A Tightrope Repair Surgery Story – Lucas

The decision to have surgery.

Dog Ligament Repair 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Lucas weighs 65 lbs. TPLO was not necessary because of his weight (mainly done on larger breed dogs), giving me either option.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Dog Ligament Tightrope Surgery

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!

Week 1

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.

Tightrope Repair for Dog ACL

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!

32 thoughts on “A Tightrope Repair Surgery Story – Lucas

  1. I’m happy to say that Lucas is 3 weeks into recovery and doing amazing! We had no complications and no set backs so far. Staples came out without a problem and no infections in the incision area. He has accepted sleeping in a cage at night (just because I know I can’t stop him from jumping on the bed). During the day we go for 3 walks and slowly increase the distance each time. He is pretty mellow in the morning but generally in the evening I have to keep him on a leash to keep him from running and jumping. He is using his surgery leg and using it much more than I expected to see so soon. He seems comfortable on it with the limited activity he is doing. So far so good!

    1. I also just wanted to note that Lucas is not on any pain pills, sedatives or antibiotics anymore. He is only on the GlycanAid-HA and rimidyl once a day. I also downloaded the free recovery guide recommended by Dog Knee Injury. They send out weekly emails that relate to the week your dog is in recovery. A lot of good tips! I feel lucky that everything has gone so much smoother than I thought it would. I highly recommend CARES in Levittown, PA.

  2. Can I ask where you went for rehab? I don’t live too far from you and my dog had CCL surgery three days ago. Were you happy with them?

    Hope Lucas is doing well.


  3. Yes I would definitely recommend them! Lucas did a 3 week session of the underwater treadmill there and gained 1 inch of muscle in his surgery leg. He had really lost a lot of muscle mass and I took him there 2 months after his surgery. It was a bit of a drive to go to Cherry Hill, NJ for it but it was worth it. His name is Dr Howe-Smith and his website is PetPT.net. Good luck! Lucas finally has the all clear to resume all activity! We are gradually increasing his time off leash and jogging.

  4. I also just wanted to mention that it is well known that 50% of CCL injury dogs will injury their other knee. Dr Howe-smiths patients tend to run a 10% risk! That alone was worth it for me. He said this is because he teaches the dogs how to use the proper muscles in their post surgical leg and teaches them how to trust the leg again. He showed me how my dog was compensating the injury on his front legs/hips and I had no idea my dog was experiencing pain in those areas! The easy exercises he gave me for home and the underwater trendmill has drastically improved how balanced my dog stands/walks now.

  5. Well here we are over 7 months later and I regret the decision to have the surgery. He still has good and bad days (more bad than good). I STILL have to restrict his activity or he starts limping/putting no weight on the leg. Seriously what was the point? He is the same as he was before! The surgeon wants to scope him and possibly remove his meniscus. I don’t know what the right answer is.

  6. I feel your pain. My dog is only 2 years old, tore the ACL in her right leg 6 months ago and is still having difficulty lifting her leg. So much that her foot drags when she walks and the nail is filing down. Big problem is she now tore the ACL in her left leg and is getting another tightrope surgery. I’m a mess because she is not using the leg she had surgery on. How can she manage after this other surgery. 🙁

  7. I’m so sorry Diane! That’s like my worst nightmare that his other knee goes out eventually. My dog is still not better. He started some knee injections and I might take home back to a physical therapist. Maybe physical therapy can help your dog?? My guy says alot of dogs don’t even need te surgery and he helps rehab the leg

    1. I did bring her to a rehab and fitness centre and she is the one that told me she had torn her other ACL. She said there is no benefit to waiting to get the surgery but to bring her in shortly after the surgery to start therapy. The bills are pilling up quickly as you probably already know. I’m basically at the mercy of the vets. She is my baby and would do just about anything for her.

      Are you referring to cartrifine injections? I was considering this. I also have been giving her glucosamine and condritin. I think I have to go ahead and get her the surgery. Hope this one gets better. I don’t want her to have 2 bad legs.

      There is a possibility that she also has hip diaplasia. At what point do we stop?

