Traditional Tightrope – Shelbie

traditional tightrope

Shelbie is 9 years old in February and a 50lb mix of Anatolian Shepherd and Lab so she has always been active and loves chasing her ball and Frisbee! At least she used to 🙁

About 2 years back she had her left knee buckle and was extremely lame on it, of course immediately took her to the vet and find out that she has torn her cruciate ligament. In discussions with the vet, he was extremely confident in the tightrope procedure even though she is right at the weight limit for it. The confidence and price helped me make the decision, and I think it was the right one!

Took her about 6 months to get back to her normal self after the surgery and it was awesome to see her enjoying life again, as many of you know and probably have experienced, almost a year to the date of the left knee having issues she started to have the same problem on the right side.

We went to the same vet and coming off of the successful tightrope surgery on the left leg, thought it would be the right choice for the newly injured right leg. She started to improve slowly as we followed the same regimen as the last knee and was starting to finally get back to walking on her own outside and we were allowing her more freedom.

We went on a walk and when we got back she was limping a little, which is not uncommon based on exhausting the knee, but she never got any better and slowly started to go back to not using it and becoming extremely lame again.

traditional tightrope

The cost is so high, even for the cheaper surgery that we aren’t able to afford the surgery again, especially the one we have to do now which is the TPLO.

Unfortunately, it’s myself and girlfriend that are trying to manage this and our time allotment and income are holding us up right now. She is still a happy dog and we spoil her every chance we get but it’s heartbreaking to see her in pain with that leg not being used, not to mention putting the added pressure on the healed knee (which luckily is extremely strong now!)

I was wondering if anyone else has had a tightrope surgery fail like this as the vet couldn’t understand it either because the left knee healed wonderfully as expected. We are saving up to do the TPLO surgery but I’m just a little hesitant based on the failed tightrope surgery, time requirement, and the cost…I feel like a horrible doggy dad…

15 thoughts on “Traditional Tightrope – Shelbie

  1. DO NOT feel like a horrible doggy Dad. The cost of these surgeries is astronomical, not to mention the rehab work and time it requires afterwards, all for no guarantee of success. I unfortunately don’t have much advice to give other than not to be too hard on yourself (which I know is difficult as you watch your pup limp). Best of luck to you. I do hope the veterinary community works towards making these surgeries more affordable for people who are just trying to do right by their dogs.

    1. We opted for tightrope surgery after my 8 yr. old saluki-shepherd mix Shawnee, tore her ACL in Oct 2016. TPLO was discussed, but this vet was very high on tightrope surgery as a less invasive, and less costly option. SO… we did the tightrope in Nov 2016. At the 3 month post op, he was not too happy with her results; not enough scar tissue around the joint to stabilize the joint; which means she has had too much physical exercise – ie. walking. He suggested another 3 months of non physical, rest, very short walks, etc We are almost to the end of the 6 month post op but I am not too confident that she is where she should be. I am questioning if tightrope was the right choice, as she is a larger dog at 62 lbs. Now I’m hearing that tightrope is good for smaller dogs….so, yea, I’m feeling like a bad dog Mommy about now! I’m sad for my girl who has always been so active and love to run. Im hoping for some good news at the end of this month when we go in for our 6 month visit. Or at least some options if her surgery was not as successful as we’d hoped it would be. Thanks for your comments!

      1. Dear Kathie,

        This is a rather lengthy response – but wanted to share both the positive and negative experience we had with our two dogs.

        Our English Springer Spaniel, Lona, has had 3 tightrope surgeries. She was quite young when the first surgery happened. She weighed 68 lbs at that time. Everything was very successful and recovery was smooth. The 2nd one on the other leg occurred almost 5 years later. At that time Lona weighed 59 lbs. On that leg, the knee shifted and she required a repair. We watched her like hawks and severely limited her activity during the long recovery period. The last one occurred over 2 years ago. Lona is back to playing ball, running better than ever. Our Vet told us to give her a Cosequin supplement 2x a day. Lona will be 10 years old next month and I am extremely happy that we chose tightrope over TPLO. We did take her for both laser and underwater treadmill therapy. This past summer, we took her to dog parks to swim 3x / week. I believe these activities contributed to her full recovery.

        Recently, our other Springer, Mattie, who weighs 50 lbs needed cruciate repair and we chose to go the tightrope route again. She had her surgery the end of March is doing very well. Once again, we are going through the 12 week recovery period. Limited outings, no walks, no furniture, no stairs. Her stitches were removed today and she has 10 more weeks of very restricted activity. Mattie is not fond of water and swimming so we trying to decide what kind of low-stress strengthening exercise she can do. Suspect we will work with the Therapy Vet to tailor something that will work for her.

