TTA Surgery Sucess – Charlie

Charlie is a rescue mix, possibly Great Dane and Rott mix. He turned into a big boy at almost 4′ tall and 125 pounds. He loves running on the beach, swimming in the ocean or his friends’ pool, and chasing any ball or toy you throw. Despite all that I didn’t think he was a champion athlete that could blow out his ACL. I didn’t realize it was even possible in dogs, but now know how common it is.

TTA Surgery for Dog KneesHe was diagnosed in January 2012 was a partial or full tear and TTA was immediately recommended. I read EVERYTHING that I could, including everyone’s stories on this forum. It scared the crap out of me. But I continued to research it, and luckily was well informed because restricted duty wasn’t successful in healing him. I had tucked him under the dining room table with a metal pen around it so he couldn’t move around much during the day, gave up the beach runs and ocean swims. Nothing helped.

Finally surgery was scheduled for June 15. Today is June 17. The first day I was “prepared”. I had read EVERYTHING, right? I knew what to expect. Not true. But also I still didn’t think this was right. How could I have a surgeon cut his bone and rebuild his knee? What if it didn’t work? How could I make him worse to fix him?

So we went in anyway. Day one was what I expected. Except 15 times worse. When I rescued Charlie my world became his. I was truly his savior and he counts on me for everything. He loves everything and everyone, is very socialized, and adjusts to everything. But because his world revolves around me the vet asked me to stay with him until he was fully under. Then I was to go back as soon as surgery ended so he could wake up with me. The fear was that he’d wake up kicking and struggling, and possibly blow his knee within minutes of surgery. There is no end to how many things we can worry about but before surgery that one didn’t even occur to me. He came out and woke up well, but got a sedative just in case. His recovery was starting well.

I took him home and realized he was still too sedated to feel anything so I worried he’d try to walk too soon. Instead the problem was moving him because of the sedative. He was too groggy. But he was home. Problem solved. However I realized the bigger problem quickly after getting home. He had so many fluids during surgery that the vet told me to take him out soon. My house has three steps down to the grass to get out. And his stomach had some shaving burns that really hurt him if I tried to towel support him. We’re off to a bad start. Finally after six hours of non-stop whining [and I mean NON STOP, to the point that I called the emergency room at 9:30 PM] it started to worry me. The ER told me that this is normal and he was just feeling uncomfortable, but he’d be fine to walk on his own and go outside. I knew that would be the end of his knee. Well, listen to the doctors. They are objective and clinical in their approach for a reason.

Around midnight I got him outside when I let him lead me. He was able to walk and let me tenderly help him down the three steps. He peed on a plant for about 3 minutes. Twenty minutes later he had to go again. So outside we went again. This time he stood on his surgical leg and peed! I almost died. It’s almost nauseating watching them do what they know they can do. But we have to let them.

Plan to sleep on the floor with them the first night, if they go home. They’re uncomfortable but they just want you there and they’re fine. He woke up every hour and I slept on the floor with him, getting maybe four hours of sleep over 9 hours time. But the ER nurse was right.

TTA Surgery BandageDay 1 and day 2 are night and day different. Day 2 he was dragging me out of the house and mentally 100% better. I had to slow him down, it was unreal. He just needs to be entertained now, but he’s totally better. I tried everything not to let him lie down on his surgical leg. I just knew he’d twist it wrong if he tried to lie on that side. Luckily he did it at night [despite my efforts to prevent it] when I was finally asleep. But he couldn’t get up to turn over so he woke me up around 3:30 AM to help him get to his other side. Not an easy task for a big 125 pound dog in the early morning hours with no sleep. But he was fine. He has since gone down on that side several times when I awake, and it’s still nauseating to watch. I keep waiting for something to happen. But he knows what he’s doing. They are amazing.

Now the hard part: time to listen to and follow instructions on what he cannot do. You can’t let them fool you into thinking they are done. I would never believe a week ago that he’d be fine on day two. But he is – mentally. However he is not healed physically. I have him restricted in a pen and on full rest. I don’t plan to leave him for a few days, but eventually will have to go back to work.

