Conservative Management Advice for CCL Injury – Kata

Hello! In June my 7 year old English Bulldog, Kata, was running on her walk when she seemed to step wrong or something. She continued to run and play, not seeming to be bothered much. I assumed it was just a pulled muscle or something.

Then last week we had her off leash and she took off after a cat. She came home limping and would not put any weight on her left rear leg. I took her to the vet a few days later and the vet thinks it is a cruciate ligament injury. The vet did not do x-rays (as she knew if we decided on surgery the surgeon she referred me to would want to do her own) so I do not know the extent of the injury.

She gave me the option of surgery or Conservative Management. Since my bully is 7 (she’ll be 8 in Feb) I worry about putting her through surgery and the extensive recovery. She has always had PERFECT blood work and acts MUCH younger than 7 so the vet thinks she would make it through surgery ok. I keep getting conflicting opinions about if I should do the surgery or not…

She is currently on Rimadyl (only a week’s supply as of now) and is putting weight on the leg, but not a lot. I can tell it is uncomfortable for her to squat when going to the bathroom. Overall she is pretty mellow, only trying to jump and “trot” when someone comes home. We have not been walking her and she is devastated since right now it is finally starting to cool off (we live in AZ). I am so torn as to what is the best choice for a 7, almost 8, year old bully who still seems full of life and not in much pain.

I want her to be able to run and play though, but don’t want to put her through a painful surgery and recovery if she can recover with just CM.

How to tell? I know that there is no rush to make a decision, however, I feel like the more time that passes the older she gets and more risk comes with age for surgery. HELP!

8 thoughts on “Conservative Management Advice for CCL Injury – Kata

  1. Hi, I feel your pain. We were debating whether we wanted to take out so much time out of Jasmine’s life and she was 5.5 at the time. We did and we don’t regret it.

    We did consider conservative management also, but she is still too active for that.

    Conservative management can work if done carefully and with consideration. As long as the knee is kept stable it will stabilize itself over time by growing scar tissue. The idea is the same with the traditional surgery, the sutures are in place to keep the knee stable until such time the scar tissue takes over.

    From all I researched I found the OrthoPets knee braces really well designed and the second best bet after an actual surgery. If I was to go with this option that’s what I’d get.

  2. Thanks for your post. I keep going back and forth….right now she doesn’t seem to be bothered and wants to play, and the weird clicking noise has gone away when she tries to “trot”, so I’m unsure how injured the knee is. But I can tell she does not put all her weight on the one leg when standing. Other bulldog owners have encouraged me to go with conservative management due to her age, but I so worry about her having extremely painful arthritis later on. I have thought about meeting with surgeon to have x-rays done to find out the extent of the injury. Honestly if she hadn’t been limping so bad the second time I may have thought again that she just pulled a muscle and never have known if her knee was actually injured.

  3. Conservative management can work. A brace adds extra stability to the joint which also helps prevent arthritis later on.

    An x-ray doesn’t really show what state the ligament is in; true evaluation of the cruciate ligament would have to be done by MRI or arthroscopy. Cruciate tear is usually diagnosed based on symptoms, physical exam, the “drawer sign” and the supporting x-ray might show fluid in the joint and/or arthritis if it already set it. (I know, it’s funny because x-rays are commonly used as diagnostics for cruciate injuries …)

    It certainly could be a muscle or tendon injury, I’m hoping your vet would be able to distinguish between those during the exam; but on the other I’m not holding my breath (last two times Jasmine had issue with her leg she was seen by three vets and each had a different diagnosis each time; fortunately one of the diagnoses eventually got confirmed).

    A good way to keep track of how well she’s using the leg is measuring thigh circumference. Comparing the two legs will give you a good measure of how much the injured legs does or does not get used and how much muscle loss there is.

  4. Good news! We went back to the vet for an unrelated issue (allergies) and as soon as the vet walked into the room she saw how well Kata is moving around, etc and said “you don’t need surgery!” She was very impressed how mobile Kata is and mentioned she can already feel scar tissue forming so it will just be a wait and see game as to how badly she will be afflicted with arthritis in the coming years. So glad that I feel more comfortable NOT putting my bully through surgery and the tough recovery. I will say though that if she were younger and still favoring the leg I would most likely do the surgery in hopes that she would be back to 100% for the remainder of her life. Looking forward to start reintroducing her to “normal” walks (on leash of course) as the weather begins to cool down again in AZ.

  5. Great news!  I was just about to tell you the story of my then 11 year old Cocker Spaniel for whom we opted to have the tightrope surgery.  Pain was easily managed. He was a very active boy despite his age.  He lived to be 17!  Obviously we could have let scar tissue hold it together.  But my story is moot as you have decided.

    Conservative management is a viable option and can work.  Don’t slack. Rebuild muscle gradually. Avoid injury. She’s adorable, BTW. What a face!  

  6. Thank you! I do hope we’ve made the right choice, and feel better that the vet thinks it is not serious enough for surgery and that she is healing well. Still just very short “sniffs” in the front yard and I will forever be nervous anytime she runs/trots in the future but she seems to be doing great so far! I appreciate everyone’s comments and support! 🙂

  7. Kelyn,
    There are no wrong decisions, here. Each of us weighs the options and proceeds. Your wish is for your dog to avoid the trauma of the surgical option. I understand that(!) as we very nearly opted the same for out Cocker Spaniel. I’m sure your vet has advised you to proceed with caution, regarding trotting and running. Sometimes the other leg sustains the same injury due to uneven muscle strength.

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