TPLO and Conservative Management – Porter

Here’s a story that should provide hope to anyone with a pooch with a CCL problem…

Newfoundland Cruciate Ligament InjuryWe have a 140lb. Newfoundland. He is very active and blew out his right CCL 6 years at 18 months. It started with a tear. He wiped out on our tile floor. We were devastated.

We took him to a specialist. He immediately wanted to cut. That didn’t give us the warm and fuzzies. We then went to another about an hour away from us. He said the ligament was torn, but not ruptured so there was hope. He suggested waiting to see what happened.

Well, a month or so later, Porter blew his knee completely. Started just toe tapping and wouldn’t put much weight on it. We went back to the vet and he suggested TPLO. We went through with the surgery. About $4,000! It’s heavy duty surgery. But, Porter came out in flying colors. Took a solid 7 or 8 months before we let him off leash, but the surgery worked pretty well.

I say pretty well because he’s always been a bit light on that leg since then, but he runs, jumps and doesn’t show any signs of discomfort.

Everything was great until December, 2009. That’s when he started limping on his left side. He had now injured his other knee, which is about a 50/50 chance with large breeds after they have one knee rupture. We’re not sure what he did, but he is very active and runs/jumps all by himself, so he probably fell in our yard or running up our stairs.

ACL Tear Newfoundland DogThis time we did a lot of research about Conservative Management. We really didn’t want to put him or us through surgery again. After speaking to a couple of different vets and people who had gone this route, we decided to take a chance. The vets really didn’t give us much hope as they said usually CM only works on smaller animals, but it was worth a shot.

Porter was confined in a small room and when we were home we’d let him out, but only under VERY close supervision. He was always on leash. No stairs, no walks except for potty breaks in the yard. He was confined to a 3×5 area when we weren’t home. This went on for 3 months.

At that point we started short (5 minute) walks a couple of times a day. still always on leash. From that point we increased his walks over time to about 15 minutes by 6 months.

We had one setback about 2 months in. We didn’t pay attention for a second and he bolted (as I said, he’s very active and wanted to run badly). He ended up limping again! From this point we were militant about keeping him calm. This is easily the most important thing to keep in mind during your dogs recovery. DO NOT Rush…healing takes a long time to occur.

At 6 months we let him off leash in our yard. He was still supervised and we didn’t let him run. A little trotting was about it. We continued to walk him 2 or 3 times a day for 10 to 15 minutes a time. Every month we’d give him a little more freedom. By 12 months you’d never even know he was hurt!

Now (Nov, 2011), He’s now back to full activity…swimming, running, acting like a nut! We still don’t allow him to jump off things and we don’t chase him a lot or let him deak back and forth, which puts a lot of stress on knees. But, other than that, he’s free to do as he wishes. He couldn’t be happier.

Cruciate Ligament Tear in DogsWe put Porter on various supplements…fish oil, vitamin E, Glucosomin/chondroitin. We also cut his food slightly to be sure he didn’t put weight on. We continue with the supplements to this day.

We also started him on Adequan. This is a miracle drug for arthritis pain! we give it to him once every 6 weeks and you can see the difference in him. It’s incredible. I highly recommend it. Find a vet that will let you inject it and you’ll save a ton of money.

We read much of this site before deciding on CM. Many people make the same comment about their dog being too active and thinking they won’t be able to control them or the dog will be too sad sitting around all day. Believe me, it’s harder on the owner than the dog. If you have the willpower to control your dog, you can do this. Really, it’s not much different than TPLO. You’d still have to keep the animal calm for months.

One interesting thing, last year we had Porter’s right knee xrayed. It was quite damaged by arthritis. We were told that was one of the main reasons to undergo surgery…to reduce arthritis. That apparently didn’t work! Some day we are going to have both knees xrayed to see the difference.

A final thought…my wife blew out here knee for a 2nd time last year. We went to one well known surgeon…he said he needed to operate.

Based on Porter’s outcome, we were somewhat skeptical. We went to NYC to see another top notch surgeon. He said no surgery…basically follow the same CM idea. It’s been a year now and her knee is doing very well without surgery!

Newfoundlands and TPLO Knee SurgeryTo sum it up, CM worked very well for us. I would highly recommend trying it, but you HAVE to COMMIT yourself to it. It’s going to be hard, but if you stick to it, it can work. I’m sure there are cases where surgery is the only way out, but don’t be too quick to decide on this route. I don’t see any reason to not try CM before cutting.

I definitely don’t buy the idea that arthritis will be worse if you wait…we didn’t wait and Porter still got pretty bad arthritis in the repaired leg.

I know if you’re just going through this now with your dog, you’re probably very upset. Believe me it’s not the end of the world. Your dog will get better…it’s just going to take some time and a lot of care.

