three major surgeries.*

Has your dog had any long admissions to the vets? My dog has had a few and tbh they have affected his behaviour long term.

He was a reasonable confident dog but came out a very timid easily scared one. He suffered anxiety for sometime and anything that resembles a vet table set him off.

On one occasion he just looked like he had lost all the will to live and all I can describe him was being extremely depressed.

With time though he has bounced back but there are some 'clinical noisy vet type environments' he hates.

Would it put me off putting him through the surgeries your dog is facing? Honestly I don't know for sure. I would have to factor that in along with the benefits of potentially making his life better in the long term.

tabulahrasa Mon 30-Sep-19 21:22:06

“I have a 3K limit per condition”

Oh, that’s quite low cover sad

“Does it make any sense for me to shop around for cheaper surgeons?”

I don’t know that they charge vastly different prices tbh, I know some charge a bit more, but most are I think fairly similar.

“I'd really love to know if anyone has experience with a skittish dog having three major surgeries.”

When mine had his elbow done he was fairly ok actually, and it was just arthroscopy so not a hugely invasive or complicated procedure.

He did have a major stomach surgery later on by which time he wasn’t just skittish he had some pretty major behavioural issues, it wasn’t fun for him or them while he was staying at the vets, but it didn’t make any difference to his behaviour long term.

Don’t know if that helps though...


EntropyRising Mon 30-Sep-19 21:26:39

She's young, so we could theoretically emerge from this at say, 6 years old, with a golden having reinforced limbs and a great life ahead?

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lotsofquestions22 Mon 30-Sep-19 21:34:59

My collie had elbow surgery aged 2 and I wouldn't do it again. The recovery was horrid and he has still suffered with pain as hes got older. Hes 10 now and lame but cant cope with the 3 types of painkillers we have tried so far. You don't have to do the major surgeries. I know it's hard and I'm jaded as I had 2 sick young dogs who died after countless treatments and I felt they had been tortured by all the treatment. It put me off vets. You can take your dog swimming to strengthen joints. You don't say what his quality of life is like at the moment and obviously if its surgery or put to sleep then I understand surgery but If theres an option to medicate with painkillers and do physio like swimming I'd go with that. My friends lab has hip dysplasia and vets advised operations and friend said no and dog is fine. She doesn't throw any balls or anything for the dog and she only goes off lead a bit but she self regulates exercise really. Just because the vets offer an operation doesn't mean you have to take it.

EntropyRising Mon 30-Sep-19 21:42:46

thanks Questions this is exactly the kind of insight I was looking for... I guess at a minimum I could seek another opinion.

Should I be looking for a vet or a veterinary surgeon for a second opinion? The former is quite easy, the latter not so much.

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Lonecatwithkitten Mon 30-Sep-19 22:23:54

@EntropyRising all vets are veterinary surgeons, I think what you mean is a veterinary orthopaedic surgeon.
There is actually a vast difference in price between referral centres in particular in the midlands prices can be quite a bit cheaper so yes phoning round is an option - though I am not certain you will get a total hip replacement for under 3K.

EntropyRising Tue 01-Oct-19 08:45:37

thanks Lonecat - I just googled hip replacements and it seems that

1. it's a bilateral condition, i.e. they will not be considered separately by the insurance company;

2. the UK average is 4500 so the place I've been referred to is quite high.

I had no idea all vets were surgeons!

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EntropyRising Tue 01-Oct-19 08:46:01

Sorry - hip dysplasia is a bilateral condition.

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Booboostwo Tue 01-Oct-19 08:59:12

What is the recovery from each operation?

My GSD had an elbow arthroscopy when he was 18mo and he really struggled afterwards. He was only allowed lead walking for 6 weeks and even though I spent hours with him outside walking slowly we went nuts. He was almost impossible to hold onto towards the end. And still needs anti-inflammatories and physio now 18 months later.

I would worry about having to do this three times. It will be very long and very stressful for your dog, who won't be able to understand why she's being put through all this.

EntropyRising Tue 01-Oct-19 15:03:10

I have very little information. I don't know anything about the recovery. I booked an appt with a local orthopaedic surgeon for tomorrow so hopefully I'll have some answers then.

My golden is pretty low-energy, so that's in our favour. She won't be bonkers from lack of activity, she sleeps about 20 hours a day as it is.

She doesn't have a typical laid-back golden retriever temperament, though, she will hate this so much.

