Dolly the nine year old rescued Shih Tzu

Dolly was a two year old adult when Irene took her on from a rescue group. She had been used as a breeding bitch on a puppy farm, and had been bought by the rescue group who had felt sorry for her. Irene saw her on their website, and when she went to see her for the first time, she had given birth to nine puppies. Irene waited until the pups were fully weaned, before visiting again to bring her home.


Dolly had suffered a difficult start in life: she was underweight, and in poor general condition. Irene brought her to see me straight away for a thorough check up, and the first thing that was obvious was a severe malformation of both of her front legs. She was suffering from a condition called “valgus”, where both forelegs were deviated. They were rotated around due to a malformed elbow joint. Instead of her legs being straight up and down, like normal, they were twisted by about 45’ on each side. The front legs are supposed to move straight forwards, as if to twelve o’clock on a clock face. Instead of this, Dolly’s left foreleg moved to the left ( as if to ten o’clock) and her right foreleg moved to the right (as if to two o’clock).
This deformity meant that Dolly had a strange looking gait, but she was able to get around fine for the most part. Occasionally, if she was running fast towards something, she might trip up, falling flat on her face, but this was uncommon. She lived a happy life, well adjusted to her abnormality.
In theory, the problem could be fixed surgically: Irene saw a similar case undergoing a major operation on The Supervet. Both legs were surgically fractured, then straightened up with an external metal frame to keep them in place. It was obvious to Irene that this type of procedure would be far too extreme for Dolly: she was managing to live her life in comfort, and the surgery would be very traumatic.


As Dolly has grown older, her crooked legs have begun to cause greater difficulties. The abnormal angle of weight bearing means that her elbow joints are prone to developing osteoarthritis, becoming swollen and uncomfortable. Irene has noticed that in the past six months, Dolly has slowed up, having difficulty getting up if she has been lying down for a while. She’s fine for a short distance once she gets going, but on longer walks, she has to be carried after a while, especially in winter and when the weather is damp.  She’s also more uncomfortable in the morning, after lying in one position overnight while sleeping. Irene can tell from her big eyes and the expression on her face that she’s feeling sore. She has to be carried outside sometimes, to go to the toilet, as she doesn’t want to walk by herself.
These signs are typical of osteoarthritis: Dolly’s joints are suffering from inflammation, because of the abnormal wear and tear caused by the odd angle of her legs. If you could see inside her joints, they’d be red, sore, swollen and stiff. When she lies down for a while, inflammatory fluid gathers inside the joints, making them even more swollen and sore. As she moves around, the fluid disperses, and the joints are more comfortable.
The good news is that there’s highly effective treatment available for arthritis: Dolly has started long term daily anti-inflammatory tablets. These will decrease the swelling, and relieve the pain, so she should be able to live a more normal, active, life.
Dolly will always have crooked legs and she’ll continue to suffer from arthritis. But with the daily medication, she’ll be a much happier dog, and Irene will be a much happier owner.

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