So by day three I’m already planning a short getaway to the store. It’s nerve-wracking just thinking about what could go wrong when I’m gone. But I even got a shower in today – the first in three days. These are big steps. But be careful – one bad move and his surgery could be all for naught. I put wood beams through the top of the pen to restrict him from standing. It’s a test to see if I can leave without him getting too excited and jumping when I return, or because he hears something outside when I’m gone. Because God forbid a dog go by the house that he doesn’t stand up and bark at. So I want him to stay down just in case he should get hurt in doing so. That doesn’t mean I just walk away though.

Charlie in restricted activity after TTAHe is penned at all times in the same room as me, unless we’re on the leash outside on a pee break. I’m watching him like a hawk to see how he handles it all. Much better than me, I must say. And I’m not a worrier. This is new territory for me. But my baby is hurt, I can’t help it. Our other dog, his little “sister”, is his biggest admirer. She drives him crazy and loves him to death. [For her I’m just the concierge most days.] But she’s been an angel. She gives him all the room he needs, doesn’t bother him or me [while I pay attention only to him for two full days], and she takes it all in stride. They really do get it.

He gets his bandages off on Friday, exactly one week post-op. They were ready for him by Wednesday, but I feel it’s too early. So I got two more days. He’s only on day three, so I know he’ll be fine as long as I am. We are responsible for keeping their enthusiasm at bay. Without us the surgery will be a waste because they can easily injure themselves fast again, thinking they are better. So I will remain vigilant with him, and will try not to worry so much, but things are going great. Once another day or two passes I will touch base again on how he does.

I know this post is long, but I couldn’t read enough when I was deciding on whether or not to take the risk of TTA. It just didn’t feel right to do such a major surgery for a possibly torn ACL [I know it’s really the CCL, but now it’s a habit to say ACL]. As it turns out they did verify the tear, and found a torn meniscus too. To this day we have no idea how it happened. He just started limping one day. That was part of my concern. How did we go from three or four days of running on the beach, swimming all day and constant fun adventures to a life-changing surgery in a few months?

The surgeon my vet recommended speaks on TTA with the vet from the University of Zurich who developed the procedure, and the company that manufactures the hardware. So I realize now that our dogs are in good hands. We just need to make a good decision based on our research, our knowledge of our dogs, and on as objective a perspective as possible – not based on fear. It will work out.

Read up as much as you can. Ask questions of everyone. I can’t believe how many people I know have had this happen to their dogs or someone they know. My own brother had a Lab that had the tightrope done before TTA was an option. Find out as much as you can and learn from the good and the bad stories. Don’t let the information scare you. Learn from it. Let it all help you see what can go right and what can go wrong. Use it to your advantage. This post is mostly for me, as it’s very cathartic to write all of this down. It’s a very traumatizing time for them as well as us. Just take care and I’m sorry you’re reading this if it means your loved one is injured as well.

21 thoughts on “TTA Surgery Sucess – Charlie

  1. Your experience and advice are very much like mine with Lucy. I too was made very anxious by bad reported experiences, conflicting information, the “do i really want to do this?” dilemma, and fears of not being up to the task of recovery. I found that speaking frankly with the vets to be most helpful. 3 different vets were very kind, down to earth and generous with their time. If a vet wont give you that time or attention, look elsewhere! I chose the most experienced vet, one very dedicated to surgeries like this. I think that makes a big difference in peace of mind going in, and increases the chances for a good outcome.

  2. Thanks for your story. In tears as I’m reading because we, too, have the decision to make for our 2 1/2 year old dog, Hannah. Found out last week she tore her ACL. We are so devastated as she is a fetchaholic dog and super active…We just want her to be able to hike and run again and not be in pain….

    Just really wanted to know the status as of today, July 16th. It seems like Charlie did the surgery about a month ago, and I was just wondering how it’s going…

    Courtney N.

    1. Our dog, Lucy is at 7 weeks post TTA, and so far we are delighted by the results. She is healing very quickly, bears weight on both legs almost 100% equally, and feels totally ready to go. She is a fetchaholic, too, very athletic and eager to play, hike, swim jump, run. we just wanted her to be able to enjoy full activity again. She’s walking about 30 min each day and lives mostly unrestricted in the house. We will gradually increase activity, per vet’s orders, for another 5weeks.

