Tightrope Surgery Experience – Ben

I am an Office Manager at an animal hospital, and I love to bring my dog with me to work every day. His name is Ben, and he is a Golden Retriever. When the story begins, he weighed 115 lbs.

In early June, I had brought Ben to work. We we playing fetch in the hospital (again, I LOVE my job), and Ben slipped on the tile floor. He had a slight limp for two days, but then he was fine. I had him on Rimadyl/Carprofen, but once the limp went away, I took him off of it. I began to worry about his weight causing problems, and I was able to get him down to 112 lbs.

On Friday, June 24th, I was in my front yard when Ben started running. He stopped very suddenly, and he couldn’t put his leg down. He couldn’t walk to the door. I immediately brought him to my hospital, and the vet was able to feel the ligament tear through the drawer test.

I started my research immediately. While many people recommend conservative management prior to surgery, I wanted to address the problem immediately. I feel that had I went with conservative management after he had slipped on the floor, and I had I stuck to a longer term treatment plan, Ben would have been fine. But by now, he was having so much difficulty walking that I didn’t want to lengthen his recovery by acting conservatively.

I spoke to 4 different veterinarians and 2 CVTs… 5 of these 6 people said to go with the TPLO. I was shocked at the prices I was being given. Even with a kind “Professional Courtesy Discount”, I was getting estimates into the $4000’s. I was worried about this high price, and I was even more worried about the lengthy recovery time, severity of the side effects, and possibly spending another $4000 on his next leg just months down the road.

I spoke to a vet who we often refer to, but his hospital can only do lateral sutures. After meeting Ben, he suggested I call Dr. Robert Cook of Animal Medic Clinic of St. Charles, IL. Dr. Cook has been performing the Tightrope surgery for some time, and he has had success with it. I set up our consultation for Wednesday, June 29th.


I met with Dr. Cook at about 10:00 AM. He is extremely thorough in his exam, and he makes sure that I understand everything and all of my questions are answered. He explains the possible side effects of the surgery, and he explains why things go wrong. I feel very confident with him, even more so after he mentions he has performed over 500 of these surgeries since 2008. He explains that yes, it is a newer surgery and surgeons can make mistakes by placing the rope crooked or drilling too close to one side of the bone. After 500 of these surgeries, Dr. Cook explained that he has learned to not make these mistakes.

I also explained that I was concerned about Ben’s size, and other veterinarians did not feel the tightrope would hold. He explains that this surgery was designed for the larger dog. He has done it on dogs larger than Ben with great results. We discussed Ben’s weight, and as of today, he is down to 103. Dr. Cook wants me to get him down to the lower 90s to assist with his recovery, and he should probably be at his ideal weight then. Overweight dogs have a higher occurance of blowing their second leg.


I really recommend finding a vet as experienced in this surgery as mine. I ended up paying 2500, and while the outcome is still unknown, this is how my surgery differed from others I am reading.

The surgery was performed that day. I dropped him off at 10. They performed bloodwork, and they gave morphine, acepromazine and an epidural. They were in surgery for about an hour. They also found a tear in the meniscus, and this was trimmed. I brought Ben home THE SAME DAY at 4:00. There was no cast, and there were no bandages. There was a transparent, sticky adhesive placed over the incision which was to be removed in 3 days. The external incision was about 2 inches long, and the other small incisions were all under a centimeter. The incision was closed with staples, rather than sutures.


Ben was in a lot of pain. I was able to get him to eat a little and drink a little. He held his leg in the air the entire time. He would not stand on his own. He was so depressed, like he had lost the will to live.


I take Ben outside at 730 AM. We have four stairs at my house, and I have to basically hold his back end while he walks down the stairs. He peed and laid down. I COULD NOT get him to stand up. I’m so happy I had called off of work… I wasn’t able to get Ben back into the house until after 9:00AM. Ben was still very painful, even after medication, and he would growl at me if I would pet him. He has never growled at me in his life, so I found this concerning. He laid around for the rest of the day. When he would stand later in the day, he would begin to toe-touch. His appetite was normal, and he was drinking. My brother was able to carry him outside in the early evening, and again, he wouldn’t walk to the door to come in.


Ben is starting to walk and follow-me around. He is putting weight on his paw. His pain seems to be going away.


I leave Ben alone for the first time since his surgery. He stayed in my room all day. When I got home, he began to run in the house. I had to stop him from moving so quickly. His function appeared to be back to about 50-60%.


This injury came at a bad time. Ben is crazy afraid of fireworks, and this was the 3rd of July. I made a hiding spot for him in my room with a lot of blankets. I had given him 100mg of Tramadol and 75mg of Benadryl, but he does not seem to calm down whatsoever. At one point, I walked out to my car. I came in about 5 minutes later, and Ben was in the bathroom with a blanket attached to him. I’m assuming he heard a loud firework, and he ran out of my room and tripped over the blanket, because he was holding his leg high in the air again. I was concerned that he did something to reinjure himself or screw up the surgery. I got him to go back in my room and I blasted classical music. I was able to get him to fall asleep.


The Fourth of July!

I brought Ben with me to work. I know he was supposed to be bed resting for two weeks, but I wanted my vet to see his progress. He was walking around a little too much for my liking, but my vet thinks he is healing well. The incision looks healthy and normal, and no swelling is present. I cut his Deramaxx from 100mg once daily to 75mg once daily.

That night, I gave him 25mg Acepromazine. He hid the whole time without any pacing. Thank goodness!


Ben is at about 70 to 80% percent function during the day, but he drops back to 50% at night. I wonder if it is because his Deramaxx is wearing off.

I am slightly concerned that initially, he was showing steady signs of progress, and now it is slowing down. The other problem is that he is getting sick of sitting in this house. He is being way too active when I get home, and he runs to the door if someone gets here. He’s pretty good about stopping when he is told to do so, but I’m worried that these small instances can cause big damage.

Ben is able to completely go down stairs quickly, without assistance (just the 4, as approved by my vet), but he shows a little difficulty when going up. I am lifting up his rear to get him to climb.

2 thoughts on “Tightrope Surgery Experience – Ben

  1. Hi Mandie,

    I fully agree, whichever surgery one decides to use it is important to find a surgeon who has a lot of experience, good record and is comfortable doing that particular surgery.

    The recovery and healing does take some time! Just think how long a paper-cut hurts. Here the body has so much more to contend with while the injured leg is being used (or eve-used at times)

    At ninth day I’d definitely expect pain. Even simple muscle injury takes about two weeks to heal.

    You do need to watch for mishaps but various degree of lameness would be expected. You’re right that a mishap could cause the surgery to fail, though it is my understanding that the tight rope should be very sturdy and not break.

    I would consider building a ramp to eliminate those stairs. It really made a big difference for Jasmine.

  2. What happened after day nine? How did the story end?

    I have a 9-year old Jack Russell Terrier for which a vet has recommended Tightrope surgery. The dog is not so bad that it’s obvious he should be put through the trauma. It’s such a tough decision. I’m trying to learn about the history of the procedure and its success rate over that history. Is there a veterinary organization that tracks this data for the USA? How long has this procedure been around and what is it’s track record? (And who are the surgeons with the best track record for this in my area (Los Angeles)?)


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