Our Conservative Management Plan

Conservative Management for CCLI created this website to be all about the experience.  The experiences we go through as owners of dogs with knee ligament injuries, and the experiences our dogs go through as a result of tearing their CCL.  As a result of my experience I have been through both a Traditional Repair surgery and successful round of Conservative Management.  The best advice I can offer to anyone considering Conservative Management with their dog is this – listen to your dog.

Many veterinarians, for one reason or another, are quick to jump the gun on surgery.  Surgery is not the “quick fix” many people tout it to be.  The surgical procedure and recovery process are long, painful, difficult and financially taxing for many dogs and their owners.  Don’t feel pressured to have your dog go under the knife if you want to first try CM.  You are not doing your dog any injustice by giving them the chance to heal on their own.  The option for surgery is always there if you need it, but if you’re willing to give an alternative approach to healing a dog ACL tear a try, CM can be a successful route.

Overview of My Conservative Management Dog ACL Plan:

  1. Weight Management – Our first step in getting our American Bulldog’s weight down was to begin cutting out treats and snacks.  I started making my own dog treats using a simple recipe with peanut butter as the main ingredient.  Making the treats myself allowed me to make smaller sized treats, which I began gradually feeding less of.  We also made the transition to a higher quality food, and once he was adjusted to the food we cut his portion size down by 1/3, continuing to feed him twice per day.  With less weight on the injured leg it will give your dog a better shot at recovery.
  2. Inflammation – When Tucker first started showing signs of lameness in this injured leg we began giving him Rimadyl.  Knowing we did not want to keep him on a NSAID for a long period of time, we immediately began looking for a more holistic option for inflammatory control.  Along with the Rimadyl we started giving Omege 3 Fish Oil – one, 1000 mg capsule, twice per day.  After 1 month of the Rimadyl I transitioned to Yucca Intensive, and give 9-10 drops diluted in food twice per day.
  3. Joint Support – A number of veterinary studies have shown that Glucosamine and Chondrointin supplements are good to support joint health in any dog.  Many people believe different brands of supplements show different results, so plan on experimenting with a number of different brands to see what works best for your dog.  Ask around at your veterinarian’s office or pet food store to see if they have any samples for you to try as you’re finding which product works best.
  4. Rest – This is often easier said then done, but it is extremely important to make sure your dog stays in a confined area without distraction. Carpeted areas are best if at all possible.  Try to avoid steps, steep hills, jumping, running, rough play or anything that may create a jerking motion in the leg such as jumping up into a car or into a pool.
  5. Prevent Boredom – Get creative with ways to entertain your dog while they are taking it easy and recovering.  Toys such as frozen kongs filled with peanut butter or bully sticks are a good way to help them alleviate boredom.
  6. Exercise – Keep exercise to a minimum, but take care to avoid muscle atrophy.  Controlled, leash walking a few times per day is a good way to make sure your dog maintains range of motion without further injuring the knee.  These short periods of exercise may also encourage the growth of scar tissue in the area of the injured ligament.  This scar tissue will serve to stabilize the joint as your dog goes along the healing process.
  7. Listen to Your Dog – Keep close tabs on your best friend throughout this process.  They’ll let you know how they are feeling.  Go at their pace, and if you don’t see any noticeable improvement in their lameness in a few weeks it’s time to re-evaluate CM.

18 thoughts on “Our Conservative Management Plan

  1. Hi

    Thank you so much for this website and for your advice. My vet wanted to commence surgery asap on my dog’s knee who has a torn ligament, but I felt that my dog deserved a chance to heal on his own considering no bones are broken and that I have also lost a dog’s life from a routine surgery in the past. Since then, I see every surgery as a potential risk to losing a life so I take caution and ensure my dog’s go to the best surgeons with the best available equipment (human standard heart monitors etc). I will take on your advice and hope that he can heal on his own.

    May I just say, my other dog had to have a hip replacement so I’m not opposed to surgery, just willing to give nature a chance first. Like you say, surgery is the next step but not necessarily the first.

    Much appreciated,

    1. You mention Rimadyl and this seems to be the drug most Veterinans prescribe to reduce the swelling and also handles pain. Gave one pill to my dog, he is in pain, it is very swolen and doesnt put weight on it. They want to operate when they get the swelling down, which I can not afford. Went to the internet, and this drug has a very bad MO..Evidently it helps many dogs, but in many causes death.
      The FDA wnat PFIZER the Mfg.to put on their advertisement that one side affect is “death”. Do you know this? Vets are supposed to let you know the risks, but this one never mentioned to me. Is there another they can use that isnt so bad that you may know of. I have him on a diet and my goal is to take off 8lbs with R/D special food. Would you or someone out there tell me what you think of RIMADYL.
      Thanks, Frankie

      1. Hey Frankie,
        Years ago I had an arthritic beagle husky mix. Rimadyl changed his life, he felt so much better on it. Went from a crabby dog to the playful guy he used to be. Poor guy must have been in a lot of pain. There are generics now available too, carprophen I think.

        He was on Rimadyl long term, and that eventually killed his liver. It took about 7 years and by then he was 14 years old. I think considering my life situation and his at the time I did the right thing, he lived to be outdoors and trail running with me! So he had a happy active life until his liver failed, without Rimadyl he may have lived longer but he would have been miserable.

        I have read that some dogs do react and die on Rimadyl, but my understanding is that happens right away?
        There’s meloxicam which is a good pain reliever but my dogs seem like they are drunk when they’re on that. There are other pain relievers out there for dogs.
        We recently switched foods to Nutro High protein chicken and chick pea, the high protein is good for healing this kind of injury, it’s one of the higher protein dog foods out there- cutting back on the amount of food is better than one with lots of filler.
        Good luck buddy
        I just noticed that this post is years old, hope this info helps others!

