Weeks 2 & 3 – Researching Dog ACL Injury

What is best for my dog’s Knee Injury?


Darcy wearing her knee brace for dog acl injury
Darcy wearing her knee brace for dog ACL injury

So, now I have an injured dog and have been told two different things regarding what would be best for my dog.  I always considered veterinarians to be “experts” in dealing with dogs.  I am finding this is not always the case.  

I spent many hours researching alternative, natural and non-surgical therapies for a dog ACL injury and discovered something called Conservative Management.  I believe that veterinarians should give you this information instead of just telling you about surgeries.  I found many websites with lots of great information.  The best was tiggerpoz.com as far as the wealth of information provided, in my opinion.  Conservative Management is a complete restriction of your dog’s activity for 8 weeks!  And, I mean complete.  After that, months of recovery with surgery or without.  I started the eight weeks from the second vet visit since it seemed like Darcy had gone backward to the point of day one.

The second vet called about two weeks later to see how Darcy is doing.  I told them that she is improving gradually and the lovely lady who called me told me the exact vet’s notes from my visit.  Well, this was eye-opening as it said that if Darcy was recovering over time, she could heal on her own.  Now wait a minute, she didn’t tell me that in the visit.  So, Conservative Management is something valid, but I wasn’t told about it.   Argggggg!

This is not going to be easy, but nor is getting surgery for your dog.  The recovery time for surgery for your dog is also about 8-12 weeks, so I figured I had nothing to lose.  And, the second vet told me I could always choose surgery later if need be.

 I, myself had an Achilles tear at the beginning of the year and thank goodness I had a doctor who believes in healing yourself.  Another doctor told me I would need surgery.  I am 100% healed without surgery and had the brilliant thought that my dog could do the same!  

Darcy does not like kennels.  I’m not sure, but believe it’s from when her first owners dropped her off at the SPCA because they couldn’t handle her and a new baby.  Lucky me!  For the surgery, Darcy would have to be kenneled overnight and that is just not going to happen.  When I say she doesn’t like, I mean she hates being in a kennel.  You can hear her from outside the vet lamenting her jailing.  In addition, the surgery itself is a trauma.  And, one of the surgery explanations the vet sent me said: “the dog’s own healed tissue will hold the knee”. That sounded a lot like what happens during letting the dog heal on her own in conservative management.  In addition, some of the side effects and possible complications from the surgeries sounded much worse than anything I read on conservative management.

Conservative Management

Back to Conservative Management.  This means activity restriction for the first eight weeks and then a SLOW introduction back to activity over months.  

I had read about the side effects of the anti-inflammatories I was giving to my dog, so I stopped them.  The next day, her knee was swollen and I researched natural anti-inflammatories for dogs and came up with the same thing I had used on myself to heal from my Achilles injury: Turmeric.  This stuff rocks!  My husband, dog and I take it every day.  Darcy’s weight is about 54 lbs now and we give her 1/4 tsp a day.  We use turmeric for her and capsules for ourselves.  We just mix it in with her pumpkin (used for keeping her from getting a ruptured anal gland) wet food and dry.  She seems to like it.  Her swelling went down overnight.  

We looked into what we would do for ourselves for this type of injury and used the R.I.C.E. method on her as much as we could.  Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.  Some of these are easier than others.  We purchased a compression leg brace (you will need to also purchase a chest harness, we got this one) and it definitely helps with keeping Darcy’s leg tracking better and she walks with less of a limp with it on.  She waits for us to put it on in the morning, so I’m taking this as a good sign.  We covered any slippery surface in the house with carpet.  We use a towel sling to walk her out to do her business. We just loop it under her belly and take some of her weight off of her back legs.  We only use the sling on going up the stairs and up the hill in the backyard. We walk her out on a leash, let her do her thing and then walk her right back in.  We cover anything she can jump up on.  For the couch, we use my Balanceball and pillows.  We put another dog bed in the living room and keep her restricted to that room.  We blockaded the dog doors, she used to have free roaming access to the large backyard.  I don’t give her the pain killers.  She gets too loopy and because she can’t feel her injury, puts more weight on it.

Now, we are in week three and Darcy has been improving in small increments.  It’s getting harder to keep her restricted as she is starting to feel better.  But, I understand the importance of the restriction, so, unfortunately, have to give her the sedatives every day.  I am researching natural sedatives but haven’t come up with anything yet.  I tried chamomile tea, but she turned her nose up at that.  Let me know, in the comments below, if you have any suggestions for a natural sedative that will work

I will admit that there were times that I wondered if I was doing the right thing for Darcy.  She still wags her tail, but sometimes I feel heartbroken to see her limping.  I understand rationally that this is all part of the healing process, but emotionally none of us wants a member of our family injured.  But, she is never depressed.  She has been completely happy and cooperative throughout this whole process (some days more than others!).

Feel free to comment, ask questions, or share your experiences, other blogs and tips below in the comments. Until next time, take care.

Click here for Week 4 to see what happens next in my dog ACL injury saga!

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