Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Peg Leg for Peri?

Remember Peri, my ewe that was bitten by a rattlesnake? Here's the latest photo taken of her leg today. (If you click on it, you can see a larger version.)

The wound has healed up well, and I haven't been bandaging it or giving it any special care at all for quite some time. However, I'm beginning to believe that the tendon damage from the necropsy is permanent.

Peri has regained her usual feisty personality and is finally gaining weight again. She doesn't seem to have any pain in the leg anymore. But she still can't use the foot properly.

There's no stability to the ankle joint. If she tries to put weight on it, it sags to the side as if there are no tendons supporting it. So she still spends most of her time lying down, and hobbles vigorously on three and a half legs whenever she wants to move.

So now I'm wondering if I can come up with some kind of splint or leg brace that she can wear. If I can find some way to hold that ankle immobile for her, I think that she could regain an almost-normal life.

I'd like it to be something that

  • Stays in place
  • Holds the joint relatively immobile
  • I can make inexpensively myself
  • Is comfortable for her
  • Doesn't have to be removed and replaced every day
  • Is easy to remove, clean, and replace when necessary
  • Is not going to rot or get too gross from routine exposure to weather and sheep manure.
Anybody have any suggestions?

If you missed the first few episodes of Peri's story (or if you just want to see photos of how the wound has progressed), you can find them here:

August 7: Peri's Reprieve
August 8: Not for the Faint of Heart
August 9: Getting Used to the Maggots
August 29: Peri's Progress and Other Photos


Heather O. said...

I read your blog everyday and truly enjoy it. Thank you for having it.
I understand what you want to do for Peri. I am approaching this from my orthopedic experience w/ people, experience w/ costuming in theater w/ unusual pieces for actors and from the animal’s perspective.
You know if an animal has anything foreign on their body they will try to chew it off, no matter what!
A split to stabilize the ankle would need to be taken off everyday like people. If it’s on all the time moisture and dirt it will break down the skin if not attended to everyday. Any person w/ a splint of any kind or prosthesis needs to be removed & cleaned and skin checked everyday for breakdown. If you have skin breakdown, you’ll be right back where you started.
Comfort will be difficult to determine on an animal, b/c they can’t tell you – really.
Keeping something on her may have to strap around her hips or abdomen and then there are comfort and skin breakdown issues.
Making something sturdy to put up w/ outdoor abuse is a challenge in of itself. Metal is too harsh and difficult to mold; wood too soft; PVC pipe may work but cutting it and padding it to make it comfortable and be “indestructible” is the challenge.
The other point being if you’re trying to facilitate her walking w/ a splint, the splint will take the weight and her leg will not get stronger, only weaker w/out use. The best thing may be for her to keep using it and get it stronger on her own: “sheep physical therapy”. Are you able to get near her and move the leg around yourself, kind of a passive exercise? Would she tolerate you moving it around and helping her stretch it?
I hope these comments and suggestions help you, but you’ve probably already thought of all this anyway. Good luck my dear.

Paige said...

I am thinking some pvc pipe, cut in half, pad with ??, attach velcro to pvc and then wrap around leg. This is the only thing I can think of.

Nancy Chase said...

Thanks Paige. A lot of people are suggesting the PVC splint to me. I think I'm going to experiment with a few similar ideas and see if any of them work.

Nancy Chase said...

Heather! Of course, I should have thought to ask you first. With your background in both medicine and costuming, you're a natural to understand the various issues involved here.

I don't think chewing the splint off will be much of an issue. Peri spent several weeks with bandages on the leg without attempting to chew on them. It probably helps that sheep only have bottom teeth in the front, so their ability to chew is not like a dog's.

I understand your suggestions about physical therapy to help strengthen the leg. I've left it alone this long, hoping to see some sign that it will be able to improve on its own.

But at this point I strongly suspect that the tendons around that ankle are simply destroyed. There is no stability to the joint at all, even after all this time.

If you try to move the joint with your fingers, it wiggles and flops freely in any direction.

So I don't think it's a matter of helping her heal at this point. I think it's a matter of trying to give her back as much of a normal lifestyle as I can.

I've been getting lots of suggestions from people on what I can try, so I think I may experiment with a few methods to see what works.