The good news: Ishka is fine.
The bad news: we've had advice from the vet to completely retire her from racing.
Back in mid-2012, Ishka started slowing down on races, and limping occasionally. She saw the vet who diagnosed a strained muscle and prescribed a break from racing. Ishka didn't train prior to the Wild Dog Derby in South Australia (which meant she wasn't part of the team who escaped on the Night They Got Away). She pulled up lame during the first heat in South Australia, and you can see in J's videos how she wasn't pulling. She had more time off leading up to the Altitude 500 race at Dinner Plain, but pulled up lame in the first heat there too. In both race meets, she didn't compete in the second heat. At the final SHCV race for the season, Ishka didn't race at all.
Since the racing season finished and we moved house, Ishka's limp has disappeared and reappeared apparently randomly. At times she is running around on three legs, but within a few minutes, she's be weight bearing almost normally. Almost. It didn't seem to be related to any activity, in fact, she's more likely to limp after resting. It was like her leg or foot had "gone to sleep" while she was sleeping and then when she woke up, she had some numbness and pins and needles, but once she got moving, it would gradually return to normal.
J shot the following video to show the vet, because most of the time the limp was very slight.
First J spoke to our friends at Snofall Siberians (check out their new facebook page!), where Bolo met the long necked sheep. They advised another vet consultation and a dietary supplement. The vet, Dr Barry, diagnosed a partially torn ACL, (just like Australian Rules footballers get) which presumably dates back to her first limp, but even after all these months of limping, its still only a very minor tear, so it very difficult to feel. Because Dr Barry specializes in chiropractic style treatment, he recommended J consult a vet with more experience in the type of surgery Ishka was likely to need.
The surgery recommended is called a TPLO or Tibial Plateau Leveling surgery. It involves cutting the tibia (shin bone) in a curve and shifting the cut piece into a new position to change the angle that the bones connect at. The angle gets dropped from around 25 degrees to somewhere between 2 and 14 degrees. A plate and screws are inserted to hold everything together while healing.
In our experience, about 50% of the dogs will start to walk on the limb within 24 hours after surgery. Within 5 days after surgery most dogs will begin weight-bearing on the operated limb. Vet Surgery Central
However, to ensure complete recovery, the dog needs an extended period of "bed rest". With a tomboy husky who loves nothing more than to wrestle and play chasey, football style, with her brothers? Oh dear. We were discussing creating a new pen under the deck, discussing banning her from the backyard, discussing coming home from work during the day to take her out for toileting on a leash, discussing pre-emptive apologies to the neighbours for her complaints about being separated from Czar, Bolo and Frankie. It was not looking like much fun, for us or Ishka.
J took Ishka to see the vet who specialises in these orthopaedic surgeries, Dr Mark, yesterday. Fortunately, Dr Mark recommends that Ishka doesn't go through the surgery, due to the risks of arthritis. Instead, he has prescribed a series of injections that will relieve pain, promote cartilage formation and stimulate the production of joint fluid, all of which will keep Ishka's knee functioning as best as possible.
He also suggested that we keep her quiet - no bouncing up and down the back stairs, no chasey, no football, no jumping up into the crates. So, we've rearranged the crates and are currently using a leash to control her speed up and down the stairs to the backyard. (J suggested that with an extenda-lead, he can stand on the deck and let her go down the steps without having to go with her. I fell for it, and started to splutter at the idea, before I saw his grin.)
And no more racing for poor Little Miss. Its a bit heart breaking, but as she's already 7 and a half. 7 is the age at which dogs are often raced in a veteran category, rather than the open classes. Pretty soon, the increasingly grey black-and-white girl would have been racing only for her enjoyment anyway.
Ishka, we hope you enjoy retirement, and many more years of keeping your Daddy on his toes!