The decision to have surgery.
My dog, Lucas, is a very active/jumpy 3 year old pitbull / boxer mix. I noticed some lameness in his leg about a year ago, but it seemed to go away on its own. The real problem started after introducing my boyfriend’s 2 year old lab mix to him. They would just run and play all day together, but his limping just got worse and worse. The vet suspected a CCL injury and sent me to a specialist.
I went to CARES in Levittown, PA and could not be happier with them! The surgeon suspected Lucas had a partial CCL tear, but suggested doing a round of conservative management to be sure. I took the next 8 weeks and kept Lucas relatively inactive. He was not allowed to jump on furniture, go on walks, or play in the back yard with the other dog. After 8 weeks I took him on a walk and he limped for 2 days. I knew this was no way for my dog to live and moved forward with the next steps for surgery.
Dr Puerto (CARES) really took the time to explain each type of CCL surgery, traditional, tightrope, TPLO. His recommendation for me was the tightrope or TPLO.
Below are the reasons that helped me decide on the Tightrope repair.
- It was able to be performed orthoscopicly and would not result in any large incisions. I know my dog and I would not be able to keep him away from the incision as long as I would need to. He is the expert of taking off e-collars and would harm himself just to get at it.
- Lucas weighs 65 lbs. TPLO was not necessary because of his weight (mainly done on larger breed dogs), giving me either option.
- NONE of the surgeries are proven to stop arthritis later in life. If TPLO was proven to stop arthritis by realigning the bone, I would have DEFIITELY chosen that surgery. But there is nothing proving that yet.
- Tightrope overall is less surgically invasive (does not involve breaking the bone like TPLO). It just seemed like less could go wrong and he would be back on his feet sooner. If my dog was older and less active, I may have considered TPLO. But getting my active/young dog back on his feet sooner than later was an important factor.
NOTE: I would NEVER have this type of surgery on a large dog performed by someone that is not primarily a surgeon! Most horrible reviews I have seen about CCL repairs, have been done through inexperienced primary vets.
Tightrope Surgery Day – February 29th, 2012 – Leap day!
I’m very nervous, but felt confident that I have made the right decision on the orthoscopic Tightrope CCL repair. Right before surgery I notice that Lucas is limping on his left leg, NOT the right leg. This is the opposite leg that is having surgery! The vet confirms my suspicious through manual inspection and x-rays that his other leg is in the beginning stage of the same problem he is having surgery for. I opt to have his non-surgery leg casted for a custom orthopedic brace to get him through recovery. He will receive this brace in 2 weeks and we will take it from there! The doctor called to tell me surgery was successful later that day. He will be staying the night and come home tomorrow.
The cost of all of this was $5,300 ($4,300 surgery, $1000 brace). Thank God for GoPetPlan insurance that will refund me 80% of this cost! They pre-authorized the surgery without any hesitation.
Day After Surgery
Lucas is finally ready to come home! He is completely bandaged on his bad leg and has a fentanyl pain patch. Since the vet did the surgery orthoscopicly, he has a 2 inch incision and a few small ¼ inch incisions. He is happy to be home and cries every time I am out of his site. I spent most of the day/night on the floor with him to calm him. The only way he will go to sleep is if he knows I’m right there touching him. He ate his food for me immediately and went outside to pee/poop, can’t keep this dog down!
The first week was mainly spent in a small area I had cornered off in the living room. Lucas is very stubborn and has a high pain tolerance. I did not want to, but I was forced to sedate him almost 24/7 to stop him from pacing and attempting to jump (he made it on the couch one time when I turned my back for a second!!). He is also on an antibiotic and a pain pill. When he is awake I try to entertain him through a variety of new soup bones (boiled for a hour), kongs stuffed with good stuff, and even a elk antler. He is a very strong chewer and needs things that can hold up.
The “Our Pets Lift-N-Aid Mobility Harness” I bought for him is God sent! It makes it so easy to hold onto him when he goes to the bathroom and to catch him when he randomly decides to get up. It’s comfortable enough that he falls asleep with it on.
On a negative note, his “good leg” is definitely suffering and I cannot wait for his orthopedic brace to get in. The main reason for the 24/7 sedation is because he other leg is not able to support him fully. If he is on the good leg too much, he actually starts to put weight on the surgery leg to give the good leg a break! I can’t tell if that’s a good or bad thing that he is putting weight on the surgery leg already! haha
2 Months Post-Op
Lucas is doing fantastic! We go on walks 2-3 times a day, slowly increasing time and adding hills. The vet said the recovery period is so critical and he can tell Lucas is being well rested these past 2 months. His leg has lost some muscle mass and is measuring 1 inch smaller than his other leg. I research some physical therapy centers and will be taking my dog there for a 3 week trial. I specifically made sure the place had a pool and under water treadmill. One more month left of no running and jumping!