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My Decision to Pursue Tightrope Surgery – Mousse

I adopted Mousse, a pure bred chocolate lab, a little over 2 years ago – she was 15 months old. In the words of my vet, Mousse is exuberant. She was always ready to run, fetch, swim etc. etc.

Then, about 6 months ago, she started having problems with her back right leg. I took her to my vet several times and was told each time, she was okay. I had the vet take X-rays of her hips and her right knee. They looked OK and he said she might have strained a muscle and I was to give her Rimadyl and Tramadol. I did and it was slightly better and then … worse: she was having trouble going up the stairs and getting in and out of the car.

Surgery for Dog KneesWe went to Oradell Animal Hospital with the X-rays and the orthopedic specialist there said she had torn the CCL’s in both back legs. The good news was that it was repairable and he proceeded to show me how the TTA would work and then said it would cost $4300 … each leg!! I’m sure he saw my jaw drop to the floor, and he was decent enough to suggest that if I could go outside the NY Metro area, I might find it less costly.

I started talking to people and got numerous recommendations for veterinarians, animal hospitals, veterinary schools. I read whatever I could on the internet and became more knowledgeable about TPLO, TTA, extracapsular – traditional and Tightrope.

TPLO and TTA were scary to me on two fronts – the actual surgery where they cut the bone and then plate/screw it into a different angle, and the recovery period during which the patient cannot be active or the repaired bone could be damaged (lots of horror stories about permanent damage, lameness, even amputations!)

Knowing my Mousse, traditional suture was not a good option – she’s too active and too big … even at a svelte 67 lbs. So I started to ask about Tightrope. Although they don’t do it there, the vet at Blairstown (great place) thought Tightrope might be a good choice. Mousse and I went to Univ of Penn Vet. – very good session but they don’t do many Tightropes and they were recommending TPLO. I had also contacted Cornell Vet College, but they don’t do Tightrope.

I then emailed Dr. Cook at Univ Missouri (who came up with Tighrope) and he was kind enough to send back information and a list of facilities in NJ and NY. I researched the list via the internet and made an appt. with Dr. Henrich of Tranquility Vet Clinic (western NJ). About halfway into the appt., I felt we were in the right place and scheduled the surgery. Oh what a relief to finally be able to make the decision!

We drove (it’s about an hour west of us) back to the clinic on Monday 11-8-11 and they put a pain med (Fentanyl) patch on the back of her neck. The surgery was the next morning; I dropped her off. Dr. Henrich called me around 12 to let me know the surgery went well and I could pick her up late afternoon/ early evening. I drove back to get her around 6pm – my poor Mousse was still groggy, her entire back left end was shaved and she was wearing a giant E-collar – she looked miserable!

Dog Tightrope ACL SurgeryThe incision is about 6 inches long, held together by 15 staples. (I count them regularly : )

The first few days were fraught with anxious moments but I muddled through. I have her harness on almost all the time to control her forward momentum and a beach towel knotted around her waist makes a good handle so I can keep her from putting full weight on her back legs. We only go outside to pee/poop and she sits in the sun while I rake leaves.

Sat. 11-12-11 we went back to have the patch removed and to get another laser treatment (it helps to reduce swelling and promote healing). The Dr. was pleased with how the knee looked and that Mousse is able to put it down (not putting weight on it though).

She is more active than she should be and they had given me some tranquilizers to keep her calmer which definitely help. She does not like the crate or the E-collar, but I have no choice if I have to leave the house. I still get kisses on my chin so I take that as a good sign.

Sat the 19th she is scheduled to have the staples removed … one less thing to worry about.

Follow Up: November 16

Mousse is putting more weight on the repaired (left) leg and would love to go for a real walk. She seems more comfortable with the reduced-size cone but is getting more obstinate about going in the crate when I have to leave for work.(I didn’t crate her before the surgery.) Hopefully I can pack up the crate again after the staples come out this Sat. The knee and suture line look very good to my unprofessional eye so I’m feeling positive about the future.

Staple Removal: November 19

Just back from staple-removal. The vet is very pleased with Mousse’s progress and we now have some physical therapy exercises.