      Thanks for the quick reply. I was considering getting a ramp to help getting her in the back of my CRV? Have you tried something like that?

  8. I’m actually lucky I had insurance for my dog and they pay 80% of the bills. The injections are called Adequan. He was recently scoped to see why he was still limping and they found nothing!! So these meds and more rehab is my last resort! I know what you mean about when does it end?? I think my dog gets around decently because he is very muscular like a pit bull. I haven’t needed a ramp because my car is low and I can just pick him up.

    I feel that I just have to accept that his life span will not be as long as I Would have wanted. All these surgeries and wear&tear on the knee have already started to show signs of arthritis. I’m really sorry about your pup, bad knees and hip! Too young for all that.

  9. My dog had traditional repair done with fishing line. To be honest, tightrope surgery scared me off – there have been too many problems with it. Basically, it’s because of the fiber they use. It seems to cause more problems than it’s worth.

    Sorry things aren’t great yet. I’ll keep watching to see how things turn out, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you both, too.

  10. Unfortunately my vet only does tightrope otherwise I would have to go out of town if I want something else. He told me fish line is not recommended for large dogs.
    How is your dog recovering from surgery?

  11. I actually have not heard of too many terrible outcomes from tightrope surgery except when it’s done by a non-specialist. How big is your pup Diane?

  12. I guess for me the weave/fiber/rope scared me the most. With LSS and fishing line, most often the worst thing that can happen is you have a failure – the line breaks – and you have to start over. The rope on the tightrope seems more infection prone (you can google and see stories on infections), but it also is so strong it can cause bone tunneling – where it wears into the bone.

    Agree that it should be performed by somebody who’s done a lot of them. A lot. It’s a tricky surgery for sure.

    My guy recovered from his fishing line surgery.

  13. Well no turning back I guess. She’s scheduled for surgery on Thursday. Someone lent me a wheel chair for dogs. Pretty cool. Now I just have to get her in it. That should be a lot of fun.
    My dog walker left me a note today telling me that her ankle on the leg that had surgery on (right leg) clicks when she walks. Anyone ever here of this problem after surgery?

    Thanks for all your comments. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my misery. Poor dogs :(. Will keep you posted on her post surgery. Take care fellow dog lovers.

  14. Diane – my surgeon specially asked me if his knee has been clicking because that is a sign of a meniscus tear. Was your dogs meniscus left intact? A small % of dogs tear that after the surgery. The only way to truly say of that is a problem is to have the knee scoped. Do they plan on looking at why the other leg isn’t doing ok during the next surgery?? That sounds like an ideal time.

  15. The vet told me the meniscus was in tact at time of surgery but who knows? I’ll ask about looking at both legs but I’m afraid that would leave her completely helpless. I’ll do some research.

  16. 7 Yr old Sheltie who has known arthritis and first surgery when he was one for patella luxation. Now a possible ligament tear. Would you put him through another surgery?

  17. Personally if it was my dog I would opt for conservative methods. My guy had the repair and has mild arthritis, I have seen almost no improvement. He is starting another round of physical therapy soon and I’ll post of we see results. It seems like his best option is to strengthen the leg and possibly s stay on rimidyl long term. He greatly improves when he takes rimidyl.

