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When Your Dog Has Knee Surgery: Lessons From the Trenches

July 16, 2016

When Cash had surgery I thought I’d use this blog to document his progress. I’ve failed miserably. It’s been over three weeks and I haven’t posted anything.

Bad little blogger!

Fortunately, this is a case where no news is good news. His recovery is going really well and has been mostly without hiccups. We’ve learned some things along the way and I thought I would share them with you in case anyone out there is facing down knee surgery with their dog. It is a daunting process – and I’m here to help!

Before I get started let me say that there was a last minute change of plans regarding Cash’s surgery. He was originally supposed to be having TPLO but when the specialist looked at his X-rays he realized they’d be doing the osteotomy right through one of his growth plates – which he really didn’t want to do. After much back and forth the decision was made to instead do the lateral suture procedure. The general consensus is that lateral suture isn’t as good as TPLO but in this case it was our best option. So far his suture seems to be holding well but only time will tell how he does in the long run!

One week post surgery and this guy may be getting a little bit too used to all this pampering. off to the mountains we go!

Anyway, back to the point of this post! It’s been three weeks and we’ve learned a few things along the way about how to get through this process. Here is some advice from the trenches:

  • Be prepared for a long haul. Whether your dog has TPLO or the suture surgery, the recovery is a long, slow process. Cash was crated almost constantly for the first few weeks. After his two week checkup we were given the go ahead to start taking him for a couple very short walks per day. We started with three 5-10 minute walks and just a few days ago I upped one of them to 15-ish minutes. That may sound like a decent amount of exercise but keep in mind that that is ALL he is getting all day. He spends the rest of his time crated or tied to something because running, jumping, playing, climbing up on furniture, or going up and down the stairs is not allowed for at least another five weeks. This is not a quick process.
  • Be prepared to sleep on the floor. Cash is one of the most cuddly dogs I have ever met. He sleeps UNDER the covers with us at night and is something like a human toddler in that he really wants someone to lay with him until he falls asleep. That was great when he could sleep in our bed with us but not so much now that he’s on injured reserve. I have spent many nights sleeping curled up with him on his big, comfy dog bed. And that’s another tip: if your dog doesn’t have a big, comfy dog bed you should probably get him one ASAP! It will be more comfortable for both of you.

  • Get your dog under control before surgery. We had only had Cash for a month before he started limping on his back leg. During that time we had signed him up for clicker training through the local shelter – which he then got kicked out of for being too rambunctious around the other dogs. This guy has SO MUCH ENERGY and we needed to get him under control FAST before he went under the knife. On the recommendation of several people we trust we signed him up for e-collar training with Sit Means Sit. I know people have strong feelings about using electronic collars on dogs but I have to say that it has been LIFE CHANGING for us, and for Cash. After just ONE class he was walking perfectly on a leash, something that was never possible before. This is awesome in general (and even without surgery I would have been happy we did it!) but the best part is that his little recovery walks are nice and SLOW. Pulling on the leash and lunging at rabbits would not be good for his recovery and now he does neither of those things. Before training I had a hard time walking him because he pulled so hard – now my three year old can walk him! Seriously, it’s maybe the best money we’ve spent on one of our dogs.
  • Do the damn exercises. Our vet sent us home with a bunch of instructions on what to do – and what not to do – while Cash was recovering. Top of the list was to do his range of motion exercises several times a day, everyday. We were doing them but maybe not with the dedication we should have been and his leg got TIGHT. A week out from surgery and he was hobbling around with his bad leg tucked waaaaaay up under his body. I started treating doing his rehab like it was my job and three or four days later he was walking on it. Hallelujah!
  • Pick up one of these leashes. I stumbled upon these leashes at our local dog food store. They’re made from paracord, have a clip one each end, and have rings spread out throughout the length of the leash. I can’t even tell you how much this thing has saved my sanity! Cash is not allowed to roam free in the house which means that if he’s not crated he constantly has to be clipped to something. This leash makes it so easy to clip him to furniture and because all those rings allow the leash to be any length, it means I can make his leash as long or short as I want. It’s the little things that make your life easier during this process!

So that’s where we are now – and what we’ve learned three weeks in. I’m so happy to almost be to the halfway point of his recovery and I can’t wait for the day that I can watch him run around again. Thank you all for your continued good thoughts on our guy!


Live, Play

New Dog Drama

June 8, 2016

All it took was a half hour of playing with Cash at the shelter for us to realize that he was the perfect dog for our family. He was sweet, young, energetic, and athletic. He looked like a good running and biking partner. We adopted him with big plans for the summer and all the things we would do to do together.

A few weeks after we brought him home we noticed a slight limp on his rear right leg. He’d wake up from sleeping and tripod around for a few minutes before returning to a normal gait. He’d eventually shake it off but if you paid close enough attention you’d see that he still wasn’t putting much weight on it.

I posted this picture, which I took of Cash in Fruita a few weeks ago, in a Facebook group for the surgery he is having. Someone asked if it was his right rear leg that is hurt. It is. I had never noticed but you can see, even in this picture, that he doesn’t have much weight on his right leg.

When I realized that this wasn’t going to be a fleeting thing I made an appointment with the vet. After a bunch of tests and some X-rays the diagnosis was a torn CCL (the dog version of an ACL). The vet said we might be able to avoid surgery if we completely restricted his activity for a while.

Cash spent the next two or three weeks tied to things. Tied to the deck post when we all hung out outside. Tied to the table leg inside in the kitchen. Tied to me while I was making dinner. He got no walks and was not allowed to play. After a few weeks of this there were no signs of limping and we were given the go ahead for a VERY slow reintroduction to activity.

And then he got loose in the backyard the other day. He chased a bunny, played with his sister, and made a valiant attempt at leaping out six foot fence. The limp returned with a vengeance and the vet decided it was time for surgery.

I’m bummed. There’s the pain of surgery for Cash, the struggle of keeping a young, active dog calm for  months on end, and the cost. There’s also the unfortunate fact that a dog with one ruptured ACL has a 50% chance of blowing the other one within the year. We’re on a long road to recovery. We had a huge summer of camping planned and now I have no idea how much of that is going to happen. If he recovers well from this (which is what I’ve been told happens – TPLO makes knees bombproof!) it will obviously all have been worth it but for now? This kind of sucks.

His surgery is scheduled for June 23rd, two weeks from tomorrow. It can’t come soon enough. Recovery is going to be a slow process but I look forward to getting him onto the “recovering” side of this instead of the “waiting for something to happen” side. I just want my happy, playful dog to be able to be my happy, playful dog again!

Other than the knee drama he is settling in well. He noses his way under the covers every night and sleeps there curled up next to me until morning. He adores his human sibling. He may be one of the sweetest, most loving dogs I have ever met – and I say that as someone who has met a lot of sweet, loving dogs.

I’ll be using this blog to keep you all posted on Cash’s recovery so check back for updates – and feel free to send any good thoughts you can spare our way!