Our Dog Beau
Our dog Beau is a seven year old Golden Retriever and master of the household! He’s friendly, fun, energetic and spoiled! Unfortunately, we learned early in his first year that he also has hip dysplasia. Until now, this has not stopped him from having an active, doggy life. However, in late November we noticed some on again, off again limping and after a few days of this, we took him to the vet to check it out.
After an exam and x-rays (done under sedation) the bad news turned out to be a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. Our vet said that this is a common injury in dogs, particularly large breeds and particularly dogs with hip dysplasia who tend to alter their gait and put added stress on the knee ligaments. While humans tend to tear these ligaments in sporting activities (the football player who misses the season due to a torn ACL), dogs put much more stress on their knees (stifles) and are more prone to rupturing these ligaments over time, without a significant trauma. We were presented with the following options for Beau:
No surgery. Treat with rest, physical therapy, pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Our vet did not feel that the ligament in a dog this size would heal on its own, however, and indicated that the likely outcome would be abnormal wear and tear leading to arthritis which would continue to worsen over time, becoming chronic and debilitating.
TPLO surgery (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy). This is a surgical procedure in which the head of the tibia is surgically altered and plated to create a new joint angle. A new angle is created in the stifle to prevent the femur from sliding off of the tibia. This surgery would need to be performed by an orthopedic veterinary surgeon and would be very expensive. We were never actually given an estimate for this surgery, but my research puts the cost in the $3,000 – $4,000 range. Our vet indicated that this procedure is considered by some to be the gold standard in treatment. However, due to it high cost and invasiveness, she did not recommend it for a seven year old dog.
Traditional Repair surgery (Extracapsular Imbrication). This procedure uses a strong leader line placed within the knee to provide stabilization. As it was explained to us, the downside of this procedure is that the line will eventually break and it is impossible to say when. It could be that the line lasts five years, or it might only last two months. With a large dog like Beau, our vet didn’t feel this was our best option.
Modified Traditional Repair surgery. This is the same procedure as in number 3 above, except that the dog’s own muscle is used to provide the stabilization, which is much stronger. As the area heals, it heals around this graft of muscle and further increases the knee stabilization. The cost of this surgery, as well as the surgery in 3 above, depended in part on whether or not the meniscus was damaged. The meniscus is the pad between the bones of the joint – a shock absorber. Estimates for this surgery were from $1,700-$1,900. Our vet recommended this option, which would be performed in their offices by a different veterinarian with extensive experience in this procedure.
To be honest, we didn’t give option 1 too much consideration. Neither my husband nor I could bear the thought of our middle aged (but not old), active dog declining early in such a painful manner. On the other hand, TPLO surgery was simply too expensive for us to consider and our veterinarian seemed to think this surgery would be warranted for a young dog, but not a seven year old dog. Option 3 seemed too risky and also was not recommended by our vet for a dog of Beau’s size. Thus, we elected for the Modified Traditional Repair using the dog’s own muscle to stabilize the knee. I was unable to find much information on this modified type of repair on-line, but it may be that there is a particular name for it which I was not searching under. I did see information on the Tightrope repair surgery, but our veterinarian felt that this was not in favor currently. One very sober fact: the vet told us that 40% of dogs that rupture the CCL eventually rupture the CCL in the other leg. Whatever choice we made, we best be prepared to make it again.
Unfortunately, we learned the next day that the veterinarian who was to perform the surgery was out of town for several weeks. The surgery was scheduled for December 8th and our job was to keep Beau quiet and calm until then!