Conservative Management vs. Surgery – Bella

conservative management vs surgery

My dog Bella was also diagnosed with a partially torn ACL about 6-8 weeks ago. We have been trying a conservative approach. Our vet even gave me a lite sedative for her because she is so used to being so active. I have seen about a 20% improvement. She limps mainly when she first gets up but then walks it out. However, She has been on a very strict conservative regime. Only short leash walks and basically caged indoors. I am giving her the supplements and she’s on a grain free diet.

I am nervous because I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. She (and I) are depressed. We hiked everyday, she was an avid baseball outfielder for my son, and she was also a working dog in my yard to protect the house. She probably got 4-6 miles in a day.

She is an 80-pound poodle mix and just turned 5. Will she ever have a normal life again? I hate to put her through surgury which in NY cost about $6,500 but she is young and wants to be active again to play and do her job which she absolutely loves!!

HELP!!!! What should I do? Continue this path or go for the surgery?

9 thoughts on “Conservative Management vs. Surgery – Bella

  1. We have just gone through this with our 34kg Amstaff/ridgeback cross. She is only 4.5 and we tried 3 months of conservative management but everytime she went a bit too hard she couldn’t/wouldn’t put her leg down. We finally decided on the surgery which happened yesterday. So we will pick her up this afternoon and try our hardest to keep her calm and work through the first six weeks then look forward to slowly returning to short walks. Can’t wait for the day she can return to play at the dog park with her friends. I will let you know how it works out!

  2. I feel your pain! I have A 4 year old golden lab and he was diagnosed in April with a partially torn ccl. Of course surgery was suggested but I haven’t done it. I took him for 12 weeks of water therapy, which was costly, but helped a bit. We did the 8 week on leash gig as well.
    Right now he’s doing ok. A few weeks ago he played out in the puddles and ran around like crazy and a few hours later, he couldn’t bare any weight on it. He’s been kept on leash for the last few weeks and is doing better. He will still limp when he gets up but can bare weight.
    I’ve given him a few different supplements and find glycoflex III is the best by far. You can also try yucca intensive drops on your dogs food for anti inflammatory .
    I know, it’s a tough call… No surgery is guaranteed and who knows what kind of dog you will have after the surgery. I hope it all works out with your pup and you will do the right thing… You’re not alone 🙂
    Blessing for you and pup!!

  3. I have been thru 6 ACL surgeries with 5 dogs. I also work for a Vet, in my experience if you don’t do surgery and you have an active dog, anytime there is activity you will have a lame dog. All of my ACL surgeries have been very successful. I won’t lie, it is a lot of work and rehab to get them back 100%, but is so worth it! My last dog had her surgery in March of this year and she is now ready to resume her career in agility in January! Good luck with your decision!

    1. Penny,
      Which surgical procedure did you choose for the 6 surgeries? How did you make your decision? How many weeks did you keep each dog on leash post-surgery? How many weeks until full activity allowed? Snow activities? Dirt? Pavement?

  4. Please know that you aren’t alone with how you are feeling and that you found a great web site with lots of people who have agonized over the same decision. I was one of them when I found this site last year and will be forever grateful for having done so as it helped me to make a decision and move forward with TTA surgery as terrified as I was. If you haven’t done so already, check out “TTA Surgery Recovery Advice – Lucy” on this site, which helped me so much.

    My 53 lbs. active female hound mix and I found ourselves joined at the hip (or leash as it was) for over 4-months last year as we optimistically tried conservative management in lieu of surgery. It seemed to work and then it didn’t work and then it worked and then it didn’t work and on and on it went. I was heartbroken as you are and didn’t want my once active and happy girl to have a lesser quality of life than she had prior to the injury so I finally took a leap of faith and we had the TTA surgery in November 2015. There were some challenges the first couple of months but if it was easy then none of us would agonize over it. However, any doubts that I previously had went away especially when watching her this past summer as she ran and romped around with her hound dog brother just like the old days. It was worth the risk as her quality of life was the trade off and quality won in the end!

    Like many dogs who have ACL injuries, they can eventually injure the other leg and we have found ourselves in this “elite” group just over a year after the first surgery. She tore her other ACL last weekend but this time I will not let her lose months that we can’t get back and so we will move forward with surgery next week. I am still scared because I love her so much and worrying about her comes with that. However, I am grateful that she didn’t injure this leg at the same time as the other leg or too soon after the other surgery or it would be much harder on her. I am also glad that she is still at an age and in good health that surgery is not overly risky.

    Ultimately, you know your dog best and will have to make the decision as no one can tell you for sure what is best for you and your dog. However, I hope this site will help you make a decision that you will feel good about making in the long term as it did for me. I wish you the best and if you have any questions or need any support, please feel free to reach out.

    1. Jill,
      How did you decide to do the TTA vs TPLO surgery? How many months of on leash only after surgery? When can they run? Go snowshoeing, skiing, hiking, biking with me?

  5. Hi Sage,

    I did a lot of research and found out that the TTA surgery is less risky and has a quicker recovery time than TPLO. With regard to the lateral suture technique, my dog’s weight was borderline (not small enough) and she is too active that my vet and the surgeon didn’t think the lateral suture technique would be without risk of failing and her having to possibly have another surgery as a result. With re: to TPLO, it may be the best option for some dogs (depends on the slope/angle of their bone structure I believe?). You definitely want to speak to your vet/surgeon to confirm what is best for your dog. Try this link to get a brief overview of the different options which may be helpful before you speak to your vet.

    My dog was on leash about four months after the surgery (length of time depends on how well the bone and everything heals.). No running just small walks that we gradually increased over time. I had to take her back to the surgeon 10-weeks after the surgery for x-rays and an assessment. Even after we let her off leash, we watched over her diligently and kept her in our fenced yard for some time thereafter. While this may sound like an awfully long time, I made it much worse for her by trying conservative management for almost four months BEFORE surgery so she ended up on leash for well over eight months in total. This is why we aren’t waiting on this other ACL tear and are having the surgery at the end of this week. Hopefully, she will be off leash by the Spring. (We are in Massachusetts so it is better that we are entering the winter months since both dogs aren’t out as much or as long as they are the rest of the year.)

    I would also be careful about too much exercise too soon as they are putting a lot of stress and weight on the other non-injured leg during this time and you don’t want to get an ACL tear in the other leg any sooner than you might (or might not) otherwise.

    I know it sounds like a long road and hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but it will get better post surgery. It was such a joyful experience to see my dog off leash this past summer and enjoying herself as compared to the prior summer. It is my positive experience with the TTA surgery that is helping me to focus on getting through the next several months. It is not easy but it is only months and our dogs will have years and years of a better life and good times with us going forward. Hang in there! Again, feel free to reach out. I wish you and your dog the best.

    1. Jill
      Thank you for your time. I have opted for the TPLO because my dog only has a partial tear of her CCL. She is going in on Thursday 12/8/16.
      Thanks for your support!!!!

  6. Just a follow up, our Dog Shiva (amstaff//ridgeback) had her TTO surgery last Wednesday and is coming along fine, we had a scare as she wasn’t drinking and we were having high 30s Celsius in Queensland Australia, but the vet checked and she was fine. Not only did she have the knee surgery but at the same time had nine other surgery sites for mast cell tumours and two suspicious growths on her nose. She hasn’t tried to lick her stitches once and has taken well to her crate. Looks like a half finished patchwork quilt. Stitches come out on Friday and we start a course of 4 weeks of Cartrophen injections. We know she is getting better as when we take her out to toilet she heads straight to the gate for a walk because she has her lead on!

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