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Booboostwo Tue 01-Oct-19 15:11:53

The surgeon should be able to advise on recovery. I would imagine some immobility/controlled exercise will be required for all three operations. My GSD with the arthroscopy had to be restricted in one room and walked slowly on lead for six weeks. My JRT had two cruciate ligament surgeries one year apart and he needed cage rest, no walking just short, on lead, trips for toilet and back to the cage for 6 weeks. It can be quite limiting.

EntropyRising Tue 01-Oct-19 15:51:46

There's a thunder storm at the moment and she's a complete wreck. I don't know how she's going to cope.

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Lonecatwithkitten Tue 01-Oct-19 15:57:46

@EntropyRising I am a veterinary surgeon and have been involved in claims where total hip replacement of the left and right hips are classed as two separate conditions. As I always to my clients the worst they can say is no. Hip dysplasia is not evenly bilateral so a dog could have a mildly affected left hip and an appealing right hip so yes so insurance companies will accept them as separate conditions.
Or if you lifetime insurance which the total claim value renews each year you could claim have the left hip done in claim year 1 and the right hip done in claim year 2. Many surgeons prefer a decent gap between surgeries to allow full healing before doing the second hip.

EntropyRising Tue 01-Oct-19 16:08:35

@Lonecatwithkitten brilliant, thank you so much for the top tip - from a veterinary surgeon no less. Pet Plan have been weirdly good as insurance companies go so maybe things will go in my favour.

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tabulahrasa Tue 01-Oct-19 18:10:01

Recovery will involve crate rest for a few weeks at least...arthroscopy on elbows definitely usually does and that’s a much smaller op than hip replacements.

So it’s not just restricted exercise, but proper limited movement.

Veterinari Tue 01-Oct-19 18:59:34

She's young, so we could theoretically emerge from this at say, 6 years old, with a golden having reinforced limbs and a great life ahead?

You need to question your orthopaedic referral surgeon closely in terms of ongoing care, arthritis risk etc. More likely to be complications/ongoing osteoarthritis for the elbow than the hips.

Where here parents hip/elbow scored? With severe disease like this it’s worth reporting back to the breeder as they shouldn’t be breeding dogs with these issues.

Also check your estimate includes hospitalisation, nursing care etc - if it does then that’s probably why it seems higher - it’s not just the surgery.

Petplan are a good insurance company and many vets will do a direct claim from petplan so you only pay the excess

EntropyRising Wed 02-Oct-19 08:27:22

thanks Veterinari

I really can't remember much about the breeder, I emailed her but (surprise) she's not replied.

I have an appt with a local surgeon today to discuss her xrays in greater detail and I have emailed quite a few different surgeries around the country to try to get lower estimates.

The reality of the situation is that it's not extremely practical for us to spend more than 10K on a dog.

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EntropyRising Wed 02-Oct-19 08:35:56

If 10K happens to be spread over several years and her quality of life is good, then that's probably OK. If they're all pressing then I think we have to consider managing the situation with pain meds/cortisol etc (not sure if they do that with dogs?) and seeing how we get on.

I can't cope with the thought of putting down an otherwise healthy 4 year old dog, it seems absolutely insane, she's had such bad luck.

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ChickenyChick Wed 02-Oct-19 08:45:24

What was her parents hipscore?

My dog went through surgery after being attacked, we were not sure she was going to live.

It was possible that further surgery would be needed.

We told the vets we’d only give it one go, if it was going to be extensive multiple surgeries with uncertain outcome, we’d have her put to sleep, as did not want to put her through that.

We thought long and hard about this, my instinct was “I d do anything” but needed some time for rational thought and whether we’d spend 20k (that was a factor too, insurance would have covered only a quarter of that)

What would happen if you did nothing? Would she suffer pain, or just lose mobility?

EntropyRising Wed 02-Oct-19 09:40:41

Chickeny thanks for your response and I'm so sorry your dog was attacked. I had a dog some years ago attacked by a pit bull and ultimately she had to be put down because she never recovered, but not before we spent 4K on reconstructing her beautiful snout. Truly horrific.

What would happen if you did nothing? Would she suffer pain, or just lose mobility?

I have a vet surgeon appt today, hopefully I'll get to the bottom of this. As it stands I have an appt 2 weeks from today to have her elbow reconstructed, we'll have to pay probably about 2K of this.

It really depends on what the state of her hips are, how immediate the need is for surgery. I won't put her through 3 major surgeries in rapid succession.

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