  18. My lab had the “fishing line” surgery back in June 2012. Our vet didnt want to have the TPLO surgery done because he said it was too much to put the dog thru. My boy is 6 almost 7 years old and is very active. Pre op he weighed about 100lbs. vet said he had to lose as much as possible prior to surgery. We got him him down to 89lbs before the surgery. He was doing very well for 4 months. In October he was doing so well, no limping or anything. Towards the end of October he started limping again and holding his leg up. I brought him back to the vet and our worst fear came to fruition .. he had broken the implant. That was a fear of my vet because my guy is so strong. In fact the vet put 2 80lb implants in instead of just one. Well one broke and the other slipped into the his knee joint. So he had another surgery. The Dr. took out the 2 implants and inserted another. This time he put in a 100lb. implant. Two and a half short weeks post surgery he was limping again and I could tell it wasnt right. Sure enough he has broken the new implant as well. Keep in mind we kept in totally quiet and only went outside to poop and pee and was always controlled by leash. Very disappointing and frustrating. This time my vet said there are three options. Do nothing and see how he does for a while; do a different surgery that as my vet says is very painful and isnt performed any longer. This has something to do with using his existing ligament and stretching it thru drilled holes in his knee. Or at least I think thats what it was .. I will admit I kinda was half listening at the time because I was so disappointed. Or the third option was the TPLO surgery at between $2500 – $5000.. I wont put him thru either of those surgeries for a couple reasons. First, they are supposedly very painful post op and takes a long time, 6 months minimum, to heal up and get back to somewhat normal. So .. what to do? While searching the web I came across ACL knee braces. People have opted for these instead of surgery or after surgery where the surgery didnt work for one reason or another. Im looking into this option because I cant even think of him having another surgery and having him go thru it again. Not to mention the cost has become out of control between the surgeries and the medication. WOW!

    1. Hello to everyone,

      I came across this most recent site I could find. Currently I am trying to figure out the best option for my sheltie Riley. He has been diagnosed with a full tear on the right and partial tear on the left. He had X-rays June of 2012 but my vet did not detect a problem. So in Nov. 2012 I had a different vet examine Riley. He took an X-ray at a different angle from the previous. He said that Riley had a partial tear in the right knee, some swelling in the knee, and also some muscle atrophy. But, he wanted me to try a few months of conservative therapy which we tried. Oh, he also had some arthritis beginning as well.

      Last week took him to see an Orthopedic surgeon because he still is not doing that well. He can walk but cannot take him for walks any longer due to pain. Well now the surgeon said he has a full tear on the right and a partial tear on the left. We were pretty devasted. I have had dogs all of my life and never experienced any of this.

      So….what to do? This surgeon wants to do TPLO. I get chills thinking about this surgery due to the pain he would endure and long recovery. Then after that…..do his other leg?

      He is about 32 lbs. and maybe two or three pounds at the most overweight because he is a larger sheltie. So, I am wondering if he could have the tightrope or something less invasive. It’s so difficult knowing what to do. He already has arthritis now.

      Would Adequan injections help In leau of any surgery? I am seeing another surgeon next week. She specializes in the TTA method. Just confused at this point.

  19. Sorry to hear about your issues! I have the ACL brave for lucas. They custom fit it while he was in surgery and it cost bout $800-$1000. Apparently it’s made out of the same stuff human knee braces are made out of. Unfortunately he hates it and I could never get him used to wearing it. He would try to chew it off or just wouldn’t use the leg. Maybe your guy is a bit calmer.

  20. Oh boy thats too bad Lucas has to be a little jerk about it…lol Sometimes they just dont understand we are trying to help them. That is my concern as well .. will Tugger, wear it or try to constantly take it off. He didnt bother his bandages so perhaps he wont mind it but thats a lot of $$$ to take a chance with. Tugger is six but very active .. loves to run in the fields. Have to try something for him.

  21. Jim – Sorry to hear your news. I did the same thing as you! In fact, we’re a week out from TPLO and guess what? My guys is happy, content, and not as painful as some vets like to think. He walked on his leg two days post-op. He did! He’s been walking on it since.

    I need to keep you updated on our progress. I’m not happy about his failure – but some dogs have such a steep plateau that traditional doesn’t work. I was worried off and on and sure enough, his knee was unstable and his meniscus was shredded.

    But, like I said, I sucked it up and handed over my dog (and my wallet) and I have been so surprised. So surprised.

    They can’t stay lame forever – you know?

  22. Nancy … did your dog have the TPLO? it has been a week and a half since Tugger broke the second implant. He has been doing pretty good. My vet “found” some Deramaxx and it has been working wonders. He is walking on his leg and tries to run .. which, of course, I stop him. But the Deramaxx is not being produced due to some problem with the manufacturer. So we will have to see what happens with that. In the mean time, I still dont want to have him go thru the surgery again. Keep me posted on your guy.