      Those first 6 weeks were not a lot of fun, but they did pass quickly. In our case I’d say it has been absolutely worth it.

      Our surgeon likes the tta because of quicker recovery, less chance for failure and feels there is less arthritis later on with it. So far I’m glad we chose it (and him). I think it is very important that your vet feels comfortable and confident with whatever procedure chosen, and that you are comfortable and confident with the explanation of why he/she feels that way.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this about your dear Charlie. I recently found out my beautiful Golden Retriever, Kira needs surgery. I picked her at 7 weeks (or she picked me) and she has been my constant companion since she was 8 weeks old. She is a few months short of two years old and she started limping. To make matters worse I have been training her as my service dog and now just as she gets to the end of her training I am faced with having to have her go under the knife. I had had two back surgeries, but I swear this is way more terrifying for me than my surgeries were. I am nearly in tears thinking about how my sweet baby has to go through all this. But, like you, I have read read read anything I could find. I am settling on the TTA and am hoping my experience is as successful as your Charlie. She has already been confined to the house, not going to the park, etc. and this hasn’t handled it. She is already stir crazy and now more weeks of this and worse! Oh well. We love them with all our hearts. I will post about my experience once my Kira has her surgery. Thanks for all the support from this site.

  4. Hi,

    I am reading all these stories in hope one of you guys can help me. My Dog Gracie has a torn ACL in the knee. She feel off a high step 2 weeks ago and I am still waiting on the Doctor to round up the Surgeon. I can’t afford the TPLO Surgery for Gracie because it’s $3000 but I can afford the other one. Now is this the one TTA that you are talking about, she is 8 years old and weighs about 55lbs big girl but love her none the less. I know she needs to lose weight and I am working on that then this happens. God I need answers! Thanks for any advice you can give me at this point.



    1. Hi, Anna.

      I wrote about Lucy above.

      She is about 60 lbs, very active & athletic. So far, the TTA procedure has proven to be great for her. We are at 12 weeks in and she is like a new dog…her damaged knee, which caused her to hold that leg off the ground and sort of hop around on 3 legs, is now as sound as her healthy leg.

      Our surgeon specializes in knee surgery. He’s had success with the TPLO and tightrope and the TTA. After hundreds of surgeries he favors the TTA. I think that regardless of the procedure, your chances of a good outcome are better if your vet is confident and competent (and those two go hand-in-hand) with the procedure you choose.

      I was also in a situation where I could not really afford the TTA and sought either a traditional repair or tightrope as more economical alternatives. I discussed this frankly with the surgeon and he was willing to work with me on costs. I’m a bit reluctant to say that—every surgeon is different—but some are very understanding of circumstances and may be willing to discount their services to help you do the best for your dog. Hopefully you will be able to talk to more than one surgeon.

      The first weeks post-surgery were difficult, but now it seems that they passed quickly. We are glad we went ahead with the procedure and are glad that we found a doc who was very dedicated to his craft and also compassionate and kind. That made all the difference, I think.

      1. Joe,

        Thank you for writing back, Sounds Like Lucy is doing Great. That is awesome news, I love my Doctor but I am not getting to talk to the Surgeons he is doing my Talking..Maybe I should ask him for the phone numbers so I can hear what they have to say as well.

        I can’t Thank you enough for taking the time to write back and I am also having a problem with her Left Hip Arthritis has set in and it’s also out of place but I figure she is 8 now and that I can work with, it’s the knee and I don’t want the other knee to get hurt in the meantime. I love her so much and it hurts us to see our Animals in pain. Kiss Lucy for me and I will keep you posted. Also will talk to the Doctor about the Financial part God what we won’t do for our pets. Thanks, Anna 🙂

    2. Hi Anna, I chose the TTA surgery, which was less expensive, but also less invasive for my dog (and personally just made more sense). Not sure where you are, but I went to a doctor in Puyallup, WA who is incredible. My dog is on her third week from surgery and doing well. I can tell you that the first week or so after is pretty hard and I literally slept with my dog to comfort her when she was hurting, giving her belly rubs, etc. I took the advice given on this Top Dog site and my dog is healing well. I can tell you love your dog and want the best for you. I hope you can find a good vet to do this surgery and that your Gracie recovers as well as my Kira. Karen & Kira

