Tightrope Surgery with Swivel Lock – Brian

Brian was the biggest pup of his litter. Now I know not to pick the biggest, since they are more prone to problems often. At 8 1/2 years his right knee went out. That was one week ago.

Given his age and the size of this American Bulldog (120 lbs), I was not sure what I could do for my best friend and companion. He’s not really very active anymore, but he sure does love his walks. So, was trying to see what I could do for him to at least get him to still be able to go on his walks. They’re not too long (10 to 20 mins).

So, this week he went in for the tightrope surgery with the swivel lock system. He did stay at the vet hospital the night of the surgery and came home yesterday.

The surgeon mentioned the he was a “thick boy” mand had a difficult time getting past the muscle and connective tissue. But she said it finally went well.

The first night home on Tramadol and Previcox was a bit roghi, but today he seems to be in a bit more pain. I wanted to give him as little Tramadol as possible to avoid the GI upset, but don’t want to see him in pain. Let’s hope he improves in a few days.

He is putting some weight on the leg when he goes out to potty.

25 thoughts on “Tightrope Surgery with Swivel Lock – Brian

  1. Well, it’s now been one week since Brian’s surgery. He has been pretty good about using his leg. A few days after the surgery he did sneak up to the landing on the stairs! I was shocked and nervous, but he seems ok. Hopefully, they will take out his staples on Monday.

    1. Hi Jim

      How is Brian doing? Lucca is on his way home today, after spending 4 nights at the PDSA in Cape Town, after his second operation, on Thursday. So, the whole process will start all over again……whatever it takes, this time, we must be even more comitted to keep him calm and confined.

  2. My husband and I are in despair today. After 8 weeks of sticking to all the rules and regulations of cruciate ligament repair, our two year old Boerboel/Boxer, Lucca, now seems to be back to square one. He had his surgery on 23 February and we did everything possible to assist in the healing process: a comfortable and confined area where he could rest and recover and still see the daylight – we removed the garage door and installed a safety gate – early morning, mid afternoon, late afternoon and late night walks, so that he could do all the necessary things dogs need to do!! – lots of chew bones to relief the boredom, very expensive anti-arthritis medication, special food and you name it. Exactly two days ago, while we were outside with Lucca ( always on a leash) on the farm where we live, a friend came racing through on his bicycle – we were all caught unaware of what Lucca’s reaction will be. He simply jerked so hard that the leash came loose and then ran after the bicycle in pure excitement. Although it could not have been more than a few metres, the damage was done. He is limping again since yesterday. We are taklng him for a full check-up and X-rays on Thursday, but we expect to hear bad news – that the cruciate ligament has snapped again. Apart from the fact that we simply can not afford another operation now, we feel that our dog’s spirit has already been stifled and surpressed by the caging in, over the last 8 weeks. He is a 50kg farm dog – highly energetic, very playfull and used to having the farm to himself. He is not overweight for his size – we made sure of that right form the start. In fact, he is gorgeous and kind and sweet. We are so depressed about all this and can now only hope that the damage is not as bad as it looks. Please hold thumbs for us and our son – we love him to bits and will do anything within our means to make him happy!

  3. Titia and Family

    I am so sorry to hear about Lucca. I hope the best for all of you. I have just went through TPLO hell. Please keep me posted.


  4. Titia,

    That is a most unfortunate incident. These types of injuries can occur in seconds (I know Brian’s did in less than 60 seconds when he took off running after something in the yard). I would not despair.

    If there was a significant setback, you may want to try the Conservative Management method and wait until he is better. This website is really great about promoting non-surgical healing:


    I wish I had read it before my dog had his surgery. You will all need to be patient for a while again.

    Best of luck,


  5. Brian’s staples came out a couple of days ago. The vet told me that we could now do a couple of 10 minute walks each day. Unfortunately, I’m now hearing a popping sound every time he steps on the repaired leg. It is a bit scary of what may be the cause, but some say it may just be the slight instability of the joint that is now revealed when the swelling has gone down.

    1. Jim and Cathy

      Our worst nightmare became a reality, yesterday. X-rays showed that Lucca’s cruciate ligament snapped again as we suspected. I feel so frustrated, angry, helpless and very sad for my boy. We are going to wait before we consider a second operation – it is now becoming really chilly and I do not want to put him through the agony again in our cold and wet winter. the vet ( a specialist in orthopaedic surgery ) said that there is no immediate rush. I am going to now try all the conservative treatments – thanks Jim for the link – and keep on with his ( very expensive ) supplements, good quality dog food and lots of fsih oil. We aslo decided to have him sleep indoors now. Up till now he has been our guard/watchdog as we stay on a farm. He always enjoyed being outdoors day and nigt – huge doghouse on the undercover patio. I do though think that it is more important now to keep him really warm and comfortable. My little Jack Rusell and Yorkie x Schnauzer proofed to be just as good with guarding the property!!
      Thank you all for sharing your stories – itr really helps to know that other people are going through the same trauma. Good luck with Brian – I hope that the popping sound is nothing too serious.

