Traditional CCL Repair for Small Dogs – Baxter

Baxter, our 23 pound Malti-Poo came inside from an energetic play session one night a few months ago with a significant limp. We were concerned of course, but by the next morning it had improved and largely disapeared a few days later. Over the next few months, he would occasionally start limping again for a few days, and then improve again. Our vet checked for all the usual suspects (Lyme, erlicha, hip problems etc.) and we tried a few weeks on steroids. Although the steroids helped, by this time Baxter had developed a persistant and obviously painful limp.

At this point, it seemed likely that his problem was structural and so I took him to see a vet that specialized in orthepedic problems. He spent a considerable amount of time asking questions about how his symptoms had appeared and progressed as well as looking over his medical records. Finally he examined Baxter’s leg and diagnosed a CCL rupture. He showed me as he examined him how his knee was moving to an extent and manner that was not normal. (and was obviously painful)

We discussed two alternatives, extended inactivity (also called Conservative Management) or a traditional extra-capsular repair. He said that smaller dogs often will recover with extended inactivity and without surgery, and that Baxter at 23 pounds was right on the line bteween where he typically recommended surgery vs inactivity.

Ultimately, given Baxter’s energetic temperment we decided that surgery would be a quicker and more reliable route to recovery.

This particular Vet would only consider traditional repair for Baxter and would not recommend TPLO or TTA. I don’t know if it was due to Baxter’s smaller size or his own experience, but he was quite adament about it. Given that this surgeon had done 200 to 300 of these proceedures a year for many years, I figured he knew what he was talking about and scheduled the surgery.

The surgery went well and Baxter did not need any miniscus removed. (a complication I was told was common) He stayed overnight at the vet and I took him home the next morning. I was very surprised to see him led out to me on a leash and walking with less limping than he walked in with! He was a little out of it the first day home, but continued to walk on the leg with some limping. By day 4, he would sometimes forget to limp if he was in a rush to get somewhere. (the refridgerator usually)

After 10 days, his stiches came out and he was allowed to start taking short walks although stairs, jumping, and playing with other dogs was still forbidden. As of today (21 days) he is doing great and although he sometimes limps as he walks around, he often doesn’t. He is also clearly in much less pain than before the surgery and hasn’t taken any pain medications since his stitches were taken out.

I was prepared by stories on this site and other resources for a much more difficult recovery for Baxter. I know that he is not “fixed” yet and that will still require many months of carefully monitored activity, however I was amazed at how quickly he has recovered to a happy and pain-free condition. I spoke to the surgeon about it and he admitted that Baxter was doing better than average, but that he had seen plenty of dogs recover as easily as he has.

I will try to update this as he continues to recover, but I wanted to get his story out to anyone considering this surgery. It can clearly be a difficult proceedure to recover from, but it isn’t always as bad as some of the other experiences shared on this site!

Post Surgery Update

You would never know anything was wrong. It was a great thing to do and the recovery process went much easier than expected.

We work full-time and have 2 young boys, but kept him safely in a dog pen with the “cone of shame” on as long as necessary. Let him out to go potty and to walk. The walks also helped with some weight loss.

Kept him on a leash through week 12 – even when out of the pen so he couldn’t run around the house. It was not as daunting as I first imagined. I do cringe a bit now when I see him leaping over things in the yard and chasing birds!

10 thoughts on “Traditional CCL Repair for Small Dogs – Baxter

  1. Typically, small dogs don’t get additional benefit from a TPLO, TTA, or TTO proceedure. I’m glad Baxter’s recovery is going smoothly and is uncomplicated.

    Some years ago, my Cocker Spaniel had the traditional repair. It was a quick natural recovery.

    Good boy, Baxter! 😉

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. We are at day 9 with our 31 lb. Welsh Corgi. He did have to have his meniscus removed as well once they saw the injury. He hurt it while running down our outdoor stairs. We were very nervous about the recovery, but so far he is doing well. But, not until today has he even really tried using his leg. We are also nervous the other knee will give out at some point. I appreciate hearing a story about a smaller dog which seems to be much less common. Good luck to Baxter!

  3. The “other knee” is more of a big dog problem. I wouldn’t worry. Mr. Digbee was soon very active, again. Early, I’d be concerned with pain management. Once he has less pain, he will use it. He will rebuild the muscle that has been diminished. Once the muscle is back, his chances of injury are no different than any other dog with 2 good hind legs.