        1. Hi Jan,

          Thanks for your reply. I’m happy to hear that Lona has recovered from her tightrope surgeries, wow that is a lot for you and her to go through! I wonder if you could tell me what type of repair was required after her knee shifted? Was it yet another surgery?

          At the last vet visit on 1-27-17, the doc eluded to a possible ‘repair’ but he didn’t get into any details about it, as he wanted to wait the additional three months till the end of this month, April 2017 to see how the knee looks. If I have to be honest, I don’t think we will get the report we are looking for but I’m hoping to be proven wrong.

          There is a water rehab facility in our area which I may look into after this next vet appointment. but she is not a swimmer; likes to stand in the water, but not swim!

          Thanks for your response, glad to know tightrope can be successful.

          Our vet suggested we put Shawnee on Dasuquin supplement, also, which we have been giving to her, to try to avoid the other knee problem.

          1. Katie,

            I do not know all the details about the 2nd surgery. What we were told is that everything had loosened due to too much activity. The knee was not stable. Lona is fairly headstrong and determined. She wanted to run and play so keeping her confined was very challenging. I personally believe that we allowed her to do too much too soon.

            The 2nd repair surgery on the 2nd leg was done by a Specialist. Our regular Vet did the surgery on the 1st leg and the 1st surgery on the 2nd leg. He recommended that we go to the Specialist. The Specialist has devoted his entire practice to this procedure and he has refined and improved the process. In fact, our regular Vet assisted at the 2nd surgery on his day off. Both to learn any new technique that might be used and also so he was positioned to do any follow-up care needed for Lona.

            For Mattie, our regular Vet suggested that we go directly to the Specialist and we did. Mattie is more of a couch potato than Lona so there have been that many challenges to keeping her low activity.

            As far as the water therapy…. It really is just a submerged treadmill. The dog is just walking, not swimming. The water is kept at a level that keeps a minimum of pressure on the injured leg. They control the speed and give the dog multiple breaks so it helps to build up the muscle with less stress than just walking on pavement or grass. The therapy people also teach you several low-impact exercises that help to build the leg muscles.

            Mattie does not swim and has never even gone in the water at the Dog Park. We are probably going to wait until after the 12 weeks to take her. Mattie is a rescue and we are uncertain about how she might react. The concern is that she may try to get out of the water and actually hurt herself.

          2. Katie,

            The repair surgery was very similar to the initial one…. her level of activity caused the sutures to loosen quite a bit. In all honesty, I do not know if anything additional was done. The first surgery on the first leg was done by our regular Vet who is highly regarded and Cornell graduate. He also did the first surgery on the second leg. He said he was willing to do the repair but recommended that we go to a Specialist since that doctor has devoted his practice to this type of surgery. Our regular Vet actually went and assisted the specialist the day of the surgery. A second Specialist did the repair. Both Doctors believe that too much activity caused the sutures to loosen. The Specialist did the most recent surgery on Mattie. He is adamant about keeping the activity level to a minimum for at least 12 weeks!!!

  2. Our 8 year old Springer has had the tightrope procedure on on both of her legs.

    First one was on her right leg about 5 years ago. It healed quickly and she was back playing ball again after about 12 weeks.

    Aug 23rd she had the 2nd procedure on her left leg. Recovery was very slow this time so the Vet put her under and discovered that her knee had actually shifted and loosened everything. On Dec 30th – a second repair was done. All is good so far.

    After the 1st procedure on her right leg, we got Pet Insurance. There was one year exclusion on that leg; however, since this time, it was the other leg, almost all of the cost of the surgery and rehab was covered. Am waiting to hear how much of the cost for the Dec repair will be covered.

    Have vowed that I will never have another pet without insurance.

    Fortunately our rescue dog that joined us in July was young enough that we could get insurance for her.

  3. Our dog (80 lb American bulldog) had the TPLO on one leg and just had the excapsular (tightrope)on his other leg. So far, the leg that he had the TPLO on is doing great after one year. Too soon to tell on the other leg if it will be successful. I have every confidence if we can keep him quiet that it will be fine. Our vet in Jonesboro Illinois charges half for his TPLO’s. He’s an awesome highly ethical vet so no price gouging! We just recently moved about five hours away from him but made the drive to have the second leg done. So if interested I could share his info with you if you haven’t done anything yet. Good luck!

    1. Thanks, Leslie…. I neglected to provide an update…. see below

      After the surgery on the second leg this past December. She is absolutely back to her old self… running, play ball, etc.