  6. I am so sorry to hear about Lucca. Our 13 1/2 border collie Annie had swivel lock surgery almost three months ago for a torn CCL. We thought she was healing nicely, but she had a setback this weekend. Yesterday, after an early morning walk, she started limping. We don’t think she did anything different, other than go for a walk that was a little longer than we usually do, but the weather was warm, and she seemed up for it. We’re planning to make an appointment to see the orthopedic vet who performed the surgery this week. We can’t afford another surgery, and Annie is 13 1/2, so we’re not sure we’d want her to go through all that again. She’s also beginning to have other problems too. She had a bout of peripheral vestibular disease, where she was very disoriented and very dizzy, and the vet detected an irregular heartbeat. I’m heartbroken. I wish you well as you help Lucca heal and decide what to do next.

    1. Hi Marian
      I wish we could put Annie and Lucca in contact with each other!! We decided to give it one more shot and have the knee operated on again in about two month’s time, as the vet feels that Lucca is a strong and healthy boy. He offered to do the operation at half price and we really do trust him. On Sunday, I bathed him, washed his blankies and let him spend most of the day outside with me – on his leash of course – watching him enjoying the autumn sun and revelling in the fact that he can be outside with Mom just made me realise that he deserves the best possible medical treatment and care we can afford. Faith and lots of patience will carry us through. Good luck to you and keep me up to date with Annie’s progress. Would love a photo!

      1. Hi Titia,
        I haven’t visited this site in some time, but I read that Lucca recently had surgery. I hope all goes well with his recovery!
        After seeing the vet who performed Annie’s surgery, he could not figure out why it failed, and after discussing all options, he offered to do a TPLO surgery and charge us a discounted rate. We are very grateful for this, as we could not afford to pay the full price of the surgery. Annie had surgery this past Monday, and is slowly recovering. We are very lucky to have had this second opportunity, and are trying to be very careful about restricting activity, and taking it slow. Please let me know how Lucca is doing. I haven’t figured out how to upload photos, but when I do I’ll send one of Annie.
        To Jim, I hope Brian is doing well.

        1. Thanks Marian. Lucca had his second operation on 3 May and I must say that the actual wound looks much better than the first time. What worries me though is that where he managed to walk almost normal since day three after the first operation, he is now still limping badly – after 7 days! He received no pain medication tis time, but the vet gave me the go ahead to get some Rimadyl – Lucca started on it yesterday and I can see a small improvement. We do ice packs after every walk and they do really help for the swelling, I am also giving him Clomicalm to prevent him from getting too excited. His tummy is also a bit upset, but I think it is from the Ranceph that he is on. Next week it is back to Cape Town for removal of stitches and the first follow-up. Our petrol and diesel bill is frightening, but we prefer to take him back to the vet who did both the operations. Hang in there, Marian. I wish you the best for your Annie – it’s a slow and agonizing road to recovery, but you are not alone!

  7. I have experience with torn cruciates and I can safely say that the best procedure to do is a TTA and have the surgeon release the meniscus.

    1. Lucca had his stitches removed yesterday ( two weeks after his second operation ) and the X-rays showed that the ligament snapped – again! So now we are back to square one and at a dead end. The vet does not want to operate again soon as Lucca has now been through two operations in two months – my husband and I agree. We are heartbroken. I noticed that he struggled to walk after the second operation, whereas he walked rather well after the first one. The vet was also quite upset as he really thought that this time we will have more luck. We decided to continue with his meds. and supplements and to stick to the exercise program, for the full three month recovery period and then take it from there. All three of us need some time out. Good luck to all of you who are dealing with similiar situations with your dogs. It is so sad to see your companion going through so much and the confusion in those big brown eyes – not knowing what’s happening to you and not understanding why you have to be kept on a leash all the time- that kills me!

      1. Hi Titia,
        I’m so sorry to hear about Lucca. It is such a stressful situation for all, and I wish you the best of luck. Have you considered water therapy for him? I’ve heard many good things about it. Annie had gone to about three sessions of therapy, and it seemed to be helping her before she had her setback. Annie is now on week three since she had TPLO surgery, and recovery has been slow. She’s still limping but is such a trooper. I see that her muscles in her affected leg have wasted away. Her vet says we can begin water therapy next week. At 13 1/2 I sometimes wonder if we should have just opted for conservative management instead.

        1. Hi Marian
          Unfortunately, we live in the countryside and the closest town where they do have a water therapy facility is about two hours driving. It’s difficult for us as my husband and I both work full day and they are closed over weekends. It is also very costly. I am considering asking my doctor to try acupuncture on Lucca as it does wonders for my fibromyalgia. Lucca’s spirit seems to be improving and he is getting back his playfulness – making it very hard for me to keep hom quiet. He weighs more than I do!
          Marian, I actually gently massages Lucca’s leg when he is eating and he hardly notices it. It does actulay help as I can feel the muscles relax under my hands. We also keep him extra warm at night. We walk three times a day – 15 minutes / 10 minutes/ 30 minutes – slowly but continuously and without abrupt movements or sharp turns. I think it is just important to try and keep the leg as much in shape as possible, without aggrevating the problem. Good luck with Annie!! Wish I could post a picture of my sweet boy!! .