  23. I came across the blog here while racking my brain ,feeling like its spiraling into a hole that seems like a never ending nightmare of complete guilt and negligence with no ending in site… my blue pitbull Benito 2yrs. old started limping off and on just before Christmas 2012, on his left leg,but soon after getting up walking for a moment seem to be fine,i thought it was just maybe his leg was asleep from laying on it all night, he’s 85lbs sheer muscle, so I came home one day and he came to the fence like always , and I said somethings not rite today, so I went in and talked to him and he said something is not rite ,and its hurting a lot now,so we went to the vet,and he said there was some inflamation,and wanted to take a picture to get a better look at it, and he comes back and says he damaged his ACL, and did the same thing Adrian Peterson (Vikings) did to his knee, but good news he don’t think it will need surgery,just keep him off it 3 weeks unless outside for potty, game me anti infla. , and pain meds, and some sedation pills, because my dog is a runner and will play 24-7, he don’t care, anytime anyplace anywhere, I mean he don’t run, he strides like secretariat (‘triple crown horse’) , but after 3 weeks if hes still limping he will probably need surgery,and its like 800$ (yea rite) 3weeks past… well hes not limping as bad as he was but I can still tell his leg is just not to stable,and he will hop on his right leg once in a while when I take him out for potty, because I still am keeping him on the leash, cuz I know he wants to just break and go bolting off in his huge back yard, but I cant let him do that, so I take him back yesterday, because I feel that somethings still not rite in his knee, but it don’t seem to hurt him a whole lot, so I go there and the other vets gone they said , he was a young vet, so he probably went back to school, who knows, so the lady vet, perhaps one of their surgeons, come in and says it looks from his x-ray, he did damage his ACL, and my 2 opts. were the Extracapsular repair $1200, and the TPLO $3000-$3500, the 1st one they do there and the second one is the referral board cert. vet. which is at another location, so now im just freakin out, tryin not to start cussing myself out in the vet office, so I say which do you prefer of the 2 and she says the TPLO, but they require full payment, or creditcare, (which I wont be applying for), but she says they both have a 95% success rate either way you go, its just the TPLO recovery time is faster,while the extr. caps repair is long term, so anyway I just wanna get the hell outta there, so anyway, I come home and start my online quest for answers which is my answer for everything in my hours of despair, even if just for to help seek comfort for the time being, so I come across some vets who only specialize in surgerys,deliverys,etc. so in a attempt to seek some relief I call the dr. whos been around for years doing tons of procedures on every kind of animal out there, so I start telling him my issues, and talking to him like hes my paid therapist,who ive known forever,and whos allowd me phone therapy sessions when I need them, so anyway he says its still gonna be around $2900, for the TPLO,that the other surgery would eventually tear out leaving me rite where I was from day 1, so I say thank you to him, so now I feel ive gotten some mental relief, but my dog still needs help so I call my friend just to try to get some more comfort support, but to no avail cuz hes being his usual punka$$ self, so I hang up to go back to my online research, and someone must have sent some luck my way, cuz the phone rings and its the specialty vet I just spoke to saying he want to help me he understands whats going on, and the best we can do for my baby benito is the TPLO for around $2000, but he will need the full payment upon completion of the surgery . and tells me to call a vet he knows close to where I live and tell the vet to call him so he can set the procedure up at his office that’s closer to where I live, rather than having to travel so far to his office, so now im like a freshly recharged patient who just left his analysts office prepared to take on his upcoming weeks obsticales.. so for now im just keepin benito indoors in his little room till we get the surgery done around the 1st feb 2013, thanks all ,, ill keep everyone updated.

