Mishka – TPLO Surgery and Recovery

My little 4 year old border collie x Labrador Mishka tore her CCL 10 weeks ago. She was outside absolutely fine and running around and then all of a sudden when I went to bring her dinner, she was limping around with a foot that refused to touch the ground. I was concerned, but assumed it would go away. It wasn’t until I tried to take her for a short walk the next day and she nearly fell over trying to go to the toilet because she didn’t want to put the leg down, that I realized how badly she had injured herself. I took her to the vet immediately, and as soon as they saw me walking in with her all of the vet nurses knew that there was a very good chance she had torn her crucial ligament.

TPLO Surgery, CCL Injury
Mishka on the day after her first surgery

The vet saw her and had a look at her and confirmed it was the knee ( which I already knew because I had gently run up from her foot to the top of her leg squeezing lightly until she told me where it hurt the night before ) and said they needed to take x-rays the next day to be sure it wasn’t a fracture. The next day after the X-rays they brought us in and explained what we were looking at. A large area of fluid in the x-rays indicated that she almost certainly had ligament damage, and they went over the options with us. Because Mishka is a medium to large dog weighing 24kg at the time, the vet pretty much told us that TPLO surgery was easily the best option and that she was highly unlikely to recover without it. I didn’t know anything about conservative management back then, however I have been seeing the same vet doctors since my previous dog 20 years ago and I have always trusted their opinion, and I know they would be honest if they thought we could have avoided surgery.

We had the surgery but I had no idea what I was in for, I still get upset when I think about how much she cried the first night we brought her home. She absolutely never cries, even when she is in pain she is usually quiet about it so bringing her home from surgery and having her crying all night was absolute torture. I took her back to the vet, and they said they could give her medication which would relax her, but advised us to avoid it at all costs because it would mean she would feel even less like herself. The next day she calmed down significantly and we found she didn’t need any medication to help with that.

The first two weeks, where she had to spend every moment confined to her crate taken out only for food and for bathroom breaks was awful. However, the few weeks after that were much better when we carried her to sit either on the couch or my bed when she was supervised, and on a leash. She learnt quickly that sitting there cuddling was only allowed if she remained still and didn’t try to jump down. Another difficulty we had was keeping her and our other labrador apart. He didn’t seem to recognize what was going on and was unaware of his size, and would often nearly sit on her leg without noticing. He also got very upset at the attention Mishka was getting, and we were conscious of trying to avoid him feeling neglected.

After the 8 weeks of recovery, she had healed very well (the vets say one of the most successful CCL recoveries they have ever seen, from when they said she had the worst angle in her bones they had ever seen originally).

We were warned to let her have normal activity, but not to over do it. Unfortunately, she does not know how to exist without overdoing it, and 10 weeks later from the original surgery here we are and she has a slight tear in the second knee which we were expecting at some point. I’m almost relieved that it has happened to her again now and we will be over and done with the invasive surgeries and the pain of confinement soon – although the financial shock of two massive surgeries two months apart, the first one being before Christmas, did not help the stress of the entire situation. I am very nervous to bring her home tomorrow and I am praying she won’t be crying as much as the first time.

If anyone has any advice for what we can do better the second time around to make it easier on Mishka and on us I would love to know. I have learnt so much through this website and am feeling a lot more confident in my abilities to take better care of her this time around. She is a bit big for a dog pram but I am trying to think of ways to keep her from feeling depressed and bored during confinement. She had little interest in her kong toys last time around, even when they were filled with food.

For others with a highly energetic dog that is medium or large sized and that gets frustrated easily especially when away from people – do not by any means get a soft crate!! Mishka absolutely hated it, figured out how to get holes in it if she rubbed her cone collar continuously in the same spot (very clever pup) and tore it to pieces, escaped from it two or three times and would get very stressed when she couldn’t see us through the windows. We switched to a metal cage crate and she was hesitant at the start, but didn’t seem to mind it much at all after a while – particularly because she could watch everything we were doing more easily.

My questions to anyone else as well – has anyone had any complications after both legs have had TPLO surgery? Has anyone else had both so close together? We have been assured that her original surgery leg is strong enough to bear all of her weight now and she has a very minuscule chance of anything stopping her positive progress now.

Will we ever be able to throw the ball with her again – even if it is in a year’s time ?? I don’t know if I can ever get that strong chase instinct out of her mind. What are some activities we can do with her or ways that we can prevent her from getting bored during her intense stage of recovery?