Unfortunately, the cone is still required as there are still two small openings in her suture line. These are expected to close in the next few days … as long as she doesn’t lick and irritate them. I can also extend her walks a bit. So small steps forward … but it’s all good : )

Recheck: December 1

We met with Dr. Henrich, the vet who did the Tightrope surgery and he was very pleased with Mousse’s progress. She’s walking so well that there’s even a chance he may not have to operate on the right knee.

We reviewed the exercises for physical therapy which I do at home and he gave us the okay for moderate walks. We go back on 12-15.

I’ll keep you posted.

Follow Up: December and January

I’m very happy to report that we had 2 more follow-up visits with the vet and during the Dec. 29th appointment, Mousse was given clearance for normal activity.

The surgery is completely healed and her left leg is now the stronger of her 2 back legs. Her right leg showed and still shows very little sign of her original difficulties. The vet said it has happened before where he had a dog with bi-lateral CCL injuries – he operated on one leg and the other leg seemed fine on its own. We (the vet and I) decided not to put Mousse through a second surgery unless that right leg starts giving her problems.

Obviously, I’m hoping for the best but am prepared for what will probably be another surgery. At least this time, I know exactly who I will take her back to. I have only good things to say about the entire staff at Tranquility Veterinary Clinic.

Follow Up: April

Mousse was doing very well after the surgery and had been cleared for activity. Unfortunately, she recently started to limp again, lifting the back left leg, which had the surgery.

Another visit to the vet and it seems she may now have torn her cartilage – which is on the list of possibilities following canine knee surgery. We are scheduled for another surgery April 26th to clean out the damaged cartilage. I’m told that this won’t be as extensive and, as such, her recovery time will be shorter. I’ll keep you posted.

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6 Responses to My Decision to Pursue Tightrope Surgery – Mousse

  1. Sanjive November 27, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Hi, We just had a similar procedure done to our 24# mixed breed dog on Wednesday the 23rd. We are still in the first few days , which are horrible. He won’t put the leg down and supporting him with a towel is not working so well. He is often trembling which we are not sure if it because of pain, or cold (his back leg is shaved) or simply wanting to be in physical contact with us. When we pet him the shaking subsides.

    I think the pain meds are making his food and water intake irregular. Our vet told us that it would take at least a week to see him put his foot down and bear a minimal amount of weight.

    We can’t wait for that day to come. Thanks for your description, it helped alot.

    -Sanjive

    • Gabriele November 28, 2011 at 9:28 am #

      Hi Sanjive – At 24lbs. I’m guessing your dog might have had regular suture … but regardless, I wish you all well. I know it’s so difficult to see them out of sorts and pain meds do make them loopy. Your reassurances, esp. touch will go a long way to comforting him. The first few days are tough because they have no idea what happened & why they feel like that.
      My vet cautioned me that Mousse might not eat much the first few days because of the meds (pain, anit-biotics & Rimadyl) and to feed her less since 1) she’s not as active and 2) because less weight equals less strain on the healing joint. A note – if your pooch is on Rimadyl (an anti-inflammatory) you should be aware that it can upset a dog’s stomach and cause vomiting and/or diarrhea (if so, tell your vet!). I don’t mean to scare but it’s important to keep an eye out with Rimadyl.
      I used the towel at first but then had a better idea. I picked up a cheapy back brace from the local dollar store (originally for me to remind me to be conservative when lifting/supporting Mousse). It’s a simple neoprene belt with Velcro on one end. I can wrap it around her belly and it’s an easier grip than the towel.
      Best of luck to you.

  2. Mark Lemanski December 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Gabriele,

    My 76 lb. bulldog was just recently diagnosed with CCL tears in both knees. He’s currently 16 months old and surgery is pretty much the only option if I want him to have a good life. I went to Valley Brook (Fair Lawn) for x-rays and a consult because a friend recommended the vet and they were able to see my dog that day. The vet at Valley Brook stated that a surgeon by the name of Dr. Robert Steckel performs CCL surgeries for them and from what the vet told me it sounded like her performs the LIT/LSS procedure. I actually just went to Oradell today for a 2nd opinion and to go over surgery options and was given an estimate of $4,200-$4,400 a knee and they would perform the TTA. I’m very interested in this Tightrope procedure and was wondering if you could give me the information of the vets in the area that perform this procedure. I’m in the Bergen County area by the way.

