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.

13 thoughts on “My Decision to Pursue Tightrope Surgery – Mousse

  1. 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.


    1. 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. 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.

    1. 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 ( 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.

        1. Hi Adam,
          Sorry you are in this position, but there is hope. Four and half years later, Mousse is my 75 lb. “puppy”- a total goofball. The original list is below in my response to Christine in 2012. You might try Dr.Cook – – but I don’t know if that address is still valid. Or maybe contact Arthrex – the company that makes the suture material?
          One recommendation I’ll pass along, dogs do better if they can drop a few pounds. Less pressure on the joint and post surgery, on the suture.
          Best of luck,

        1. Hi Randy –

          The list of NY vets was in my reply to Christine, see below …. but that was April 18, 2012, so probably dated. I don’t know if Dr. Cook – – is still involved in this area. The other suggestion would be to check with Arthrex, the company that makes the suture material. I know they still make it because Mousse’s vet is still using Arthrex for CCL surgeries. He’s out in western NJ, so too far if you’re in NY.

          Good luck to you.

  3. 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, letting him know were in NY you are. He may have an updated list.

    Best of luck.

    NY 12849
    518 399 5213
    11361 718-423-9600
    11720 631-585-5353
    DOG CENTER EUROPE CMR 488 APO NY 9088 49-631-3406-4491
    NY 10021 212-329-8750
    11542 630-776-9257
    NY 11040 516-742-3377
    14810 607-776-3747

  4. Just a quick post on Mousse, who turned 9 in March and passed the 5-year anniversary marks on her Tightrope in November and the follow-up cartilage repair surgery just this week. She is still my 75-pound “puppy” and still very active, especially since I adopted another dog, Daisy Mae, last year. I am somewhat cautious when they rough house outside, because Daisy has twice knocked Mousse down while trying to jump over her; Mousse came up limping (scary!) a bit but then was okay. And, so far, she has not shown any knee problems with her other back leg. : )

    1. Great news. I know this was posted a few years ago but I did just want to ask do you think bracing the dog after the suture surgery would be something you might have done looking back or could see being useful/good idea. My thing was that a brace may be helpful during post-op just to keep the knee extra stable as I know those first few weeks are critical? Any thoughts on this…. using a brace AND doing the suture surgery? Thank you.

      1. Hi Nat!

        I’m happy to write that Mousse is now 13 years young (birthday coming up March 14) and her Tightrope has held up very well. I try to keep her at 65-68 lbs and we usually walk at least a mile, twice a day. She has slowed down, has some difficulty on smooth surfaces (hardwood floors) and stairs, and is sometimes wobbly in her back legs. Her vet calls her a “Super Senior”, and I agree.
        A brace might put pressure on the wound or introduce germs. I would urge you to check with your vet about bracing your pup’s leg post surgery. Mousse had at least a dozen staples closing her surgery; I had to keep Lola, her feline buddy, from licking the wound … and I was always counting the staples.
        I looped a towel around Mousse to support her when doing her business outside. Later, I discovered the inexpensive waist brace from the dollar store worked much better. We did some short walking exercises indoors …. her walking small circles around me, clockwise and then counter clockwise; sitting came a bit later. But all that may have been after the staples came out. There were lots of cushy places for her to land safely
        She did have a subsequent surgery to remove scar tissue but , fortunately, never needed the right leg done.
        I hope all goes well for you and your pup.

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