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Dog CCL (acl) tear - feeling overwhelmed

Ugh.
Yesterday, my 10 year old whippet / pit mix halfway fell or tripped coming inside up the porch stairs. She yelped and immediately held her right hind up in a position that I knew what she had done. I took her to my vet this morning to confirm, she has a suspected complete CCL and meniscus tear. Our vet gave us pain meds and referred us to the surgery specialist in Atlanta.

I called the specialist in Atlanta and they cannot see her for a consult until Jan 31st, which sucks. Also, they said the quote if she has surgery is $4400-$4800. I am assume this would be the TPLO. I have had my fair share of big vet bills in recent years, but this one is really hitting me hard. Are there any other options? Should I shop around and see if anywhere can do it sooner? What about bracing? Should I get a brace until she can be seen?

Side note on Zoey: she is a typical 10 year old mutt. She is healthy overall and lives the life of leisure. She does have her fair share of tumors and lumps covering her, but we have not explored any further and the vet monitors them. She is a VERY sensitive girl and doesn’t do well off routine, so she is really down in her feelings now.

Her favorite thing in the world is laying in our bed, so first order of business is taking the mattress off the frame and sleeping on the floor for the foreseeable future…

Any advice, tips, or anything helpful?

And photos of the most dignified, sensitive, and intuitive dog I have ever known…

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OUCH! I am sorry to hear that Zoey hurt herself.

Yes, I would get a second opinion. If you are GA I would call the Univ of Ga. and Univ of Fl to see what their hospitals / vets say.

I do not have anyother suggestions but I am jiggling for Zoe.

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Thanks! Yes, I plan to call UGA and Auburn tomorrow. My in-laws have used Florida a lot, and are semi local to them, so I will call there as well.

I just want to do what is fair for her, but reasonable since she is an older dog with some issues. I worry that if I seriously stretch myself to do this surgery, how long will it be before one of her lumps ends up cancerous or until her other knee blows… I know you can’t predict the future, and I just need to worry about the issue today, but it is hard.

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  1. Yes to a second opinion because it is possible she does not need surgery. Just a lot of rest, some red light or cold laser therapy.

  2. My Rottweiler developed ACL issues on one leg. Both my vet/critter chiropractor (she cares for my horses and my dogs) and the vet at the local clinic agreed there was a small tear before the x-rays.

  3. The clinic did six treatments of cold laser therapy on the Rottweiler and I did “in-between” treatments with the red light therapy pad that I’ve had for 18 years and use on the horse, dogs, & myself.

This light pad is made just outside Nashville, TN and they are great to do business with. It may be a bit more expensive than some overseas stuff but the product will last forever if it’s taken care of and it works.

The 6 X 9 pad I bought in 2005 would still be working if I hadn’t been careless two years ago and dropped it in a bucket of water. The company had a new one to me in less than 48 hours.

Wishing you the best with her recovery:)

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Jingles and love! My trainer’s dog did the very same thing about the beginning of December. It has been slow, but she is steadily healing. Hopefully your girl does the same!

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Our dog just had the TPLO surgery last August. Different from your situation, as she’s 6 and pretty easy-going in the house.

If you get a brace, it goes on the good leg not the bad one.

Keeping her weight under control is the #1 thing, in our vets opinion, for good recovery prognosis. Overweight dogs are at such a disadvantage.

Also, there are other options than a TPLO. Their effectiveness is far less, though the recovery time is generally shortened. TPLO is the gold standard, but I understand your hesitation/reservation.

Hello sister! My experience: My dog damaged her CCL late 2021 playing with our six month old bowling ball of a puppy. She is extremely shy and doesn’t do well when her routine is disrupted. I wanted to avoid surgery if at all possible. I’m a horse person! I know how to rehab!
She did improve over time, two steps forward, one step back. Then one day she and the younger dog got to playing while I was turning out and on the way back up the hill I heard the SCREAM. That convinced me it was time for surgery. I had exhaustively researched braces and although there was some praise for them, there were also alot of disappointed reviews. From several decades of in the trenches experience with the biomechanics of dogs and horses and “support” devices, success with a brace seemed unlikely. Xrays (horse vet) showed a great deal of arthritis had developed in the joint in the 8 months I put off surgery. That is now forever. I researched localish surgeons and was very lucky to find an expert and experienced orthopod only 45 minutes away. My dog is now 5 months post op and very comfortable and happy. She is not what a horse person would call sound - she moves oddly behind because of the change of angle from the TPLO - but she is comfortable at all gaits.
Certainly first order of business is a second opinion. Not every vet is the best at everything. The surgical quotes seem standard. Here in the PA/NJ/MD area my quotes ran $5-6,000. If surgery is an option for you, my advice would be to do it sooner rather that later. Zoey isn’t getting any younger and anesthesia is always a worry with the older dogs. And there is the likelihood of arthritis in the unstable joint. If surgery is not an option, do what you can to protect her. Non slip your floors and entry. As few stairs and jumping as possible. No playing with the puppy! (I feel so terrible!) Careful of pain meds. You need the dog to know it is injured and protect herself. Maybe just at night so she can sleep.
You are a good mom to sleep on the floor! I hope you and Zoey are feeling better soon!

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Thanks so much for the replies! I hate that y’all have had to go through this, but I really appreciate your advice and support!

Emergency savings are pretty depleted, just due to recent crazy circumstances. I’m coming off unpaid maternity leave, which was longer than expected due to some complications on my end. And, of course, my car’s heat pump and whatever goes with that just blew which was about the cost of the TPLO (argh!!) I hate that it is a factor, but I do need to find a practical solution that is fair to Zoey.

