Here is Kim's story of Rocky, a Golden Retriever puppy bought for
It was August 2005 when idly trawling through websites we came across one
advertising puppies. There was this gorgeous litter of puppies bright eyed and
fun looking just calling out to us, and it wasn't too far away. We emailed them
and asked for more information and were quickly told that they had been reduced
to £250 and if we wanted one we needed to see them quickly as they would all be
gone. Being totally new to dog ownership we didn't question anything we had no
reason to! We didn't know a single thing about health tests, hips, elbows or
eyes. On an ill thought out whim we wanted a puppy, and had decided on this
The following day we arrived to a busy house with filthy puppies running around
together in the kitchen. A huge bowl of dried food on the floor that they all
seemed to enjoy whenever they felt like it. We were told they'd been playing in
the garden, hence their colour! Mum and Dad were there too and they appeared to
be happy dogs, despite them barking the street down when we knocked on the door!
We chose Rocky as he was the one who came over to us when he was ready, he was
happy to play with us rather than concentrating on each other. Looking back,
once we'd chosen him and handed over our money, she couldn't get us out of the
door quick enough. When we asked what food he'd been fed she couldn't even
remember and we aren't entirely sure when his actual birthday is.
But what did it matter..? We had our cute puppy at home and quickly fell head
over heels in love!
Rocky was 10 months old when we noticed a problems. He was booked in to be
castrated and after the operation a vet nurse told us that his hips felt a
little loose and should we notice anything unusual to bring him back in for
x-rays. It was after this his behaviour changed too. He became fearful of others
dogs and would go crazy anytime he saw one. For another 8
months we carried on as we were, trying our best to get him over his fears but
we were getting nowhere. The only thing that dog wanted to do when out was play
with his Frisbee.
It was when he was around 18 months old that he started lying down after only 5mins
walking. He'd chase his Frisbee once and need a lie down, we knew this couldn't
be right for an 18 month old dog! We took him to the vets who told us they
could see nothing wrong, it was only when we reminded them of what had been said
after his castration that they took us seriously and agreed to x-ray him. A week
later he was x-rayed and the results told us that his hips were not
perfect but not a major worry, however he did have an extra vertebrae in his
spine that could be causing him difficulties. On this they told us to limit his
exercise to ten minute on lead walks and referred us to a specialist, thank God
Meeting the Specialist
A month later we drove to North West Surgeons in Runcorn for our first
consultation; on examining Rocky they could feel problems with his hips and
wanted to take their own x-rays. A few weeks later he had his x-rays.
They noted he did have an extra vertebrae but this wasn't causing him any
obvious problems. However, his hips were a lot worse than first thought, both
were popping in and out each time he moved. They explained all our options to us
and it was decided that from April to July we would attempt conservative
management, limiting his exercise, monitoring his weight and hydrotherapy twice
weekly to see if that helped at all. Sadly for us it didn't.
From all the poking and prodding he went through at each vet visit he became
more and more fearful with every session of hydrotherapy. By early July we had a
dog who was struggling to stand up, couldn't bare our others dogs coming
anywhere near him and was becoming so agitated with his hydrotherapy that he was
starting to show signs of aggression to the nurses, followed by refusal to eat
for days after a vet visit. We contacted a behaviourist who advised us on how
best to manage our hydrotherapy sessions to make them less stressful for Rocky.
Fortunately soon after we had our check up at North West Surgeons. X-rays showed
that there was no improvement with his condition and the next step would be a
total hip replacement on his right leg. First of all he had to go to Liverpool
University for an MRI scan so we could be 100% sure that his extra vertebrae
wasn't adding to any of his problems. Luckily it wasn't. However his hatred of
any vet continued and we had to decide whether we should go ahead and put
him through the stress of a hip replacement, or have him put to sleep, as life
as he was, was only filled with pain. Our surgeons fear was that after the
operation he would become upset by their need to examine him and any sudden
movements could cause his weak leg to break or dislocate his new hip. On reading
stories of successful hip replacements and on consulting our behaviourist who
worked closely with North West Surgeons on our behalf, we were able to go ahead and use
a drug to help Rocky's anxiety through the operation.
Rocky went in to North West Surgeons on the morning
of his operation, by
5:30pm we had a phone call to let us know it had been successful
and he was doing well. He was behaving well and allowing the nurses to take care
of him, however they didn't want to undo the good work by keeping him in
overnight and so asked for us to pick him up and bring him home straight away.
It was nerve wracking to say the least, but quite amazing to see him using his
leg so well so soon. We were lucky in that the only complication we had was with
his staples. After being removed a fortnight after his operation, the following
day the wound somehow burst open, leaving a rather shocked looking Rocky with a
gaping hole in his hip area. A quick trip back to North West Surgeons and
another GA and he was re-stapled and none the worse for his ordeal.
After the Operation
Two weeks later we returned for his post op check up and they were happy with
the way his right leg was looking. His staples were able to come out too, this
time without any problems! We went back in early December for his three month
post op check and they were so happy with the way he was using his right leg
they decided x-rays would not be necessary and discharged him. We've been
building up his exercise day by day, and by March he should be a normal dog,
able to do what others do. There is a chance he may need his left hip replaced
in the future, but for now were taking each day as it comes and hoping for the
Rockys Owners message
So far his problems and treatment have cost £7,000 in the last year alone. We
expect he'll cost more in the future too. Thankfully he is insured and so we've
not had to find the money for his treatment ourselves. Though we do tell him
he's our expensive bargain basement dog. £250 may seem cheap for a puppy and a
good deal in some peoples eyes, but a puppy can only be sold at that price for a
reason and that reason usually seems to be lack of health tests.
We learnt the hard way, a bargain puppy costs a lot of emotional strain, heart
ache and money in the long run. Never again would we entertain the idea of
buying a puppy without thinking it all through and seeing proof of all health
tests, hips, elbows and eyes.
We can only hope by sharing our story that others
will learn from this too.