I hope that someone else finds comfort in Mishka’s story, the way I have found comfort in other people sharing their journeys. I hope to keep you updated on Mishka’s journey ahead 🙂

14 thoughts on “Mishka – TPLO Surgery and Recovery

  1. I hope her second surgery went smooth. I don’t know how long ago this happened to you, we are almost a year past TPLO surgery and my dog Tyler can run and chase a ball just fine. The issue we have had is that he is usually slow climbing stairs and it is sometimes difficult to climb on to furniture…I believe this is all caused by arthritis.

    1. I am reading your story and worried about having this done. They say she has a torn middiscus and acl. The financial has me worried the vet said $2,000 so credit card in hand here we go. Worried about Tuesday..she such a couch dog and bed dog. Will she be able to get up? will I have to carry her?? she 55 lbs. I see a chiropractor in my life real soon ! I see crated her…did you have too? Mine is an old dog..so i’m hoping to leave her out and about she hates the crate… Hope you baby is doing well…

  2. My not quite 2 yr old rottie, just had tplo surgery on 7/2 and is currently in recovery. She does not have much of an appetite and absolutely hates her e-cone. If she has it on, she wont sleep and constantly walks in circles, we try to let her keep it off, but then she licks her incision. This has been a trying time for all, I’m looking forward to her getting through this, she is still taking her pain med (rimadyl)…..any suggestions, advice gladly appreciated!….btw, she has never been crated and being leashed when in her fenced yard, she looks at us like ” you gotta potty too?”….lol

    1. My 3 year old rottie Ziva, just had both legs done. She is doing great. It is 3 weeks since her surgery. I am lucky to be off for summer break and can be with her for the next 4 weeks. She gets her first set of xrays on July 31. She is able to get up and move on her own even though I don’t usually let her. She has been a trooper. She had casts on both legs and it took awhile for her to get used to walking, but once she did, there was no problem. I sleep on 6″ of memory foam next to her so I don’t have to keep her in a kennel. She got her casts off after 12 days and is much happier. She is back on her daily routine for potty breaks and sleeps all night, meaning so do I. I am looking forward for her to be able to get back and play with my daughters rottweiler Zira and rat terrier/jack russell, Tryxie. That will be a glorius day.

  3. Hi there:

    My pit bull/lab is about to undergo surgery on both legs at the same time. I am depressed knowing what she is about to go thru.

    How do you assist her in going to the bathroom? Do you carry your dog outside or do they do their business in the cage?

    Thank you for any advice that you can share with me.

    1. They have complete mobility on both legs after surgery. You just have to make sure you keep a rear harness to assist them when they walk just in case they slip. My Rottie did very well after the second day. She was crying really bad the first night but I realized she had to go potty and once she went outside and peed she slept for 5 straight hours. I had 5 weeks off this summer to stay with her so I was really lucky not to have to kennel her. She slept most of the day due to having Trazodone on board, which make them sleep a lot. She is in week 7 and has no problems and gets her 8 week checkup this Friday. She had Xrays last week and she is healing beautifully. Still no running or jumping or rough housing. She thinks we are punishing her because we won’t let her run. Only 4 more weeks and she should be healed where she can do anything she wants too! I can’t wait to be able to play with her again. It was so worth it!!!

  4. My border collie is 9 years old. She has a torn acl in her back leg. I have gotten two opinions from two different vets after looking at her X-ray. One says she has one in each hind leg, the other vet says only in one leg after examining her. I can’t talk to either surgeon because they don’t call me back. Your article has been very helpful. I don’t know what to do. We live in a rural area. Can anyone e-mail me with suggestions. Thanks.

    1. My Lab mix dog of 3 1/2 years young was diagnosed over a year ago. I tried Prolotherapy (3 sessions – $250 each) this past summer with holistic vet but that didn’t work for her. Referred me to surgeon. I was told by previous regular vet she has it both legs too. A couple of weeks ago finally went to orthopedic surgeon and he believes it’s only one. He explained the TPLO (the evasive one with bone drilling with a metal brace implant) and the fact that 4 months of absolute containment with no jumping, running etc., is very strict and important because the bone can break and have further problems. Cost in NNJ is $5700. I am torn apart emotionally to do this because I have 15 stairs to bring my dog outside and we have another dog who loves to play with her. My dog is very sensitive to anesthesia and it would upset me to see her suffer should a breakage occur and post surgery with pain and a failure. I’m looking into Stem cell therapy and PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) or even a vet that would sit with me to talk about a better way than TPLO. Maybe the fish net. Something. It’s a big money maker. I understand when a puppy gets fixed at 10 weeks old (like my dog was) the hormones are needed for strong growth. it makes so much sense. It’s a very common procedure nowadays but I believe it all about the money. Unfortunately. I wish you luck and prayers.