  5. Karen and Kira,

    Oh Thanks so much for such Great Advise, I am in N.California and I have faith in my doctor. I hope my Surgery works as Great as yours. I do have her on GlynAid now and hopefully that will work along with the Surgery. I will keep you guys posted and I am so Happy that Kira is doing Great..Anna 🙂

  6. Thank you all, I want the take the route where it’s less invasive route for my Gracie. Although sometimes these Doctors opt for the more expensive Surgery. I think that they should put the best interest of the Dog is the most important thing to me. Thanks and I will keep you all posted.

    Peace, Love,

  7. Yes, TTA is a bit less invasive.

    My vet did not press the TTA as the more expensive surgery—more than traditional or tightrope—but he really did feel that it was best for my dog. I think that’s why he gave me some discount. I’m grateful for that. It is a little less invasive and less can go wrong once it begins healing. She healed quickly and expressed no discomfort from the beginning.

    Lucy recently (2 days ago) helped “pay” for her surgery in the best way she could. We leave her in the house when it is brutally hot here in Phoenix. My wife came home to find the front door bashed in and standing open. Lucy hadn’t run away…she was in the doorway waiting for one of us.

    Turns out that nothing inside the house was touched. We think that she stood her ground, in spite of the fact that she is a very friendly dog. What a good girl!

    Yup…we do love them, don’t we? Dogs are a wonderful, amazing gift from God!

  8. Joe,

    OMG That is amazing story, Thank God she was okay , she was protecting you guys.. Aww I wonder what she saw . I am Thankful she did not get hurt, dogs are amazing creatures they give us unconditional love. I feel so much better now that I have people to talk to that went through or are going through this hard time, It just plain hurts us to see them not 100%- She is my Best Bud and I am sure Lucy is the same to you. Thanks Joe so much for talking, I will talk with My Doctor tomorrow and I will keep you all posted.

    Praying for great results….

    Anna 🙂 P.S. God is Great.and remembers Dog is God spelled backwards—LOL

  9. My 85 lb. 4 1/2 year old yellow Lab with two prior elbow surgeries is in his third week of post TTA surgery. He had a bit of a setback. His dressing slipped down the day before the apt to remove it so my daughter/Nurse and I removed it. It was below the incision area and looked like it was irritating the incision. It was wet with clear/blood ooze and continued to drip. I brought him in Monday morn at his apt time and the Dr. cultured it, re bandaged and gave me more, stronger antibiotics. He is being watched more closely because of the abnormal post surgery outcome. I too slept on the kitchen floor on dog beds with him for two weeks. He would always choose my comfey bed over his dog beds including my pillows and blanket. Of course he won as I never wanted to interfer with his comfort. I am pleased with his surgeon. I feel like I have sent her children to college with my past dog’s surgeries and my current doggie’s three surgeries. I have worried, I am normally not a worrier, about the meds as he has had tummy trouble. No problem there. His weight has been consistent. He is also a very active tennis ball running swimming and happy fun loving pooch and his lack of activity has been my most difficult challenge at this point. I have found filling a Kong toy with soft dog food keeps him occupied for awhile. I am going to start playing and teaching him tricks he can do laying down. Ie: guess which hand the treat is in. Putting a treat down and having him wait until I say o k. etc. I know all this time and pain will be worth it and it will be a short blip in his life. It is a trying time and almost harder on us than them.

  10. Hi Anna and Gracie. I was thinking about you and wondering if you were able to decide upon a doctor and a surgery for Gracie? Kira and I are now past the worst part and she is getting ready to go to rehab and get in the physical therapy pool. Good luck with Gracie! Keep us posted. Karen & Kira

  11. Greetings TTA Survivors!

    Happy to read your stories.