  2. My golden retriever came to the door limping a week ago. Barely put right rear paw down. vet diagnosed torn aclalthough he said it was difficult to be sure but he recommends TPOL. Its only been one week but she seems a bit better. Putting some weight on right paw. I am going to try conservative management. She is 7, but still likes her crate, so i will put her there if i have to go out. my plan is to let her lay around the house when i am home blocking steps. I thought i would give her a massage a couple times a day to take the place of play. My question is IS IT ALRIGHT TO LET HER GO UP & DOWN TWO STEPS BY HERSELF TO GO OUT TO POTTY? ALSO IS IT OKAY TO LET HER GO UPSTAIRS ONCE A DAY FOR SLEEPING OR SHOULD SHE AVOID STEPS COMPLETELY?
    She is still limping but does not seem to be in pain. I hope to give it 8 weeks to see if she heals on her own. Any suggestions about keeping her relaxed and happy will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hello Gail
      I wondered if you had a reply from this question about steps.
      My dog has just been diagnosed with part cruciate injury, and I would like advice regarding steps.
      I am finding it difficult carrying him (although he is small) because I have a back problem.
      Would be grateful of advice
      Regards Eileen

      1. Hi Eileen,

        As hard as it seems – we did avoid steps during Tucker’s Conservative Management period. Is there any way you can avoid the steps in your home? We set up sleeping arrangements downstairs so we could be with Tucker during his recovery. As for going outside to the bathroom, we didn’t have steps to deal with, but I’ve heard some other owners say they’ve created slings out of towels – basically taking the bath towel and wrapping it around the dog’s midsection to help hold them up and off the leg as they walk. I hope some of this information helps!

      2. Hi Everyone,
        Well it has been two months since Grace’s injury. She is doing quite well with conservative treatment. At first, i only let her up the stairs at night for bedtime. I used a twin sheet looped under her to help her up the steps at night. She didnt like it much but it seemed to help. I blocked off the stairs during the day and put her in her crate if I knew someone was coming to the door, so she wouldnt hurt herself running to the door. I still only let her outside to do her business then come right back in. I also downsized her food by 1/3 cup a day so she wouldnt put on weight cause of lack of activity. I make her lay down while we play and give her lots of extra attention- and absolutely no tug of war. She is really doing quite well. We go back to the vet end of February.

  3. My Vizsla was diagnosed with a partial ACL tear last weekend. I opted for conservative approach of anti inflamatories, pain meds, and restrained activity. Now, a week later, she has what appears to be full weight bearing on that leg which seems odd to me if it really was an ACL tear?? I only let her go up the stairs to go to bed at night and walks are ten to 15 minutes SLOW.

    From all my research, it really seems to depend on the dog and the severity of the injury–but surgery doesn’t seem to be a perfect solution.

    Gail-have you looked into canine acupuncture and water therapy?

  4. Thank you for advice,glad of the info on this website.
    Yes I do have gates at the top of the stairs going down to the front door thank goodness, and just a slight step down to the garden.
    Am hoping for a better night with him tonight as it is cold and frosty out there!!

  5. Where are you located? Animal Acupuncture and Rehabilitation in San Diego’s Sorrento Valley has a physical therapist (for human’s) who also specializes in canine physical therapy. They also have an underwater treadmill to help safely strengthen weakened legs. I’ve taken my Vizsla there several times and she has no limp now . . . we are about 9 weeks out now and doing well (knock on wood).

  6. England lol
    Not a good night again, but I have stopped the Temgesic as my boy might have been getting side effects from that? Also he seems more settled and not limping so much today thankfully.

  7. Well, it is over 2 weeks now, and the boy seems to be weight bearing very well, and wanting to play with the collies again. Difficult to explain to him that he is only allowed his 10 min walks, especially when he gets on the beach.
    He had an early set back with diarrhoea, for which he needed antibiotics. Thankfully that was resolved quickly. Talk about a viscious circle…needing rest..but desperate to get to garden every few mins, which didn’t help matters.
    I allow him to sleep on his favourite chair, but put a tier of cushions so that he doesn’t jump anywhere, otherwise he sleeps in his bed in my room at night. (looking longingly at mine to start with of course).
    I just pray that I am giving him enough rest to avoid surgery. Only 4 weeks to go

  8. Hi, I was so glad to find this site.
    We have an almost 10yr male border collie. He large for a border collie and he has gotten overweight.
    He did something and came up limping. He has had some problems off and on for a couple of years. But it always got better in a week or so. We always thought it was his back??? our diagnosis.
    Took him to the vet this time. He was walking with pain. Walked into vet and back to the car. He diagnosed torn ACL and recommended TOPL at local college but too expensive for us. Started him on Rimadyl and glucosomine chondrotin pills and he go worse????? It has been about a week and he is worse than ever??? Will not walk and in pain. Stands up to pee and has pooped a few times. Do you know why he would get worse with medication???? Just seems oddd for him to get worse.
    Any suggestions????

    1. Hi Sandy,

      Our 3 year old Dobe had terrible side effects after taking Rimadyl. So bad we contacted the FDA to report the side effects. We discontinued them and she got improved dramatically over the next few days thank goodness.

      Just our experience.

  9. I wish I could help you Sandy.
    It is an awful thing when you see your dog in pain like that.
    I wouldn’t have thought the medication would make him worse, but Rimadyl might have an affect on the stomach. Rory had to have the pet form of Omeprazole because he had a bleed from his stomach after being on Onsior.
    This info. might not be of help, just hope you can get your collie back to normal self.
    I rested Rory for 8 weeks, no stairs etc.
    So far things have worked out, but he sometimes limps. I don’t let him walk very far, or play with other dogs if I can help it!

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