18 thoughts on “TPLO and Conservative Management – Porter

  1. Thank you for your story and insight. I just had my Bernese Mtn. Dog diagnosed with a torn cruciate. Reading your experience has given me hope. I hate to go into surgery as my first option. I, like you were, am worried that I won’t be able to keep a close watch on her 100% of the time. I have 4 dogs. I appreciate reading your experience. Thank you.

    1. Hi my 4 yr old 166 pound newf has a partial tear acl and I can’t afford surgrey and he has a slight murmur I’m terrified and can’t afford much I’m scared and don’t know what to do idk what to give him or what to do he’s sad depressed and so am I …I can’t loze my baby

  2. I have a Labrador with a torn ccl and the vet pushed for surgery I said NO I want to try a stifle brace from orthopets which basically does the same thing as tpol surgery but from the outside and giving her supplements and REST I have great faith this will work!! Brace comes next week right now its just rest and supplements

  3. Thank you SO much for sharing Porter’s story! He is beautiful!!! We have a 7 yr old German Shepherd that came in form using the bathroom two days ago limping. He will not put his full wieght on his back right leg. I have checked everything from his toes to his hips and he doesn’t mind me moving his leg around in any way. I believe it is a wieght bearing issue making me think it is his Crucaite. We haven’t taken him to the vet yet but he also had tosion sugery about three months ago to a tune of $4000. Needless to say we cannot afford surgery at this time with a family of 5. So….hearing your story made me feel that this is possible. We are starting to give him Glucosomin/chondroitin also in helping to maybe prevent more issues in his future. We plan on taking him to see the vet this weekend and see what she has to say about it. I just wanted you to know I really apprecitate you sharing the CM option in bigger breed dogs. 🙂

  4. To the author, thank you! You give me so much hope! Last year, our 5 yo Pit Bull went through TPLO surgery. Everything was fine until last month when she tore her other CCL. We haven’t confirmed it yet since we’ve been fearful of taking her to the vet. She will put weight on it so it makes me think that it’s not a full tear. However, she gets so excited at the vet’s office that we fear she will fully tear it. So we’re waiting for scar tissue to form and somewhat give her some reinforcement before we see our surgeon.

    In the mean time, she’s confined, let outside on leash and next month, we’ll start short leash walks for her. We’re treating it as if she’s recovering from TPLO surgery again.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience. My 6 yr old black lab blew his right ACL a few weeks ago. We were planning on surgery next week or the week after. Today I’m pretty sure he blew the other knee. 🙁 We have been limitting his actity, afternoon walks around our property a just ‘walks’. Today he spun around and went to run after me and he yelped, followed immediately by sever limping. Now he doesn’t want to walk anywhere. Off to the vet tomorrow to see what they’ll recommend now. I HATE to see my baby so obviously miserable, and I feel responsible because I didn’t have him on a leash.

  6. Thank you so much for posting your experience with Porter. We have a 105# Great Dane mix who was just diagnosed with torn ligament and TPLO recommendation. He’s 8 years and we really don’t want to put him through the surgery (and us the expense). Your story really gives me hope in a very stressful time, so THANK YOU!

  7. Thank you all for sharing your stories. Well my dog Lucy was rescued and had a limp at 6 months i took her to the vet they said she had bad arthritis at 6 months put her on Demerol (spelled wrong) she had a bad reaction and bled out. So she is now 6 years old and about 1 1/2 years ago she started limping badly and i took her to vet and she has a CCL tear she is border collie/german shepard mix maybe a little lab. I have not been sold on the TPLO surgery as well. I keep her on a leash at all times outside and take her on 20 minute walks at night. She does sit on her hip rather than pulling the knee in to sit down (most times) she doesnt seem to be in pain she does get up like an old lady but i help her stretch her knee. The hardest part is the vets make you feel bad for not doing the surgery everytime i take her for a check up. keeping the weight off is the most important thing because Lucy is pretty mellow she will go to my car and put her two front legs on back seat and wait for us to lift her it is like she knows. I am just praying she doesnt blow it out completely because then we would have to do the surgery. Hate to say this but sometimes i think certain surgeons are wanting the $ and not thinking of what is best for the dog. But allot of vets are great.

  8. Good luck with CM. It didn’t work for me. After watching my dog struggle for 8 months I finally took him in for a TPLO. He had NO scar tissue. None. He “seemed” fine but when I watch his videos (of him walking that I took) now I can totally tell how bad off he was.

    I restricted him for 8 months and kept him on a leash. Still no scar tissue.

    You have to have scar tissue in order for CM to work. The problem is, nobody knows – definitively – how to tell whether a dog has scar tissue or not.

    The final straw was that he blew out his meniscus and couldn’t walk. At all.

    TPLO, while costly, saved his life and gave him back his life.

