Being human, mistakes are expected. When I make one I prefer to share and let others learn from it. Recently, I made some mistakes when it came to nursing Phoebe’s fractured paw; each mistake born out of ignorance.
When we first took Phoebe to the emergency vet clinic, the vet found a small, simple fracture that he felt would heal in 3-4 weeks. He put a splint on her leg and told us to follow-up with her regular vet.
A few days later, the splint fell off. We took Phoebe to her regular vet for a follow-up and to get the splint reattached.
Based on the look of the original splint, reading the emergency vet’s report and the vet’s own x-rays, she told us that we needed to limit Phoebe’s movement. Basically, we were to keep her confined with the exception of potty breaks. We explained how exuberant Phoebe is, so after some discussion, the vet prescribed a sedative to keep the little Tigger-clone off her foot.
The sedatives worked for about a week, and then Phoebe slowly started to become active again. Ignorant move one, two and three:
- I thought we were supposed to keep Phoebe off her feet to avoid pain; In reality, I was supposed to keep her off her feet so she could heal.
- When Phoebe became more active, I thought it was because she was feeling better. In reality, she had quickly built a tolerance to the sedative and it lost its effect.
- When the vet said to limit Phoebe’s movement and only take her out on lead to go to the bathroom, I thought it was to prevent Phoebe from chasing after squirrels and trying to hop fences. In reality, it was to let the bone heal.
Wrong, wrong and wrong.
The vet meant that we literally were supposed to keep Phoebe off her feet until her paw healed, thus the sedative. Initially, we thought that keeping Phoebe basically immobilized was overkill. I guess it wasn’t.
Today was 4 weeks since Phoebe first hurt her paw. Needless to say, when we took her to the vet today, I fully expected that she would walk out splint-free and good as new. Wrong, again.
The result of ignorance
The vet took x-rays and they revealed that the fracture had not healed. In fact, it was worse. What was originally a simple fracture is now a full-blown break. The bone is not displaced, but there is definitely a space between the fractured parts.
Gee. All this time I thought that her paw was secure and safe within all the padding and splint. I guess that doesn’t matter when you have a jumpy dog like Phoebe. Repeated impact is repeated impact, no matter how you slice it.
Just to add fuel to the fire, we did such a good job of keeping her splint in good shape that we did not have to get the bandage changed. Well, four weeks in the splint with foot moisture and no break led to an infection between Phoebe’s toes. Ya just can’t win.
The vet prescribed a new sedative (the one she hates to prescribe) and an antibiotic. Before we can start the new sedative, we have to wean Phoebe off the old one so she doesn’t detox like a little junkie. We started the antibiotic right away.
The lesson learned
When you have a history with your vet, and the vet has not steered you wrong, it is probably a good idea to follow the instructions to the letter.
I have been going to my vet for over years. I own an aquatic turtle and my vet is one of the few reptile specialists around. She helped me nurse my turtle back from a serious case of sepsis to great health. It took 16 weeks of specific instructions. However, by following her instructions to the letter, my turtle recovered from what would normally be a death sentence. The point being, she has proven her desire to help and heal, and is not there just to make money off superfluous visits. I have no reason to doubt what she says.
The mistakes made these last few weeks were made out of ignorance. Now that I know better, I am following my vet’s instructions to the letter.
The Bottom Line
If you trust your vet and your pet is sick or injured, follow your vet’s instructions even if they sound goofy..
If prescribed sedatives, keep your eye out for signs of tolerance.
Splints are intended to help heal; they are not intended to prevent further injury.