      1. Contact me I can help you with advice regarding a low cost excap surgery from a surgeon in NY. People come from all over the U.S. to have Dr. Allen perform this procedure and it’s very cost effective. I just had it done on both my dogs knees 5 weeks ago and so far it is holding up very well. you can email me @ giaandniko@roadrunner.com…..Mike

  5. I am so sorry to hear about your pup. I too considered prolotherapy and plasma rich plasma or stem cell but could not find a vet who seemed qualified. My Callie was 7 when she tore her CCL which originally was a partial tear. I wish I would have looked into the prolotherapy and PRP before it tore completely bc I wonder if that would have prevented a full tear. She had been doing pretty well though with underwater treadmill tx and laser. She ended up having TTA surgery when it tore completely. I dd ask the surgeon about stem cell bc he does that as well and he felt it wouldn’t help bc completely torn at the time. She had the surgery and was healing but suddenly after 3 weeks, something happened and we lost her. The ER vet believed blood clot. I wonder if was a heart attack. I will never know. She was a golden retriever and I have recently learned about taurine deficiency and cardiomyopathy so that may have been an underlying cause unrelated to surgery. Maybe you can get a second opinion. Have you tried underwater treadmill and laser with supplements from your holistic vet? Good luck.

    1. I’m so so sorry to hear your dear Callie passing. It’s heartbreaking. I will check with underwater treadmill. The facility is quite far from me but I’m willing to do this for my Wheezer. At least it will build her muscles in her legs. Meanwhile I’m praying for God to guide me to the decision.

  6. My mixed lab, who’s name was also Mishka, had the first TPLO when she was around 5. She was never a big runner but she was running after about a year. About 5 years later the other knee went. Both procedures used the metal implant described, and yes, it is expensive. Eventually she developed cancer at the junction of the bone and implant. It was originally mis-diagnosed and therapy started but on my insistence they looked closer and sampled the bone. She was 15 years old when she let me know she was ready to go. I had to put her to sleep for the cancer. I did not want to extend her life while making her life miserable with the options we had for treatment (pain management, and it started to be ineffective). It has been about 5 years and I still mis her…

  7. To all those who are reading in preparation for surgery, please consider conservative management before surgery. My 11 yr old, 25 lb girl was diagnosed with a damaged meniscus and completely torn CCL. I was told by a surgeon that her only chance of recovery would be through a TPLO. My girl has Cushing’s disease and I was told that would complicate her recovery. Due to her age and health issues, I decided to try to have her heal on her own through conservative management techniques. I had a lot of guilt for not having the surgery right away but decided to give it 8 weeks before moving forward with surgery. She was put on a dosage of prescription Gabapentin to help with her pain. I also gave her over the counter T-Relief. She can’t take traditional pain meds because of her Cushing’s disease. I cut back on her treats to help limit weight gain. I slept on the floor with her for 8 weeks so I could comfort her, monitor her pain and keep an eye on her activity at night. After 4 months of restrictions and then gradually increasing her activities, my girl is doing great. She is able to freely walk through our yard, climb stairs, and plays with her fur sibling. She’s not at 100% yet, but appears to be pain free.

    Her recovery required a lot of constant attention. I blocked all the stairs in my split-level home, carried her up/down the stairs and kept her on a leash at all times when she went outside to potty. To see her walking normally, pain free, confirms that it was worth every minute of my inconvenience to help her heal. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so that we can start taking short walks.

    I know that not all dogs are able to heal on their own without surgery, but it is possible in some cases. Good luck!

  8. Well my suzy went to have the tplo and the vet stopped the surgery said her bones were soft and feared that it woukd be worse outcome or even amputation so he cleaned out the joint and sent us home. She still limps but want to go go go trying to convince her not to jump down worries me and the vet said no leg braces lime they sell on A site. So i dint know what to do. I guess we can try vitamins im not nor can afford a bone specialist for a 4 yr old dog that i love so very much. The little procedure they did was $800.00 ..suggestions??

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