Does my dog need to have surgery for a CCL injury?
I am starting this blog to write about my (and my dog’s) journey with a cruciate ligament, CCL injury, dog ACL tear or dog knee injury. I have opted for the non-surgical method of treatment called “conservative management”. I hope this blog can help others make informed decisions for themselves and their dog. A little bit about my dog. She is an extremely active eight year old golden retriever. She gets daily romps through the forest and has full access to a huge backyard all day and night.
It starts with my dog, Darcy holding her left hind leg up on the morning of Friday, December 11, 2015. She had chased after a bobcat on the previous morning’s walk with my husband. So, we called our vet and got in that day. The veterinarian looked at her and knew immediately what it was. She performed the “drawer test” and said that Darcy’s cruciate ligament was torn and that she suspected it was a full and not partial tear. She told me Darcy would need x-rays and TPLO surgery ($5500) right away and that I could take the weekend to see if Darcy improves at all. They gave me anti-inflammatories and pain killers. She also told me that I could walk Darcy about a 1/4 mile each day to keep her active even if she is holding up the leg. She informed me that Darcy could not heal on her own and that some small dogs could possibly heal on their own. She told me that Darcy’s other leg would get the same injury within a year and to massage the knee even if I didn’t know what I was doing. And, that I would need to have the arthritis removed from the area down the road after the surgery. I was told that I needed to make a decision by the following Monday.
I left their office completely upset. I couldn’t understand how they could know the extent of her injury without more diagnostic tests. The vet told me that this was the most common surgery in dogs and that her leg would be functionally better than it ever was after the surgery. They called me on Monday to ask how Darcy was doing. She was starting to put weight on her foot, but only barely. They said I could take my time and decide when I would want to schedule the surgery.
A couple of days later, I received a packet of information from them showing all of the surgeries available for this type of injury. It showed Extracapsular Repair, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO), Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) and Intracapsular Repair (Over the top method). It also showed what an x-ray looks like for a dog without surgery. I went online to see what an x-ray looks like for a dog that had gone through surgery and they were the same. I had gone online and done some research on my own, nothing too extensive because I trusted that my vet knew the best course of action for my dog.
The following Thursday, my husband came home and started to roughhouse with the dog. I about freaked out! “Operation Training Husband” started that day. The next day Darcy was worse and I decided to get a second opinion from another vet.
Friday, December 18, 2015 I met with another veterinarian about Darcy’s CCL injury. They couldn’t believe that the first vet had told me it was okay to walk Darcy while she was injured. I had not walked her as we had a ton of snow that week and it was slippery out. I was fearful that she would injure her other leg, so had let her rest that week. They also told me that Darcy was 4 lbs overweight and that she would need to eat about 10% less food to lose the weight. (I have since found out that my husband had been overfeeding the dog because he “felt sorry” for her). They really manhandled Darcy to the point that her knee popped and she snapped at the vet. They did x-rays and said that based on the liquid in her knee, she needed surgery, but they told me not to do TPLO and to do TTA surgery. They don’t do this surgery at the office, I would have to drive for an hour to a vet that specializes in this surgery ($4000-4500). They gave me more anti-inflammatories, sedatives and pain killers. They told me Darcy would need to have a complete restriction of activity and that I could take as long as I wanted to make my decision, but the odds of her healing on her own were low.
Now, I started really researching this on my own. I had been told two different things and needed to know more about what was going on with my dog. Click Weeks 2 & 3 to read on about our Conservative Management journey.
Feel free to comment, ask questions, or share your experiences, other blogs and tips below in the comments. Until next time, take care.