Debating surgery for a dog
Ugh. This will be kind of long, but I would really appreciate some advice and guidance.
I have a 6 year old yellow lab who has been having some soundness problems since January. We diagnosed the shoulder problem reasonably quickly and just recently recognized the problem in his stifle as well. The shoulder has an OCD-type bone chip in there and some arthritis that was probably caused by the chip. The stifle has some soft tissue damage to the ligament (cruciate?) as well as some minor arthritis. Looking back, there were some days over the summer and fall when he was sore that I didn't recognize. He only started overtly limping in February, at first we thought he was tired/lethargic/etc.
We've tried several drugs that have had some positive results, but not as good as I'd like to see. He has also been on Adequan for 7 weeks.
I spent a couple months being frustrated by the poor quality of the vet work that was getting done before switching vets. My *wonderful* horse vet who usually doesn't take dog clients was willing to become my dogs primary physician which I'm incredibly grateful for. His opinion was that the problem probably wasn't something that could be fixed surgically since we're dealing with issues in two legs. He did refer us to a surgeon for a second opinion which we did earlier this week.
I really liked the surgeon, seemed like a nice, knowledgeable guy. The surgeon is recommending that we scope the shoulder and remove the chip. It'll require quite a bit of down time (6-8 weeks) and we'll 'hope' that the stifle problem will resolve itself with some rest. If not, then we'll look at doing surgery on the stifle as well. Or, the stifle might not be operable, and then we'll just be back to the same place we are now where we try and manage things with medications.
I'm really torn on what to do. On one hand, I love my dog SO much. I had to put my young mare to sleep a little less than a year ago and can't afford another horse, so this dog is everything to me. I'm a graduate student working part time and money is tight for me. I've already put a ton into x-rays, blood work, hospitalizations (he was really sick in January) etc. I can get a loan for the surgery, and if I was fairly certain it would solve our problems, I'd do it. But, I'm really worried we'll do the surgery, fix the shoulder, suffer through 'stall rest' and then realize the stifle is still a problem. My lab is used to being very active, and the current restricted activity has been hard on him. I honestly can't imagine how we'd get through restricting his activity even further (I'm guessing a long term sedative would be in order). I don't want to put him through all that if it isn't going to actually make a big difference. I have a call in to my regular vet to talk with him a little bit more about the surgeon's recommendations.
Does anyone have experience with a similar surgery? Any advice on what you'd do if you were in my position?