  4. We have a small dog as well (21 lbs) who has just been diagnosed with a torn ligament. I’m confused by all of the options from traditional, tplo or tta. We also live in the Chicago area. Would you mind passing along the name of the surgeon you used. It sounds like you had a good experience.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Our 5 year old cavalier king Charles spaniel (Maddie) is about to undergo this surgery in 2 days. She’s 2kg overweight (steals our other dogs food…cheaky devil) at 28lb (13kg) and damaged her CCL a couple of months ago. Hides her pain well. Our Melbourne doctor states he has great success with this procedure and prefers it due to being less traumatic on the knee/joints (in his opinion). This option was chosen to prevent further arthritis from advancing in her knee.

    We work full time and hope that, although we have set up a safe and clean environment for her recovery, that Maddie shall be able to recover as well as Baxter and Lucy’s Cocker Spaniel did!!! Weight loss is certainly on her agenda (although not wanting this to be achieved through surgical trauma). As is a total clipping for the hot Aussie summer!
    I will be taking leave & will be giving her 24/7 cover for her 1st 6 -7 days. She loves to be lazy, so running about won’t be too hard to avoid for her lap dog character! We have steps on the patio so she will be penned or housed inside to avoid injury.
    Will wait and see…thanks for your reassuring stories. Looks like little dogs can do OK!

    1. Just a follow-up on our Corgi now that it is all behind us…you would never know anything was wrong. It was a great thing to do and the recovery process went much easier than expected. We also work full-time and have 2 young boys but kept him safely in a dog pen with the “cone of shame” on as long as necessary. Let him out to go potty and to walk. The walks also helped with some weightloss. Kept him on a leash through week 12 – even when out of the pen so he couldn’t run around the house. It was not as daunting as I first imagined. I do cringe a bit now when I see him leaping over things in the yard and chasing birds!

  6. Help! My havenese 18 lb. dog tore his CCL and has been seen by 2 vets. Our vet whom I like very much feels conservative therapy will work and if he was to do the procedure it would be with an artifical graft. I haven’t seen any information on this. Do you know anything about the successs rate of this or have heard about it. Thanks so much! Marilyn

    1. Hi Marilyn,
      My 16 pound Havanese, Mango, is going in tomorrow for his extracapsular repair surgery. As the vet explained it, the ligament is not replaced but the structure around the outside of the knee is tightened with sutures.. he drills a hole in the bone for the suture that is used for stability until the collateral ligament gets stronger to support the structure. I too like so many others researched ACL surgeries. the one you mentioned was the least talked about so I would heed caution. How well do you know this vet? Have you used him before? Get a second opinion just to see if another procedure would be used. It may cost less and be less invasive. Good luck. I’ll let you know how mango is doing…oh yeah, we have a 6 month old Havanese who thinks he’s the center of everything. We plan to crate Mango at night and keep him in a pen otherwise. Cheers!

  7. Your vet is offering two differing solutions: The non-surgical option is conservative management. This means that scar tissue eventually stabillizes the knee. He will have a slight limp irregardless, but should manage nicely.

    The second option is a surgical repair. I will go so far as to assume he’s talking about a treaditional tightrope repair, or a figure 8 type restringing. The specifics of either are found in great detail here on the sight.

    My Cocker Spaniel was 11 (years and years ago) when he tore his curtiate. We opted for the traditional repair. He did very well, and was as spunky and active as ever in a few months. His age was not a factor as he lived to be 17! I am glad we went that route with a small dog (17-20 lbs). I’d say the success rate is good-great.

    Now would he have done well with conservative management. Yes. Of course! He would have healed, had a slight limp and been probably just as active and happy. Many opt for the conservative route. The decision is yours.

    That said… Last year, during monsoon season (we had a flood here), my lawn inside the fence was slick. First my Rottweiller bitch tore her right crutiate, and 9 weeks later, my Rottweiller (male) rescue tore his left. They both had TTA’s. I did this newer surgery as both dogs did agility, as I wanted them to be able to do what they enjoyed so much. I further opted for physical therapy including the underwater treadmill or hydrotherapy.

    So read up, and do choose what seems best for you and your dog. This is a stressful time for you. There are no wrong decisions, here.

    GOOD LUCK =)) with your decision making!

    1. Sorry, I mis-typed!! My dogs both had TTO’s not TTA’s… (above response to Marilyn) The TTO goes one step further in that the tibial plateau is lowered a friction with an “L” cut in the bone. In effect it accomplishes essentially what the TPLO does but is less invasive. Sorry for my mistake in typing. I did not wish to mislead. Both Stetson and Raven’s stories are here on the site. They are both 100% and active in agility again.

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