  24. I wish you luck Anthony. I had an appointment with my vet last week. He took an xray to try and see the how the implant had failed. To his shock the implant was in the same position as he had left it during the surgery. My vet said said he thinks the implant may have cut through some other ligament (not sure what one) and making a long story short … My vet wants one last try at fixing my buddy because he says he is still young (6) and loves to run iin the fields and hunt. My vet was not in favor of TPLO because he said the outcomes are not that good and the cost is substantial. He said he would like to perform a surgery that was done years ago prior to TPLO and all other “implant” type surgeries. He explained it would be the same surgery RG3 (washington redskins quarterback) was having. This uses his own ligament and said it would be much stronger than the implants. But the drawback is that the surgery is quite a bit more painful than his previous surgeries had been. He also said if we decide not to do any more surgeries he will get better and better as scarring builds up in his knee but will not be 100%. My vet said to take my guy home and think about it for a week or so and he gave us some Deramaxx for any pain my buddy might have. So its been about 3 weeks since his second surgery and he seems about 90% back to normal. He runs around with our other dog (pittbull) and loves playing in the fields. I dont let him go out alone because I dont want him chasing animals. Yes he limps somewhat but hasnt held his bad leg up since being on the Deramaxx. I don’t think we will be getting the third surgery unless he gets far worse than he is. I dont want to put him through another surgery, especially a more painful one, unless its absolutely necessary. I will update ev1 if things change .. in the meantime, good luck to ev1 and keep blogging about this .. so far it seems to have helped us all .. maybe there are others who will find our stories helpful.

  25. Oh and about the braces ….. I have been researching and asked my vet about them. All the research I have found is the same advice my vet gave me ….. Dont waste your money!!! These braces act the same as braces for people. They all slip no matter what the manufacturers tell you. So as the dog runs, the brace slips down on their hock. The same hock that is supposed to prevent the brace from slipping. But think about it … when the dog runs … the hock straightens out and the brace then slips down. Anyway just a little food for thought.

  26. Hi jim, thank you for responding and sharing your story with me, im so sorry to hear about your buddy, I cant say I know how you feel since you have been going through your issue longer than I have and have had to go through the surgerys and trying times of seeing your best friend in such a helpless situation, and then looking into his eyes trying to express to him how much you love him and cherish his friendship and loyalty, I just dread having to think I may make a dessision that I believe is helping my baby for the better, and possibly putting him in a worse situation than hes currently in now, he will go out and walk normal real well,but then hop some, then walk normal without even limping, so I don’t know if its something that could heal slow over months or what, it took my knee nearly a year to heal without having surgery, and it seem to me like that it would never heel, my neighbor up the road was telling me tonight how his knee has rods and pins in it and a artificial knee cap and that how it kills him sometimes actually now even in the colder weather, I know animals are different, but actually the first vet I seen ,I said are their knees similar to humans, and he said no their exactly like ours, that’s when he was mentioning Adrian petersons injury, I just hate to think I will or will not make the rite or wrong decessions, the one thing I know whatever the outcome I wont be letting him just run careless like he was, he had a perfect burm that was carved out into the yard like a half moon where he was running back and forth side to side in the back yard, we made a nice area where he has plenty space but not where he can get that momentum and build up that speed he was getting before, kinda like a little dog run I guess you could call it, hes still young, I just hope a major knee operation isn’t something im jumping into to soon, well hope to hear form you again and anyone else who can offer advise, thanks again !!

  27. well, heres my conclusion to my story above, I had prepared mentally and financially to go through with the TPLO for my blue pitty Benito, well the day comes im at the vet on time ready to get it over and just get him home for his long rehad, well useless to say the Ahole vet that I had set up to do the TPLO was nothing but a lying creep who just got me down there to Bull$#!T me and charge me for unauthorized blood work,and dope my dog up, luckily im a nice guy because I was about to do something perhaps I may have been locked up for a long time for, anyway I take my dog home he crying his eyes out im crying my eyes ready to go back to the vet and get some payback, but my dogs my only concern in my life not some fake a$$ wannabe vet,so then im just gonna go ahead with the extracapsular surgery, but first I wanted to try some trad. therapy, and I got a couple bottles of the consequin DS with MSM, and been giving it to him now for over a month and been just keeping him mellow and taking him out for little longer walks everyday and he seems to be walking good again, so I say 6mo. from when I first started giving it to him the cartilage should be fully developed but still new, but that’s what that stuff does is help rebuild the cartilage over time, good luck which ever route you go. you can read my post about that vet at yelp type in spencer springs animal hospital in las vegas, take care.

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