    Even if you think vets are only out to make $, the bottom line is that my dog is 100% today because of his TPLO.

    PS – Surgeons stating that TPLO prevents arthritis are talking old-school ideas. It doesn’t. But it can prevent a knee from locking up for the rest of a dog’s life.

  9. I felt like I should follow up with my first post from two years ago on my Bernese Mtn. Dog. I was successful at healing her right ccl tear with a stifle brace from Orthopets! Yeah! However, as it is very common, she did partially tear the left ccl about a year later. I ordered another brace and haven’t has as good of a result with healing this leg as the first. However, we do use the brace for swimming and long walks and it seems to help stabilize the joint. I am happy with my decision not to put her through surgery. She is now 7 years old and doing great, but with a bit of a limp. For my dog and her situation, the stifle brace is a great option. I don’t know if I would make the same choice for a very active younger dog. Just my two cents!

    1. Dear Stacy – I am writing you because we too have a Bernese Mtn. Dog and know that you may understand the breed’s’ particular physical, mental and emotional needs and habits. I am happy to hear that your dog is doing well, we know how very personable these dogs are and I’m sure you love your pet very much, as we do our Buck. Bernies are more like having a child in the family than a pet as we discovered when we acquired him about five years ago. I’m wondering if you are aware of certain health problems inherent to Bernies? To get to the issue I am now concerned with, my husband has read that Bernies often have problems with tumors and certain types of cancer. Whether this is true to the breed in general, I do not know but our dog has developed a tumor of about grapefruit size in his rear quarters and we simply don’t know what to do about the financial cost of the surgery he is in need of – the cause of our hardship is that on New Years Eve our other dog, a 15 year old toy poodle, was hit by a car and was paralyzed in his back legs as a result. I’m sure you know how much the cost of saving his life and having him with us here today can amount to – in our case, it was $1500 cash, out of pocket. Since this happened just last month, we are totally without funds to pay for Buck’s tumor surgery and are quite frantic about what we can do to help him. The reason I am writing to you is because I know you can understand how much we love this dog and how upset we are that we can’t help him now. More specifically, do you happen to know of any organizations that might offer financial aid to people in our situation whether it be for Bernese dogs exclusively or any breed at all. If you could make some suggestions as to where we might begin we would be so very grateful to you. I do not mean to burden you with our problems but as an animal lover my guess is that you well understand what we (and he) are going through. We live just north of Atlanta, Georgia (if that matters or not) and I am seeking as many avenues as I possibly can to help our dog get the care he needs. Thank you for taking the time to read this message and, if you can, I would be so appreciative if you can possibly guide us in our mission. There is almost nothing we would not do in order to save his life as I’m sure you understand. Thank you for your time and consideration.
      Deborah and George Hammond

      1. Hi Deborah and George,

        I am very sorry to hear about your Bernese Mtn. Dog’s health issues. Yes, it is very common for Bernese to get cancer at an early age among many other health issues. Have you talked with your Breeder about your dog’s tumor? They might have some insight as to any occurrences of cancer in your dog’s pedigree as well as support you through this with your dog. You can also check out to see if they might be able to help you.
        I hope you are able to take care of you Berner and get him the help he needs. They sadly can be an expensive breed to own. Good luck! -Stacy

  10. Hello, I have a wonderful amazing Great Pyrenees, Norman, who recently torn his 2nd ccl. He has a partial tear in one knee, and I have just let it alone, per my vet (who does amazing
    ortho surgery). Last week he torn the other one. Norman is my companion, so I want what is best for him . He is 9, but going on 2. Seems to have been doing very well with CM. He is not over weight and extra loved. No junk food. I am disabled, serious work injury 8 yrs ago, and we are hardly getting by. It is just him and I. He goes everywhere. I would do what I have to if I have to in order to make him better, however, I am just not convinced that EVERY vet is proficient in this surgery, and that EVERY dog needs it. What did dogs do before surgery? As a medical person I realize that there are those that became lame. I have read that there are dogs that have not had good luck with this surgery and became lame and or arthritic. I love my Norman more than some love their kids, or so I have been accused, and he returns it 2 fold. He is scary smart and gorgeous. This is the hardest decision I have ever had to make. Conservative Management sounds like a plan for a period of time…I guess Norman will let me know.;

  11. A quick update on Norman. After 4 days on his new supplement program I can tell a difference. The Yucca is awesome. I have had him on Glucosamine however I began loading this week since his full tears. Glad to say his is “brighter”. We are having our ups and downs. I am afraid, still, of what we will find out on Tuesday at the 4th vet. He is a rehab/ortho vet, so we are hoping for a “CM plan”. When he was on Fish oil he began getting lipomas. As soon as I stopped they went away. He loves his vegi diet. Lots of down time. I just let him rest. Braces came a A trac and to my disappointment they were off on the rear girth. I had to order another 45 dol part. The owner placed the order knowing how badly I needed the braces(lots of calls) put the order in with out asking how I would like it shipped. Not 2 day but another 5. I am not very happy. Nice folks though.
    Please more good stories of CM for us scaredy cats and worried moms.