    • Mousse's mom December 10, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      Hi Mark –
      Sorry to hear about your bulldog. After the sticker shock at Oradell, I tried to learn about the various procedures. I’m grateful to Dr. Miller at Oradell because he was kind enough to suggest looking outside the NY Metro area and that even if I opted for reg. suture, I needed to do something. For me TTA and TPLO just sounded too invasive and because Mousse is very active, keeping her “quiet” for the lengthy recovery seemed too daunting. At the recommendation of a friend, I met with Dr. Leal at Blairstown and he suggested Tightrope. He only did the regular suture (not recommended for Mousse’s size & active nature. I emailed Dr. Cook, who originated Tightrope, at Univ Missouri (cookjl@missouri.edu) and he sent me information on the procedure (courtesy of Arthrex the manufacturer) and a list of options in NJ/NY. Nothing for us here in Bergen County, but here are the NJ options he sent.
      Tranquility Vet Clinic (VC) 17 Kennedy Rd. Tranquility NJ 908-852-7800
      Peticote VC 221 Newbolds Corner Rd. Southampton NJ 609-859-8800
      Red Bank Vet Hosp (VH) 197 Hance Av. Tinton Falls 732-747-3636
      Mt Laurel Animal Hosp (AH) 220 Mt. Laurel Rd. Mt Laurel 856-234-7626
      ABRI AH 38 Rt 47 So. Cape May Courthouse 609-465-1368
      Veterinary Surg & Diag Spec 34 Trenton Lakewood Rd. Clarksburg 609-259-8300
      Cherry Hill VH 1425 E. Marlton Pike Cherry Hill 732-747-3636
      The ones in NY are mainly Upstate or out on Long Island, except:
      Animal Medical Center 510 E. 62nd St. NY NY 212-329-8750
      If you want the NY’s, let me know.
      BTW, among many other phone calls, I had also gone to Univ Penn Vet College – very good meeting but they don’t do Tightrope and had an appt at Cornell Univ VC … but they don’t Tightrope either.
      I opted for Tranquility which is Ex 19 on Rt 80 West partly because it was among the closest (think about pre-surgery, surgery and all the follow-up visits), partly I liked their website. Dr. Henrich has been terrific (he’s not an “orthopedic surgeon”) but he and everyone in the practice have been 100% caring professionals. So far, the results are very encouraging and Mousse’s left leg has healed nicely.
      Best of luck.

  3. Christine April 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi,

    Hope this post reaches you, would you be kind enough to list the vets in NY? Thank you!

  4. Gabriele April 18, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Hi Christine,

    Here’s the cut-and-paste from Dr. Cook’s original email response. I hope you can make it out. Alternatively, you might also email him directly at cookjl@missouri.edu, letting him know were in NY you are. He may have an updated list.

    Best of luck.

    GRANVILLE SMALL ANIMAL HOSP 9928 STATE RTE 22 MIDDLE GRANVILLE
    NY 12849
    BURNT HILLS VET HOSP 145 GOODE ST BURNT HILLS NY 12027
    518 399 5213
    ATLANTIC COAST VET SPECIAL 3250 VETERANS HWY BOHEMIA NY 11716 631-285-7780
    NORTH SHORE ANIMAL HOSPITAL 212-14 NORTHERN BLVD BAYSIDE NY
    11361 718-423-9600
    ANIMAL MEDICAL CENTER OF CENTEREACH NY CENTEREACH NY
    11720 631-585-5353
    DICKINSON ANIMAL HOSPITAL 1999 EMPIRE BLVD WEBSTER NY
    14580
    DOG CENTER EUROPE CMR 488 APO NY 9088 49-631-3406-4491
    THE ANIMAL MEDICAL CENTER 510 EAST 62ND STREET NEW YORK
    NY 10021 212-329-8750
    UPSTATE VET SPEC 222 TROY-SCHENECTADY RD LATHAM NY 12110
    518-783-3198
    ORANGE COUNTY VET SURG 2A GEORGE STREET GLEN COVE NY
    11542 630-776-9257
    GARDEN CITY PARK AMINMAL HOS 290 DENTON AVE GARDEN CITY PARK
    NY 11040 516-742-3377
    CHILI ANIMAL CARE 3388 CHILI AVE ROCHESTER NY 14624
    585-671-1858
    STEUBEN VETERINARY CLINIC 7465 STATE ROUTE 54 BATH NY
    14810 607-776-3747

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