      Lona was under heavy restrictions during her recovery period which was almost 5 months long. Our surgeon was adamant about keeping her restricted for this longer period…. no stairs, jumping on furniture, playing with other dogs…. swimming was the only exercise permitted after several weeks

      Lona did have rehab post surgery – both laser treatments and underwater treadmill. After rehab, we continued with swimming at the dog park.

      Gradually we progressed from very limited trips outside to mile long walks.

      All is good now.

      One final note… the December surgery and rehab costs were fully covered by our insurance

      1. Could you share what insurance you have? We have a Great Dane and are having to decide what to do. Considering her age and lifespan and the costs, it’s really difficult. Of we had some financial help, it might make the decision easier.

        1. Hi Cheryl….

          We have Nationwide formerly VPI. They will not cover pre-existing conditions.

          Lona’s first surgery was done prior to our having insurance. We paid for it out of pocket.

          After her first injury, our Vet told us that there was a high probability that her other leg could also require a similar surgery due to genetics. When we heard that, we decided to get insurance. Everything was covered included rehab for the second leg

          I believe that there is an age restriction for starting the insurance. Once your pet is covered, you can continue your policy no matter how old but the premiums do increase each insurance year

  4. Last July Luna came into the kitchen not being able to put any weight on her left rear leg. Between vets, physical therapists and hydro therapists ten professionals saw her. They all recommended surgery. I read everything I could to be able to make an informed decision and decided against surgery. I was called delusional. The fact is that TPLO, TTA, TR, etc are not magic bullets. They are all painful, rehabilitation is long, hardly any dog gets back to 100% and the other leg often goes. I decided to do Conservative Management.

    There is a video in youtube of Prof. Wesley J. Roach, DVM from Nashville Veterinary Specialists giving a talk to his students. He confirms after analysing the results of the Wucherer JAVMA 2013 study that after a period of 12 months TPLO (the top surgery) = 75% sucess rate and Conservative Management = 65% sucess rate. He confirms the benefit is that operations ‘gets them there faster’. In his opinion it is unnaceptable for a dog to have to wait 12 months to get better. In my opinion putting dogs through the discomfort, pain and catastrophic risks of these operations for a mere 10% difference is what’s unacceptable.

    It took me a while to get the CM right. I didn’t realize at first how strict it really had to be whilst at the same time not making Luna’s life a misery. I’m happy with my decision to do CM. I’m happy that Luna never experienced infections nor the internal pain caused by alterations to the bones. I’m happy she never needed medication nor second operations.

    I am posting below a video taken this week of Luna nine months post injury. She has resumed long walks of up to two hours with her friends and has been running free in the park. She can run without any regressions but if she pushes herself to maximum speed next day she feels it, not sufficiently to limp but I notice a regression. After 24 hours she seems fine again.

    I don’t know exactly what that means. Is it the normal stiffness from muscles that have not been used for months? Or has she arrived to the 65% success rate and that is as good as it is going to get?

    She’s not out of the woods yet and I have to control the enormous temptation to set her free. Last week I set her free and lost her for about three minutes, then I saw her in the distance jumping over the meadows like a gazelle. I braced myself for the worst. Next day she was pointing her foot a bit more than usual but the day after that she was fine again.

    I am going to stop short from giving her free reign for at least a few more months.

    This is Luna playing with Achilles. She’s the one inside the fence.

    Good luck to all.

    1. Am really happy for you and the choice you made. I do have a friend who also chose the non-surgery route who had a successful outcome after several months; in fact, it was for a litter-mate of my older dog.

      I also am happy with the choices I made for both our dogs. I am still a proponent of the tightrope surgery for those who choose the surgical option. The idea of TPLO and metal screws etc. was very off-putting for me.

      Our older dog has been a real athlete from the time she was a puppy. Very muscular and always want to run and play ball. At age 10, she is still going strong.

      It is an agonizing decision for anyone…. and the wait and see may be the best approach for some. Am truly happy to hear it worked out for your Luna!!

      One other point…. both my dogs also had an issue with a meniscus tear – not simply an ACL injury.

      1. The emailed version did not include my final sentence… it is something to consider if it is part of your dog’s injury. See below.

        “One other point…. both my dogs also had an issue with a meniscus tear – not simply an ACL injury.”

        and one more addition – the meniscus tear really did add to the pain level so it was necessary to fix that…

      2. What is Conservative Management? We have a 12 yr. old be able with a torn ACL. She weighs 36 lbs. We don’t have vet insurance.

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