Knee Surgery Enhances Quality of Life for Seizure Sniffing Service Dog.June 03, 2010

June 3, 2010, N. Andover, MA –The surgical staff of Bulger Veterinary Hospital performs hundreds of life-saving surgeries each year, but a recent procedure was one that they will not soon forget.

On May 28, Dr. Lauren Blaeser performed reconstructive knee surgery on a six-year-old Pomeranian service dog named Bear. Adopted by Linda Blais of Danvers on the day he was scheduled to be euthanized, Bear has since been trained to respond to or warn his owner of an impending seizure. When Bear recently became sidelined with a potentially crippling knee injury, and without funds to cover the costs of surgery, Blais, who suffers from a seizure disorder, turned to Dr. Blaeser and Bulger Veterinary Hospital for help.

“I was amazed at their understanding of my unique and difficult situation,” said Blais, who was not charged for the successful surgery performed in North Andover. “Bear is not only my best friend, but he is my savior. I depend on him to keep me alive and alert, and this surgery was a blessing and a gift to me and my family.”

First recognized nationally back in the early 1980s and made famous by the Lifetime television drama, “Within These Walls”, seizure dogs are trained to pick up on subtle changes in behavior or a scent from the epileptic owner prior to the onset of a seizure. In Blais’ case, Bear serves as her companion, protector and alarm system. This has been particularly important for Blais when driving since Bear gives her an early warning signal which lets her know that she must pull over and safely stop her vehicle.

On this day, Bear relied on others to do the saving. Under the watchful eye of Dr. Blaeser, a board-certified surgeon and Boxford native, Bear underwent anterior cruciate ligament and medial patella luxation surgery and must now undergo eight weeks of recovery and rehabilitation. During that time, Dr. Blaeser will carefully monitor and manage Bear’s pain and his ability to remain focused and alert as he continues to work while he heals.

It is not uncommon for toy breed dogs to have a medial patella luxation (MPL), a condition in which their kneecap slips out of its groove toward the other leg. In Bear’s case, not only did he have the most severe case of MPL but he had also torn his ACL ligament. The ACL is responsible for maintaining stability of the knee joint. The patella injury is repaired by deepening the groove where the kneecap glides and performing surgical procedures to realign the pull of the patella. The ACL injury is repaired with a lateral suture technique, which secures the joint while scar tissue is formed to permanently repair the injury.

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