  8. I’m so sorry to hear about Lucca’s ordeals. I can’t understand why that band would break so soon. Can you see if the swivel lock surgery (tightrope) is available in your area?

    Brian has had ups and downs. He is now at 6 weeks and seems to be doing pretty well. I hope he continues to progress. He got a new pillow top bed yesterday, which seems to help tremendously for his limping after getting up.

    1. Thanks Jim. Our vet’s comments: ‘The material I used this last operation is meant to have a breaking strength of 250kg, so I was suprised when I examined him yesterday only to discover it had broken down.’
      Unfortunately, the type of operation that you refer to we can simply not afford. Because Lucca is so big, the chances of success will be minor. He has been through so much and we want to give him a breather before we make any decisions. The beddings is crucial – Lucca has a sinlge bed mattress with a soft blanket to sleep on as well as a a soft mattress to sit on during the day. I am glad that Brian is doing well.
      Good luck with the recovery – it’s still a long road ahead …..but you will get there!

    2. Hi Jim,
      I’ve been following Brian’s story because my dog Annie also had swivel lock surgery in January. I was wondering what kind of therapy plan, if any, did your vet recommend for Brian’s recovery period? My vet did not give us any recommendations, so we did our own research and found a canine therapist who does water therapy. I hope Brian continues to do well!

  9. Jim,
    Can I ask what you paid for your tightrope surgery?
    And thanks for the tiggerpoz website! Very Helpful

    Sorry if I missed it, but did you mention what type of surgery your dog had? You said the ligament snapped again (what a terrible break), but most repairs don’t reattach the ligament, so I’m wondering what actually happened and what surgery it was that failed.

    I have a bulmastiff who seems to have a partial CCL tear and I’m trying to figure out options and costs. Thanks.

    1. Hi Steve
      If I understand correctly from what I read and what the vet explained to us, Lucca had the tightrope surgery. We could not afford the TPLO surgery anyway.The vet actually suggested this less invasive procedure as with Lucca’s weight and built the chances of success for any of these procedures would be rather slim. I am now feeding him a special brand of dog food with extra glucosamine and chondroitin intended for older dogs with arthritis. Although he is not overweight at all, it will also benefit in controlling his weight now that he is less active. I think what made this whole situation even worse was the fact that we are not talking about a partial tear in the igament, but that it snapped completely! We just want to give Lucca some time to rebuild his strenght and be just a dog for a while, before we decide what to do next!
      Good luck!

  10. Steve,

    The cost of the surgery was $1600. I’m glad the website was helpful. Always good to collaborate with others to get best information.

    1. Hi Steve

      Lucca had the tightrope procedure. We were quoted R15 000.00 ( South African Rand ) for the more advanced TPLO procedure with no real guarantees, as Lucca weighs in at 50 kilo’s – and he is not overweight, just really big. Our PDSA ( People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals ) offered to do the tightrope procedure for far less than our vet quoted and they do have excellent facilities. If we decide to put him through another operation, it will have to be the more advanced TPLO, but we will have to negotiate payment terms with the PDSA. My little Yorkie x Schnauzer needs to go to a chiropractor as she suddenly started to show a peculiar lameness in her hind legs and X-rays showed nothing. We can’t ignore this – it’s not her fault that ‘Brother Lucca’ is costing us a fortune, Tough times and even tougher decisions!

  11. Reading through this I would like to know what you guys are doing with the pups now and how they are doing. We recently had tightrope surgery on our almost 7 year old husky. 2 months ago he came up very lame with the other leg. we had surgery scheduled for the other leg and the week of the surgery he started acting even worse with the surgical leg. So instead of the 2nd surgery being the other leg we had to redo a failed tightrope surgery on the original. the last surgery was in April and he seemed to be doing pretty well all around and last week the non surgical leg is bothering him bad. So we are scheduled for another tightrope surgery on the un-operated leg next week. Obviously we are nervous about the outcome. This is the last surgery we can afford, we haven’t finished paying off the last. It just seems way to early to have to answer the tough questions since he isn’t even 7 yet. No one can answer for us but I am curious if anyone has experience with tears in both legs.

  12. Jason,

    If you read on the Internet about the experience of others, you will unfortunately learn that it is not uncommon for the non-operated leg to fail sometime after the repaired leg. It is an unknown that one can pray never happens to a repaired dog, but the odds are not good.

    I have tried to keep my dog from doing things that put more strain on the non-repaired leg, but he does use it almost exclusively when he gets up off the floor. The vet told me that the ligament in that leg was a bit loose, so it’s like a timebomb.

    Best of luck to you and your husky. Do remember that the larger dogs have a shorter life expectancy than the smaller dogs.


  13. we knew the risks with the 2nd leg and were scheduled to have it fixed, when he tore the tightrope that week we kept the appointment but went instead redid the tightrope. My worry is that his surgical leg might not be strong enough yet to support surgery on the other leg yet. he is struggling to walk now and doesn’t want to go to the bathroom much. I know its common the other leg will fail, but I don’t see much in the way of experiences with them failing this close together. We will see.

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