    We rescued Sugar, a beautiful Boxer, 5 years ago when she was 5 years old. 2 months after we got her, she tore the ACL in her back left leg. After I took her to the vet and found out what happened and what needed to be done, I went home and cried. Oh well, long story short – she had the TTA surgery and pretty much immediately could use her leg again. Yes, it was a long, long recovery – but successful. She had her leg x-rayed earlier this year and all components are still in place after 5 years. I read many times that 40% of most dogs that have one leg done, eventually need the other one done down the road……

    Sugar had TTA surgery on her back right leg July 17. I worried because she is 10 years old and Boxers don’t live much longer than that – but she is a very young and healthy 10 – not much gray fur yet and still acts like a puppy. I took a week off of work to keep an eye on her – and like many of you, slept on the couch next to her the first 4 nights after she came home. Yes, it’s a long recovery – but worth it. Yes, I get frustrated – but I am hanging in there. Sugar has been a real trooper. She has even learned to “put up with” staying in a cage when my husband and I are at work. At first, she was very angry – but with the temporary help of mild sedatives – we got through it together. We are now in week 7 of recovery and things are going great. Hang in there everyone.

    1. Jelita,

      Thanks for your story about Sugar! Quick question: Was she able to run and/or resume normal to intensive activity? How long after surgery, if so?

      1. Hi Courtney.

        Sorry for the delay in responding to you. I lost track of this website.

        Sugar is still with us and still acts like a puppy. She will be 12 in December.

        Because of her age, I limit her running – or try to. But, that’s what dogs do – correct?

        On the days she gets too much activity, I give her a 1/2 Rimadyl tablet.

        Hope your dog is doing well.

  12. Thank you for this detailed report. Our Boxer baby, Sophie is scheduled for a TTA Monday & Im really anxious. Reason says this is the right decision, because 10 weeks of rest & meds has been ineffective, but my emotions say “is this the right thing to do”. I think your post answers that & I’m beginning to feel like, “we can do this”. Our Orthopod is going to put a pain patch on her during surgery & they will keep her in the supervised recovery unit for 24 hours. Wish us luck !

    1. Hi Cheryl.

      Did your Boxer baby have surgery? If so, hope everything went well. You did the right thing – it enables them to use their leg again, right? Please remember though, the healing process is a long one – don’t rush it. Keep her confined – she won’t like it – but it is a must! When Sugar had her second leg done last summer, we kept her on leash even in the house for 3 months. Hang in there. I will be worth it. I’ll be anxious to see how she does. Take care.

      1. Hi Jelita ! Sorry we didn’t connect after Sophie’s surgery, but I lost the site. Our Orthopod does a modified TTA procedure & her post op progress was amazing. Sophie was weight bearing on the surgical knee within 48 hours. Our biggest challenge was the narcotic pain patch took her appetite away, completely ! Nothing to eat or drink for 3 days, that’s when we busted out the Gerber Beef Baby food & Pedilyte.

        Update… 6 months later & it’s the other knee. Sophie underwent a 2nd TTA on the other knee. This time we requested a 25 lbs pain patch instead of a 50 lbs. Sophie is 63 lbs, but the 50 lbs patch made her gaga & was the reason she would not eat or drink post op. We supplemented the pain patch with tramadol 50 mg.

        Most important tip, the big plastic Elizabethan collar they put in your dog post op, has to go ! There are soft, more comfortable restraints at most pet stores, if you must leave your dog unsupervised after surgery, invest in a soft restraint.

        Sophie now has two “Titanium Knees”, her Orthopod says she’s “Bomb proof”, & he is that much closer to a comfortable retirement ;-). 1st surgery $2700.00,
        2nd surgery $2900.00. Worth it to see her pain free.

  13. I wanted to share another bit of information with all TTA survivors. Unfortunately 40% of dogs that have one leg done, have the other done as well. I read this many times and kept my fingers crossed. Well, by now you all know Sugar had both legs done. However, I had insurance for the second leg – with Pets Best Insurance. The surgery was $3,200 – I paid $700. One stiplulation is you must have the insurance coverage for one year before they will cover TTA surgery. Consider it.

    Before I sign off – I can’t stress enough how important the healing process is – it’s a long one – don’t rush it!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.

Or subscribe without commenting.