  12. We have an 18 month old pit who partially tore her ACL 4 or 5 months ago. We did 6 cold laser therapy sessions which didn’t seem to help since then we have been trying CM. It has definitely been up and down. I am hoping we won’t have to do the surgery but it seems inevitable. She is such a high energy dog we are fairly certain she will reinjure her leg if we have to go that route plus who has that kind of money lying around!? We tried the A-trac brace which was kind of a disappointment and a waste of money. For now she is on pain/inflammation meds and glucosamine. We may try to build a ramp for our 3 stairs in the garage. I am unable to lift her so she has been using them to go potty when I am the only person home. The main issue we have is getting her to calm down in the house. She is always up and down off the couch. She will be comfortable and putting weight on the leg and then will have a burst of energy for a few minutes after that she limps for the rest of the night. I am worried she will never heal because of this. Sometimes I just want to stick the brace on her so she can’t get crazy. Unfortunately, we can’t leave it on because she gets stuck in her favorite position( belly down with legs back). So if we did put it on we would have to take it off after a few hours. Getting that thing off and on is a job in itself.


    1. Hello
      It is such a hard decision to make, surgery vs no surgery. When my Norman attempts to walk he clicks his knees. The last vet I met with was awesome. He is conservative and a rehab vet, trained rehabilitation vet. He took time with me discussing the pros/cons of surgery on my big dog. Norman is by far healthy and 9. It can take a long time to rehab him with not promising outcome. He already does not want to go out but maybe one time a day to do business as he has a hard time getting going and frankly I cannot assist him as I only have use of 1 arm. Norman also is still trying to go into “guard” mode, as he is very protective of me. He can really hurt himself more as he is doing his job. Providing him the proper environment to rehab is also an issue. So, as much as I hate this, we may have to resort to the surgery. He will recover much faster and improve his quality of life more than what I can offer him.You want to have them back to them selves and not waste a moment. It breaks my heart. If he does not feel comfortable enough to go potty, he can really get him self in a pickle. It sucks. This vet was not pushing me to hurry to a decision. He does not do the surgery himself. He also consulted with a few surgeons as to timing, and making sure that I do not make the mistake of letting some one doing both legs at once. I valued this information. I staying in my own home and can not travel until my pal, Norman, gets better. So, I am at a crossroads. Yes it is expensive. However, I have spent 450 bucks consulting with vets, and the best one was the least expensive.I also bought the A trac brace. Part of me wishes I had not bought it and it may end up on ebay. Norman does not seem bothered by it however I was disappointed with the processes. I was also informed by a couple of vets that be careful that xrays of the knees before surgery are not always warranted.
      Good luck. It is a hard hard place to be.

      1. Thank you for the information, I hope Norman can be comfortable in his life as he is older. Lucy is going to 7 this year she still can go on walks I just have to walk at her speed she was checked by ortho last week second opinion and he says has more arthritis since 2012 and bone on bone. Right now I have her on a special diet and hoping to lose a few pounds. I know the surgery is probably the right thing to do just seems so harsh to me to cute both bones and re-configure the stifle. Poor baby and worried about what I do when my husband and I are at work. Touch!!

  13. Great to hear a recovery story from a big dog. I have a 4 year old Rottweiler (around 125 pounds) that had a TPLO last May (2016). The surgery ended up costing nearly $6500 and it was a very long recovery. He had problems with the pain meds and couldn’t hold down food for the while. Nonetheless, he got better, and by September I was increasing his walks, when i noticed he started limping form the other leg. I came to a sad realization that the other ACL has also either partially or fully torn. Since then I have confined his activity and reduced his food so he could slim down a bit (I have not weighed him though, because to do so he has to get in my truck which I find a bit painful for him.) I have also had him on Dasequin and bought the Walkabout knee brace. I have noticed him go through many ups and downs, where he seems better but then starts limping again. It has been about 4 months since the injury and I just don’t if I made the right choice. Besides the surgery being extremely expensive and painful, my dog also experienced minor complications such as infection and the vomiting, which makes me question if i should put him through that again. Does anyone have any advice? I have been reading Tiggerpoz and only walk him very briefly inside my backyard for a few minutes once a day. Should I increase the walks slowly? Not walk him? And does he still have a shot at healing on his own or is it surgery for sure? Should I get another brace and do they actually help? I also forgot to mention, that he has not seen a vet for the second tear, since I read that they can damage the knee while looking for a tear.

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