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Achey Breaky ACL

Achey Breaky ACL

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A wise man once said, “Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.”

Apparently, Felix doesn’t listen to awesome late 90s, spoken word pop because he has not been doing his knees any favours. 9+ years of running, jumping and treating his knees with a haphazard carelessness that can only really be attributed to the fact that he’s a dog and has no idea how his legs are built led to the hind right one having a blow out last week.


Fe and I at the ER vet. He was considerably less smiley after hearing his ACL was torn.

Here’s how it went down:

Fe was kicking it in the yard and he jumped down from an 8″ high garden ledge and yelped. He parked himself on his butt and was either unable or unwilling to put any weight on it. Worried that he’d broken the dog, the Daddy called me at work and we were off to the ER vet.

After a couple of drawer tests (where the vet grabs the femur with one hand and moves the tibia with the other. If the tibia can be moved forward, resembling a drawer being opened, the cruciate ligament has been torn or ruptured) and a set of X-Ray, we had our diagnosis: a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

the solution? A surgery where they screw a plate into his bone to keep the joint stable and cut out a chunk of the bone to keep the tibia from sliding around.

Is it just me or does that whole process sound painful and pricey and pretty much awful?

Oh right! That’s because it was! Our surgery estimate was $5k, followed by a few months of rehab, complementary treatments and cha-ching! cha-ching! cha-ching. We were super lucky that we have veterinary insurance and 80% of the surgery was covered, but still. Do I look like I’m made of money?! Felix, this is coming out of your allowance.

is it just me or does Felix ev

Is it just me or does even Felix’s bones look cute?

I opted to hold off and wait for a second opinion.

Holy woof! Am I ever glad that I did. We decided to travel to a specialist about an hour away. The vet we chose has done extensive studies in ligament surgeries, is proficient in more than one surgery for cruciate repair and knows like all the things when it comes to this injury. He reviewed Fe’s X-rays, repeated the Drawer test, rubbed Felix’s belly and told me he doesn’t recommend surgery for Felix.

That’s right, Fe is not going to have surgery.

Turns out, Fe is not a good candidate for TPLO surgery. He’s little, under 20 lbs and the metal plates really aren’t designed for his teensy dwarf legs. There are other surgeries and other repair methods, but the specialist feel pretty confidant that Fe doesn’t need it. You see, in small dogs, there is a ridiculously high success rate with non-surgical intervention.

We’re taking an approach called Conservative Management. For the next while, Fe will be on very limited exercise. No running, no jumping, no shenanigans, Felix. We’ll let the manage inflammation and let the leg heal, scar tissue to form and then build the strength back up by slowly increasing how long/far he walks and a combinations of physical therapy, cold laser therapy and (holy woof, am I excited for this or what?) swimming.

I’m nervous though.

Even though it sounds like the easier option, Conservative Management can be a lot of work! Physical therapy needs to be done twice daily to keep the leg moving and build it back up. There is the best canine swim centre an hour away and we’ll be ferrying him back and forth. Laser therapy appointments can be cost intensive and time consuming. We’ll be calling Fall the “season of Felix” for sure.

Good thing I think he’s worth it.

Has your dog ever had an injury that had multiple treatments? Which treatment did you use and how did you decide it was the best way?

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Tuesday 6th of December 2022

I used Posh Dog Knee Brace to help my dog with his torn ACL/CCL anyone looking for a dog knee brace or elbow brace should check them out.


Wednesday 1st of June 2016

I have a 70 lb mutt who tore her ACL and healed on her own without surgery. The conservative treatment method is real and works, I'm not saying it's the best option for all dogs and will always work, but it is definitely a possibility. My dog was 10 years old at the time and it didn't seem fair to put her under the stress of a surgical procedure, also the tear was partial and not severe. We've always led an active lifestyle but at 10 years old (now 11), her old age had slowed her down a bit. It's not the same deciding whether to operate when you're dealing with a young dog with many years ahead of it, vs an older dog that's closer to the end.

Our story is a success story. Another thing I used for the rehab process was a dog knee brace from Ortocanis. It's not a stifle brace, and it's not completely rigid, but that's just what I wanted. I wanted to allow the knee to move and maintain mobility, but the brace acted as a constant reminder that she was recovering, and it stabilized the area and gave enough support for her day to day. I still continue to use it to this day for her mild arthritis, the Ortocanis knee brace is comfortable enough for her that I've never had any problems putting it on or getting it to stay on.

If you're considering the conservative route, give it some real consideration!


Tuesday 21st of June 2016

Thanks so much for sharing your story! I love hearing about pups who got better and families that put in the effort to make conservative management work for them :)

Achey Breaky ACL Take 2: Adventures in Conservative Management - Kol's Notes

Sunday 7th of September 2014

[…] It happened almost a year to the day after Felix first tore his ACL. […]


Thursday 4th of September 2014

Search with words posh Dog Knee Brace for lots of veterinarian informative articles and info RE Dog Knee Brace VS Surgery and read the Veterinary NEWS page with informative articles by vets regarding why braces are a safer option.

My elderly large dog had a torn CCL acl full rupture and torn meniscus that cracked loudly when walking. Several Vets estimated $4755+ for ccl acl tplo surgery.

The very painful surgery with very high risks and failure were unacceptable. Instead we got a fully functioning global stabilizing custom posh dog knee brace that really works better and safer than any ccl acl tplo tta type surgeries.

My dog has healed without surgery wearing a posh dog knee brace for several months and was able to walk longer and longer each day wearing the dog knee brace from day one and many others dogs are now wearing dog knee braces and NOT getting surgery because dogs can heal without surgery wearing a custom dog knee brace that globally supports the knee so the knee can heal.

A Dog Knee Brace is the safer cheaper alternative instead of surgery. Please don't put your poor dog thru this very painful joint surgery with a very low success rate and high dangerous side effects when there is a safer alternative that is cheaper too.

Articles written by holistic veterinarians. mention that dog knee braces cause less arthritis than knee joint surgery for acl ccl tplo tta etc.

It is safer to start with the least invasive solution.

I had Pet Insurance that would pay for either the excruciating painful joint surgery or the safer painless Dog Knee Brace.

So I had a choice since pet insurance pays for dog knee braces because they do work better than surgery.

Dog knee braces don't have the additional costs of complications and aftercare.

Saw dog knee braces at Fido Friendly Magazine / Blog last month

I found a great solution that actually helped my dog heal faster and better than surgery.

Dog ACL Surgery The Second Time Around - Fidose of Reality

Tuesday 17th of June 2014

[…] Our  pet blogging friend, Jodi Chick, has a dog who is being treated with conservative management. You can read all about that course of action on her Kol’s Notes blog here. […]

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