Ember was born on September 9, 2014 and I picked her up from the Netherlands in early November. Shortly thereafter she accompanied me, Scout, and Fowler on a cross-country trip to Washington to visit family and meet Jared on his mid-tour leave from a foreign assignment. It was on this trip that we noticed something wasn't right. When Ember would sit, it was clear that her paws turned outwards, the right worse than the left. And her gait was off when she would walk or trot. We sought advice from other Drent owners and made the decision to change her food and wait a few days to see if it improved. However, after about a week, it was getting worse and we could feel a bony protrusion on the outside of her right wrist area. Her joints were also swollen, which can be normal in large breed puppies, but hers were excessive. Upon returning from the trip, I made an appointment with the vet for radiographs.
(Left bottom): this photo was taken mid-December. It is clear she is holding her elbow out on her right leg and both paws are turning out. This was when we decided that waiting it out wasn't an option
(Right top): photo taken late November. The left leg is fine here, but you can see the bumpiness in her right wrist
(Right bottom): the swelling in her joints is noticeable as are the outward placed paws
(Above): Ember in the car riding home after her surgery. She was casted up past her elbow. She was a trooper and never once chewed on her cast
(Right): Ember having supervised time outside her crate after surgery.
Diagnosis and Surgery
We visited 2 different vets and had x-rays taken and were told nothing was wrong. Clearly, something was wrong so we got a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. New x-rays were taken in addition to a C/T scan, where we were told that the distal ulnar growth plate in her right leg was damaged and that the growth plate had prematurely closed (luckily her left leg had no problems and weakness we were seeing in that leg was more likely a compensation for not wanting to use the injured leg).
What that essentially meant is that her ulna was not going to grow anymore since the distal growth plate is responsible for 90% of length in that bone. Her radius was still growing and was basically being anchored by her stunted ulna, which was resulting in bowing of the radius and deformation of the wrist joint. The good news is that it wasn't genetic. It was most likely a freak accident that occurred just before or after us picking her up. The bad news was that it required surgery. The surgeon was going to cut out a piece of the ulna and fill the gap with fat harvested from her behind her armpit. This would hopefully allow the radius to grow straight, and the ulna would be lengthened as it's ends were pulled apart by the pressure of the radius growing. The harvested fat would hopefully keep it apart long enough for the radius to reach maximum growth potential.
Recovery and Rehabiliation
Ember's recovery was long, and because she was so young, we lost a lot of time for socializing and training. She is resilient though, and besides being a little behind in her training on birds, she is a happy, well-adjusted girl who loves people and other dogs. She is wonderful in the house and enthusiastic in the field.
After her surgery, she had the cast on for 4 weeks, so she couldn't do anything besides go outside to potty and have supervised snuggle time. The day after she got her cast off, we started rehabilitation, which included laser therapy and hydrotherapy. Ember developed a love for water, and throughout the summer we took her swimming as much as possible.
Overall the surgery was successful. Her paw still turns out some, and there is still slight bowing of the limb, however she has full use of her arm, and her elbow has only slight in-congruency. I can't imagine how bad it would have been if we had done nothing. She is maturing into a beautiful girl and we have hopes that she will still be able to have at least one litter of pups.
*UPDATE JUNE 2017 - Ember was cleared by her surgeon and will need no further surgery! The incongruence in her elbow is minimal and she was given a PRP (protein rich plasma) injection.