Hannah was diagnosed with a partially torn rear leg CCL one year ago, in May 2012. Now, approaching Memorial Day Weekend 2013, marks the one year anniversary of her diagnosis, and I thought to share her story so others out there know that surgery — TPLO, Tightrope, etc.– is NOT your only option, contrary to what most vets will tell you.
One year ago Hannah started limping after an activity-filled weekend in Big Bear. She was a daily chuck-it/fetch player, loved to run, hike, you name it. After this weekend of running and three-hour hikes, she was limping when we got home. At the time she started limping she was only 2 1/2 years old, and a 55 lb. lab mix dog with a lot of energy.
We sought two different vet opinions, both of which said torn CCL (ACL), must do TPLO. Recovery time is up to 6 months, with a high likelihood of tearing the other knee within 18 months. To me, this did not sound like a good enough success rate, and the cost was upwards of $4,000. We did NOT have pet insurance.
After a lot of research, stress, reading articles, my boyfriend and I opted to go for a third opinion before putting Hannah under the knife. To our surprise, this vet did NOT recommend surgery, and to quote her, “I would not give this dog surgery.” Her reasoning was that it was partially torn, and that there were alternatives to try FIRST, at least to be sure that we had tried EVERYTHING. She recommended weight management, cold laser therapy, Glucosamine tablets daily, modifying and limiting exercise, an anti-inflammatory (as-needed), and oh, did I mention weight management???? So very important!
At first, it was tough to stop playing fetch. Hannah, my boyfriend and I did this together daily, and it was Hannah’s favorite thing to play, and her daily routine. In fact, we were devastated that she may never play fetch again, with or without surgery. We tried to focus on keeping her busy with walks, hikes, and “easy” ball play in the yard. Now, it’s just become the norm and the new routine, and we’ve all adapted.
We highly reduced her kibble (Blue Buffalo), and added vegetables to her meals to make her feel “full.” Dogs can eat pumpkin, broccoli, lettuce, kale, and squash. Who knew? Still to this day, she eats much less kibble and lots of veggies. She has lost 10 lbs. since diagnosed, and the doctor couldn’t have been more pleased. She still takes Glucosamine tablets daily with her meals. She has NOT had an anti-inflammatory for months, as she barely limps.
The cold laser therapy treatments also helped with inflammation and pain. Here is a link I Googled about laser therapy in dogs: http://www.vetinfo.com/cold-laser-therapy-for-dogs.html. It is NOT cheap, about $30-$40 per session, but in my opinion, worth it and cheaper than the $4000+ surgery. It’s worth a try. In the beginning we did 1-2 treatments a week for about 6 months, and now she gets it about every 6 weeks just for maintenance (and she happens to love going and loves the “laser leg lady.”)
We did a year follow-up yesterday and the doctor was beyond pleased. Her weight is down, she bears weight on her torn CCL leg, she’s happy, gets daily activity, plays with her new brother, Riley, and has been able to be herself, even without her intense running.
The way we look at it, this whole experience, surgery or not, we will always have to be cautious of her leg and mind her over-exercising it. We’ll have to always monitor her weight, but that’s important anyway. She shows no signs of pain and is doing just great! We are very happy with our vet and opting against any type of knee surgery.
On a side note, I highly recommend pet insurance. We got it after this experience just as a precaution, and also for her new brother. For both our dogs it’s $40 a month and very worth it. If you were to have insurance and have this experience, and were leaning towards surgery, it would be covered.
We use Pet’s Best Insurance.
Please e-mail me if you have any questions.