Longlease Bernese Mountain Dogs Articles and Information

Bernese Mountain Dog, Molly, with HD and ED

From Martha Hoverson:

Last spring Molly came home to us, 2 months old and adorable as could be! She spent her first few months growing before our eyes, getting big enough to visit the beach and the park and meet other dogs. Because she was our first dog, we didn’t know that what we took to be the goofy-looking run of a growing puppy, or the balkiness of a girl who couldn’t see a good reason for taking a walk on that leash, was actually a sign of orthopedic problems. At seven months old, we took Molly to an obedience class. As soon as we started to work on the “Come” signal, so that the instructor saw Molly both coming and going, it was apparent to her more experienced eyes that Molly was limping. I made an appointment for our local vet to examine her, and that took place around eight months old. By now she had been showing signs of limping for about two months, but it never seemed to be the same side. Was it the right or the left? On physical examination, it was the right hip that clicked. We left Molly with the vet for x-rays and returned at the end of the day to hear that she has bilateral hip dysplasia and that the left hip was the worse of the two, already showing arthritic changes. We began a regimen of Cosequin and a buffered aspirin every day. Our vet recommended that we take her to the Foster Small Animal Hospital at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine for an orthopedic consultation. It took a while to get an appointment at Tufts; Molly was now 9 months old and weighed about 75 pounds. Her limping and discomfort had increased to the point that I was feeling quite distressed about her prospects.

At Tufts we saw Dr. Robert McCarthy, and his sharp eye recognized something that no one else had yet. He had me walk Molly up and down the hallway while his students and residents watched. “Where is the primary lameness?” Everyone had a different answer. Was it the right rear? Left rear? Or was it one of the front limbs? The most significant lameness was on her left front leg. After waiting for a new set of x-rays, we learned that Molly also has bilateral elbow dysplasia, with arthritis present in both elbows. He confirmed the diagnosis of severe hip dysplasia on the left. The right hind leg, where limping had been most noticeable to us, was actually the best limb Molly had going for her! But time was short. As she grew (funny how dogs want to keep growing at nine months old!), there was a strong likelihood that the right hip would worsen. Dr. McCarthy recommended that we begin by repairing the right hip, then move on to the elbows, hoping that shoring up those three joints would help us avoid the need for a Total Hip Replacement on the left.

On December 13, 2002, Molly had a Triple Pelvic Osteotomy on her right hip, performed by Dr. McCarthy at Tufts. We brought her home two days later and settled in for 8 weeks of recuperation and rehabilitation. We set up a ramp on the back stairs to ease her way in and out of the yard and kept her in two rooms of the house. Because her elbows are arthritic, she tends to give it some thought before arising, so it was not hard to keep her quiet in the house. For the first few weeks she was allowed only very brief trips outside to do her business, and always on the leash. After three weeks, Don began taking her on short walks just on our block. At four weeks after the surgery, and following the advice of Nancy Melone, a friend from the Berner-L e-mail list, Molly and Don went for increasingly longer walks for the rest of the rehab period. By the end of that time she looked very good. On her return to Tufts for x-rays, the fractures created by Dr. McCarthy were almost healed. He indicated that because the right hind leg was her best limb, she had to use it a bit more than a TPO patient with strong front legs; therefore her healing would take a few more weeks. But the good news for our imprisoned girl was the go-ahead to play in the backyard without being on the leash!

On March 14, 2003, Molly will undergo arthroscopic elbow surgery, again with Dr. McCarthy, to clean up the bone spurs in her elbows. Unlike the TPO, this is not reconstructive surgery. But it will give her the best chance at feeling good, we think, based on all the advice we have received and reading we have done. She will always have the arthritis, but with supplements and anti-inflammatories, she already feels pretty good most of the time. She is in fighting trim at a year old and about 76 pounds. Her attitude toward life and people and other dogs, especially, is one big “Hello!!!” It’s just that she pronounces it, “Rooby-roo!!!”

Bernese Mountain Dog Molly after TPO surgery
Molly after her TPO surgery

Bernese Mountain Dog, Molly,
Hey, my hair has grown back, I am just fine!

For more early pics of Molly on the Longlease Bernese Mountain Dogs Friends' Gallery
<click here>

and for Molly with her new Baby Berner Brother, Sam,
<click here>

14th March '03 - Update after latest surgery

Molly underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery at Tufts this morning, and the report this afternoon is that all went well! There were bone spurs on both elbows (Fragmented Coronoid Processes) and those have been removed. She woke up well from the anesthesia, and we will be able to go and pick her up tomorrow rather than waiting until Sunday. Hurray! Now we just have to get through 2-3 weeks of very quiet rest, followed by a gradual return to normal activity. I have been again reading websites about games to play with a dog who must rest. Laurie Bryce's TPLO website is invaluable:


Molly is a champ at the shell game since her TPO recovery! I found another site today with some helpful ideas:


Surgery doesn't cure elbow dysplasia, but with any luck this will allow Molly to be more comfortable and slow down the progression of Degenerative Joint Disease. Her attitude remains friendly; she went off with the Vet Tech yesterday with nary a backward glance, despite having been to Tufts for her previous surgery. It's a good thing she isn't shy!
Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive since I first posted about Molly just before her TPO in December. If Molly were here, I feel sure she would add her Rooby-Roo, too!

27th April '03 - Further update from Martha

"Here is Molly having fun in the water with her friend, Eiger! Eiger loves to swim and coaxed Molly to play, too."

And water therapy is the best! Way to go Molly, good to see you having fun again.

Bernese Mountain Dogs, Molly & Eiger

HD and ED links:

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia


Orthopedic Foundation for Animals

Triple Pelvic Osteotomy

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