The pet industry is a multi billion dollar a year venture, and this includes veterinarian care. Naturally, there are situations when surgery is the only option, but like any profit driven business, a clinic makes more money if more dogs are undergoing extensive surgery.
So, does your dog really need surgery with a partial cruciate tear? Tears, strains, sprains, and full ruptures of the ligaments that surround the hind knees of the dogs are not only very common, they all abide on the same spectrum, with varying degrees of severity.
Not all partial tears to the cruciate ligament will require surgery, even if this is the first option that is recommended to you.
What are some factors to consider when deciding if surgery is necessary to treat your dog’s partial ligament tear?
Once you notice that your dog is exhibiting an injury to one of their hind knees, take some time make a thorough evaluation of the extent of the injury, begin alternative care types of treatments immediately, and over time monitor closely how your dog is walking as well as their overall comfort level when applying weight to the hind legs.
Evaluate and Assess The Injury: Get A First, Second, and If Needed A Third Opinion
The seemingly easy fix is not always the best fix. Whether dog or human, our society has groomed us to believe that the quick and apparently easy fix of surgery is the only solution. Sometimes, a slower more careful approach is actually more appropriate.
Take your time as the owner to make a thorough assessment of the extent of your dog’s injuries. This may be a matter of monitoring the pain level of your dog, how well your dog is able to bear weight on the injured leg, and having x-rays taken to observe the extent of the tear or strain to the cruciate ligament.
If your first veterinarian visit results in the incidence of surgery as the only option, be sure to get a second, third, and fourth opinion.
Many dogs do recover from partial tears to the cruciate ligament and often the recovery is more successful in the absence of surgery altogether.
Most veterinarian clinics will recommend non-surgical options for dogs weighing less than 30 pounds; however, it is possible for dogs weighing more than this to recover from partial cruciate tears without surgery in some cases.
Alternative Treatments To Surgery Are Available For Partial Cruciate Tears
Just as you would for yourself or a loved one, as soon as your dog injures their hind knee, be sure to apply a cold compress to keep the swelling down, insist on rest, and have your dog confined to an area of the house that does not have stairs or slippery floors.
This will give your dog the opportunity to begin the self healing process. Through conservative management of the injury many dogs will recover from a partial tear.
Typically the swelling will occur on the inside of the injured knee, a combination of both cold and warm compresses will help to bring the swelling down. You may also want to provide some pain medication to your dog, but not so much as they begin to use their injured leg as normal.
Short walks on soft surfaces are important, the terrain should not be difficult. Grass or sand will help ease the pain from impact. Asphalt or cement will increase the resistance of impact and therefore put more strain on the injury.
In addition to limiting walks, you may want to consider alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and perhaps a dog brace.
According to Ortho Dog, a company that provides braces for dogs, there are several alternative care options available for all dog sizes including:
“Acupuncture, supplements (fish oil, turmeric, and glucosamine), swimming, and massage can also aid in your dog’s recovery from a CCL tear.” (2)
As your dog rests in confinement, you may want to manually massage and gently move the knee joint around if there is not too much pain. If you have access to a swimming pool this can also be a great option for your dog to continue to exercise impact free.
Whatever you decide to do for your dog’s partially torn cruciate ligament, continue an ongoing evaluation of the injury and your pet’s state of being.
Long Term Effects Of Choosing An Alternative To Surgery: Diligent Monitoring Of Ongoing Discomfort or Immobility of The Hind Leg Can Help Prevent Further Damage
If you are the owner of a larger dog and have chosen to try a non-surgical approach to their torn cruciate ligament you will need to monitor their progress very closely. If you do not notice an improvement within the first ten days, it may be time to consider surgery.
After ten days of conservative management, even for larger dogs, there should be improvement of mobility, decrease in swelling, and less pain.
As the dog owner, ultimately the decision to move forward with or without surgery is yours to make. If you choose non-surgical options there should be a steady improvement. If the injury seems to be getting noticeably worse, bring your dog into the clinic as surgery may be needed.
If, however, you are following conservative management protocol, with diligence and patience very often surgery can be avoided all together.