My vet called today to check on our progress with getting a surgery consult. We talked more about other options and she sent another referral to a different ‘knee guy’. He is great at what he does, but he only does the lateral suture and tries to stick to 40lbs or less and inactive dogs. Zoey is right on the line, at 42 lbs, but is rather sedentary all day… and night. Both vets agree it’s worth going for a consult, so we’re going Monday afternoon. The big bonus is this place only does certain surgeries which allows them to cut costs for customers some, which is helpful. I didn’t know this kind of clinic existed!

I know this isn’t the ‘gold star’ of knee repairs, but it will stabilize the joint quickly and give her a shot. It also may fail and put at back to square one and we reevaluate other options if they situation arises. She is a very easy patient, which also increases her odds of success.

We will see how the consult goes and will go from there!

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Don’t waste your money or time on a second opinion. This is a surgical problem.

There is an 80% chance the other side will rupture, but surgery or no surgery does not change that.

There is no way to brace a canine stifle to make up for a torn CCL.

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She’s going for a second opinion on the “other options”, which have been around far longer than TPLO. I think, given the dogs age, activity level, and current financial status of OP - it’s worth a shot.

Personally 10yo would be the age where I would start to hesitate on the full TPLO. That surgery and the recovery was no joke, not the mention the cost.

OP, we paid somewhere around 3.7k for the surgery, but rehab was about another thousand. We did water treadmill etc etc.

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My golden retriever had the lateral suture surgery about 20 years ago and she healed great, never injured the other leg and passed of unrelated issues years after the acl tear. This was before TPLO was the gold standard. She was a 70lb dog. We were very careful to keep her weight lean and to only do controlled exercise on a leash we didn’t let her run around like crazy offleash. It’s absolutely worth a try especially with a smaller dog.

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Glad to hear you’re getting a second opinion and looking at other options.

My neighbor just had the TPLO done on her 5 yo lab, who is close to 100#. The cost was in the range you were quoted. She had two issues: keeping the dog inactive prior to the surgery, and managing the dog post surgery. The first two weeks after the surgery were the worst - it took two people to walk the dog outside - one to lead her, and one to manage the sling under her hind end to keep her non weight bearing. Now that she’s feeling better, keeping her exuberance under control until she’s fully healed is an issue.

The risk to blowing out the joint on the other side is very real during recovery. But then, the risk of blowing out the other side is there if you don’t do the surgery, and the dog is weightbearing more on that leg.

In your situation, I don’t know if the advantages of your dog being smaller and sedentary outweigh her age.

I just wanted to reassure you that you are not a bad pet owner and your concerns are legitimate. If it were my 10 yo beloved dog, I would be weighing the pros and cons and possible outcomes as well.

PS - Zooey is adorable, and clearly a well loved and lovable canine.

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I am currently going through knee surgery rehab with my dog (slipping stifle not CCL but similar issues) My little dog is only 2 and the surgery and rehab is a LOT. I would definitely look for alternatives for an older dog. My cost was slightly more than your quote (high COL area) I did the surgery for him partly because his other stifle has issues as well and we are hoping that fixing one will take the strain off the other.
BTW I had pet insurance for the first time ever and it covered a large portion. Maxed out until next October now!

We did TPLO on both legs for our Aussie several years ago. She recovered beautifully. More recently our Beagle tore his CCL. I didn’t think he was a good candidate for surgery because he is very emotionally fragile. So I did the leg brace approach. I took him walking in the river every day and followed the same recovery protocol we followed for the Aussie. His leg will occasionally bother him if he’s been running a lot. He goes for Bowen treatments every month or so and that helps a lot. Within a couple of years we would have paid enough in Bowen treatments to pay for the surgery. So we didn’t save money but I still believe the trauma of surgery would have been too much for him.

If your dog still wants to run a lot, I recommend the surgery if you can make it work.

Absolutely not true. One of my dogs had suspected CCL rupture and the specialty vet was able to rule it out. The average vet may not have the experience to look at a single xray and manipulate a patient in pain and make a conclusive diagnosis.

Obviously if the dog is still lame it’s likely not a mild sprain/strain, but another opinion is always worthwhile (since she hasn’t really gotten one from a specialist yet anyway, it’s not really even a 2nd opinion).

As for TPLO v. lateral suture - the lateral suture surgery has come a long way, so for a less active dog it may be appropriate.

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Long before anyone came up with the TPLO and other radical bone cutting surgeries, lateral suture was the only treatment for a CCL. Your girls long legs may come into play more than an absolute weight limit. Lateral suture worked pretty well most of the time in the old days. Definitely worth considering!

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Thanks so much for all of the thoughts, opinions, advice, and well wishes. We got a brace today and have it on the good leg for potty breaks. We also got Walmart floor runners and she has a path to easily get out. I work from home, and even with free range of the house, she chooses to sleep in her crate all day near me, so crating her for rest is not throwing her off at all.

I’ll see what they say Monday and report back. We had a dog about 4 pounds lighter than Zoey growing up, with a similar build. She had the lateral surgery (allthat was offered back then) and did great for years with it.

I appreciate everyone’s thoughts!

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A full rupture is actually a pretty easy diagnosis, sedate for radiographs (which are to rule out other things more than diagnose) and manipulate the joint.

A partial tear and determining the meniscus status is a bit trickier.

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:joy: It’s not a radiological diagnosis, either. It’s a gait analysis and palpation (cranial drawer sign) diagnosis.

Where did you obtain your veterinary degree?

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