Turning that vicious cycle into a virtuous one of reduced pain, better mobility, and weight loss is imperative for better quality of life.

A couple of months ago, we received a call – would we visit a doggy who couldn’t get up? And that was our first introduction to Skye the Springer Spaniel. She was lying on front, her back legs splayed, with little apparent control of her bladder judging by her urine-soaked tail, and there was an enormous tumour poking out from under her tummy (see picture).

At first glance, it looked like maybe she had slipped a disk – feeble back feet and a leaky bladder suggesting poor nerve supply to her rear end. However, on palpation, she had no spinal pain. Every time we tried to move her, she cried. We gave her an injection of opioid painkiller (like morphine, but not as strong), and waited. After 15 mins, we were able to lift her up to a standing position. It turned out both her knees were swollen, arthritic, and sore.

Because BOTH knees had been aching, she had not been lame, which would have alerted her owners to the problem. She’d been perceived as slowing down a bit due to her age (11) and due to her lump “spreading”. The lump had been present for a couple of years, steadily growing. The owner had been told, when it was golf-ball size, that it was a fatty lump and would require extensive surgery to remove. The diagnosis was correct, but the advice was sadly inaccurate. Operating when the lump was small would have been so simple. A decision had been made not to operate, on the basis of surgery being too invasive. Consequently, the lump grew bigger and bigger (as it would, in the large skin fold in the groin), and she had to swing her legs to get around it to walk. This hurt her knees. As the knees ached more and more, she got slower, did less, and got heavier. The extra weight put even more strain on the knees. The distribution of her extra pounds looked like her lump was spreading. So, when she suddenly couldn’t stand up, understandably, her owners thought the end was nigh.

Happily, once we’d got her to her feet, it was clear she could walk. And go for a wee, albeit a bit at a time, since squatting was painful. After a few days of hefty pain killers (anti-inflammatories and opioids), her mobility was showing steady improvement. She was also able to get into position to wee more easily, leading to better bladder function.

It was clear that if she was going to get any real quality of life back, the lump needed to go. Since it was only a benign fatty lump under the skin, removal would be, in principle, straightforward. Before we would operate, however, to reduce her anaesthetic risk, Skye needed to lose some weight.