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Conservative Management Success – Finn the Chocolate Lab

conservative management success in large dogAfter stumbling upon this website about a year ago, I thought it’d be good to share my own experiences with my dog and conservative management.

Taking it back a bit, it all started in February 2016. I have a pretty active 8 year old (7 yo at the time) 85 lb chocolate labrador named Finn. He spent most of his life chasing balls and frisbees, as most labs do. Lately I had noticed that after some rigorous activity like a game of fetch, he would often be stiff when rising, limp slightly for a day then be back to normal the following morning. I didn’t think much of it as he never yelped in pain or held a limp longer than 24hr.

I thought that maybe with his age, he’s beginning to get a bit stiff and I decided to pay a visit to my local hydro therapist to help sooth his aches and teach him how to swim. (Long story short, we grew up in an area with no bodies of water, so he never swam!)

I took him in for a consult and is where this all started. The therapist immediately pointed out that he most likely has a partly torn cruciate in his hind right, which was later confirmed by the vet using the drawer test method. Along with the drawer test he also showed other signs such as not fully weight bearing on the affected leg, had some muscle atrophy in his hamstring, and would limp after heavy activity.

I went home feeling sad and extremely guilty that I didn’t notice this sooner, and was unsure of what to do. The therapist seemed hopeful and confident that conservative management would serve him well and that with his very slight limping, it could possibly be a very slight tear instead of a full tear.

I began strict activity restriction for 6-8 weeks. Few short potty breaks throughout the day, and luckily he is just a couch potato at home, so I didn’t have to worry about him being too wound up. We did lots of brain games, so he was at least mentally tired. Paired with the activity restriction, we also did hydro therapy once a week for 4 months. I also worked to get his weight down a bit and adjusted his diet to include a good amount of joint supplements and anti-inflammatories.

These included:

– Green lipped mussel powder
– Turmeric paste
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
– Ester-C
– Other herbal anti-inflammatories such as bosweilia and devils claw

It showed some improvement, he no longer limped but he still wasn’t fully weight bearing on his hind right. I was stumped. I went back to the vet for another consult, and he suggested I try cold laser therapy. This is where things began improving a lot.

We started right away, doing 2 sessions a week on both knees and hips. After a couple sessions he was no longer stiff getting up and even the hydro therapist noticed an improvement on how he distributed his weight; it was even across all 4 legs! I was so happy.

It’s been almost a year now from when we began CM, and he’s doing better than ever. We can’t wait for summer to arrive so that we can swim a lot more outdoors, we enjoy longer walks now and hikes on occasion. No limping at all! I believe conservative management was very successful for us, him being a large breed dog I was skeptical but I think we did well considering it was only a partial tear and not a full tear. If it had been a full tear, I think maybe we would have considered doing TPLO.

We don’t do any off leash stuff still, as I still want to keep his activity somewhat under control. We still are continuing doing cold laser and hydro, but only a couple times a month compared to every week when we first started.

I hope this experience can help someone out there who might be dealing with a similar situation!

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9 Responses to Conservative Management Success – Finn the Chocolate Lab

  1. Deb January 12, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

    I have a Bernese Mountain Dog who is about the same weight as your lab and this is very helpful, while we try to decide what’s best for her partial tear. The vets all think surgery is best (TPLO) but we know others whose similarly sized dogs have done well without it. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

  2. Natalie February 7, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    Update on Finn:

    We’ve had a small relapse and are taking it back to square one again. We had a snow fall here and he got a bit too excited, and it was my fault for not keeping a better eye on him. I think there was too much hopping around on our walk one evening through the snow, and he is lame again on his leg. I’ve immediately decreased all activity and I will watch his leg and continue with caution. Frustrating having a set back, but I’m trying not to feel discouraged!

    • Candice March 17, 2017 at 6:13 am #

      I’m so sorry to hear!!! Please keep us all posted. When was your original post written? I just started conservative management on my 73lb lab mix, and though its only been a week, I’m growing impatient. I know i need to be patient. How did you feed Finn the supplements? My dog, Heisenberg won’t eat them. I’ve pureed apples, berries and mixed the powders in with them, but he won’t touch them. He ate his yogurt with his supplements mixed in, but threw them all up.

      • Natalie March 17, 2017 at 7:55 am #

        Hi Candice

        Original post was written around December. I feel like I jinxed myself! I’ve reduced his activity again as he keeps becoming lame after our walks. Nothing super alarming but still, it’s lameness. I’m planning on seeing an ortho vet in the coming months for a second opinion

        Finn is raw fed and I make bone broth for him. I use this as a method to mix his supplements and he takes it that way no problem. Bone broth is great for any dog really as its full of glycosaminoglycans and collagen, so really beneficial for ligaments.

        I totally understand the impatience. With each set back we’ve faced I’ve felt discouraged and wanted to throw in the towel but before I knew it he’d get better again. But I am beginning to wonder what else I can do as he is still young and I want to enjoy as much as I can with him so seeing the ortho vet will probably give me a better idea on what to do.

        Dont give up!

        • Candice March 24, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

          Thank you for your encouragement! I hope you are encouraged as well. I know how emotionally and physically involved this whole process is esp for the owners. How is Finn doing now? We are about 2 weeks in and my dog sprinted around the yard for 5-10 mins the other day. I almost had a heart attack. I think we had some setback due to it, so I’m definitely learning that patience is not my virtue, but definitely something I need to work on!

          • Natalie March 24, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

            He’s doing quite well, he is using the leg a lot more now and isnt as stiff or lame when he gets up from resting. We are doing two 20-30 min walks daily with hydro every other weekend. The hydro-therapist reassured me and said that he’s doing well.

            Oh no! Finn sprinted after some birds around Christmas time, gave me a heart attack too. Hopefully the setback isn’t major, but yes patience is definitely important during this! I hope it gets easier for you 🙂

        • Candice April 15, 2017 at 4:51 am #

          Natalie, may I ask what brand of GLM powder you give Flynn? There are so many brands to choose from, and I don’t know which one is high quality! Thank you.

          • Natalie April 15, 2017 at 8:31 am #

            If you are in the US, there is a good brand called Super Snouts. I am in Canada and get one made by Fluid-X

  3. Candice April 16, 2017 at 4:22 am #

    Thank you Natalie. My dog had been doing pretty well(just about the same, very mild symptoms), but he bolted out the door and jumped off the deck a couple of days ago, and now I think he tore his meniscus. :'(

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