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Achey Breaky ACL: Conservative Management

Achey Breaky ACL: Conservative Management

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1378822_546746628741311_474007339_nThis face you guys!

This is the face of a dog on the mend. Holy woof, can I just say how exciting that is?

Eight weeks ago, Felix jumped less than a foot down out of the garden, yelped and scared the day lights out of me, the Daddy and the Nana. After a butt load of time at the ER Vet, the diagnosis was multiple CCL (the canine equivalent of the human ACL) tears and a damaged meniscus. They recommended we cut him open, cut out the damaged menicus and screw a plate to his bone to keep his tibia from slipping in and out of the joint.

Well, I’m awfully glad that we didn’t do any of that.

Instead, we opted for a second opinion from a vet who specializes in this injury. The real diagnosis? Partial CCL tear, the meniscus was fine and if we were super careful this injury just might heal, no surgery required. As our whole family breathed a collective sigh of relief, we set out to make sure Fe’s achey breaky CCL healed up just fine.

We took that phrase “super careful” as serious as woof.

See, the thing is, an ACL can’t actually heal. You can’t regrow ligament tissue. What we were hoping for was that enough good, strong scar tissue would grow over the tear to re-stabilize the knee, but that we’d keep him moving enough while that scar formed to keep the tissue flexible, so it didn’t tear again. It has been a challenge.

1098504_523930964356211_1053226317_nFelix is a happy, active boy. His greatest joy in life is a walk. It broke my heart to keep him off that leg for the first week and to strictly enforce the no running, no jumping, no fun rule for the last 8 weeks. We started with 2 – minute walks, twice per day and Felix would literally cry when I picked him up to go inside. He would stay outside all day, every day if he was allowed. (Unless it’s raining, then no dice.) Desparate to find a way to get him out and about, we bought him a dog stroller and when that broke, I converted a baby stroller into a sturdier, better dog stroller. No lie, you guys, I hate that thing, but holy woof, has it ever been a life saver.

We’ve slowly been increasing the amount of time Felix is allowed to walk by 2 – 3 minutes per week.

I’ve subscribed carefully to the “one step forward, two steps back” rehab theory. If we increased his walking time and I saw any inflammation or even a trace of a limp, we backed way off to the last easy walking time and started again. As of last night, we are up to 20 minutes! I’m afraid to over do it though, so our routine right now is a 10 minute walk in the morning, a 20 minute walk in the evening and another 15 minute walk before bed. On the weekend, I’ll push it a bit. With a 20 minute walks and a 15 minute walk.

They tried to make me go to rehab and I said No! No! No Problem.

We started the healing off right with some cold laser therapy, then we visited a canine rehab specialist to learn what I could be doing at home to help build up Felix’s strength and flexibilty. He’s being treated to daily massages. (That old course in equine massage is coming in handy! The principles are very similar just on a tinier Felix sized scale.) We’re working on passive movement in the joint and on increasing stability.   Carole Bryant from Fidose of Reality has been battling the same issue with her cocker spaniel Dex and she recommended a book on animal rehab that I’m going to read this weekend. Fe has a huge water phobia, but we’re going to try to ease him into swimming. We figure if Sherman the Newf can do it, so can Fe. We’ll get this boo boo leg fixed in no time.

1744_518121891603785_735310600_nSupporting natural healing with supplements and anti-inflammatories.

We all know that great nutrition can make all the difference. We’re supporting Felix’s healing with a few good supplements. I’ve thrown caution (and common sense) to the wind. Despite my serious shell fish allergy, we’ve got Fe on a Green Lipped Mussel to support joint lubrication and help control inflammation. Glycoflex III is a supplement specially designed for supporting joints and ligaments during recovery. He still gets his daily fish oil too.

Pain & Inflammation be gone.

The first few weeks, Felix was on Metacam, a powerful anti-inflammatory pain killer that made me nervous. It can be super hard on their stomach and once, I accidentally poked myself while dosing it and my hand when numb. SCARY! As Fe heals, we transitioned him off the Metacam and onto a natural pain relief remedy called Traumeel and added yucca root extract. As time has worn on, Fe doesn’t even need that as often. He’s down to one dose a day and we’re experimenting with going down to every second or third day. So far, so good. We’ll be keeping an eye on it for sure and watching for a limp and other signs of pain, like panting.

Fe is on the mend, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

While I am so thrilled with Felix’s progress, we still have to be cautious. One wrong jump and we could undo all this good work. We still have some long term solutions to put into place. No jumping! EVER AGAIN! LOL, aside from the fact that it gives me a woofing heart attack, there is a really high rate of injury in the other knee. We’ll be putting some solutions in place to make jumping totally unnecessary. (I’m sure my downstairs neighbours will be thrilled. I assume 24 lbs of puggle hitting the floor makes quite the thud.) We need to figure out how to keep Fe active, without putting too much stress on that knee. We’ve come so far, but we still have a long way to go too.

Has your dog ever torn an ACL or had to recover from surgery? Do you have any rehab tips for us?


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How to Minimize Dog Noise in an Apartment - Kol's Notes

Sunday 2nd of November 2014

[…] Dog Ramp to help prevent the dogs from jumping off the bed and landing with a thud (and to protect Felix’s ACL from being torn again or the other one from blowing out.) I’m working on a short table/stair […]

Fe's Solvit PupSTEPS get a Makeover - Kol's Notes

Monday 13th of October 2014

[…] going saga of Fe’s torn ACL’s and our adventures in conservative management, both with the right leg last year and the left leg this summer. These stairs, along with a ramp for our bed and a passel of rehab and […]

Jesse Neimann

Wednesday 30th of October 2013

Awesome work, Felix! Glad to hear that recovery is going well (and I love the idea of pushing Felix in a baby stroller!) I am also in the "Second Opinion Club" and very thankful for that second opinion. My dog skipped surgery and I bought a brace from WoundWear. I'd definitely recommend it. You could probably use the brace as a precautionary measure. And I know what you mean about the high rate of injury for the other leg. I'm praying I don't have to go through this ordeal again! Best of luck to you and Felix!

Kimberly Morris Gauthier

Tuesday 15th of October 2013

I'm sorry that this happened, but glad that you're making it through to the other side. We've been very fortunate with our dogs and haven't experienced this.


Tuesday 15th of October 2013

Well I'm glad you wrote this post, so I didn't have to. I almost provided a link to it too. :-D

I'm glad that Fe is feeling better! Sampson is having a lump removed in December and I know he will be on restricted exercise, it's going to be tough juggling between him and Delilah, but it will only be for a short time.

So did Koly have to have little walks too or did you bring Fe in and finish Kol's walk?

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