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The Daily Local News

Jul 20

ACL Surgery on your Dog

Recently I got to experience my dog having anterior cruciate ligament or ACL surgery as it referred as; not only once, but twice in a 6 week period.  Did I hit the lottery and no one told me?!  So my dog thought I needed another bill in my house!

So I am going to discuss the different types of surgeries and also rehabilitation work or physical therapy (PT) for your dog over the next couple postings.  I won’t bore you with all the technical, veterinarian mumbo jumbo; I am going to discuss the “what ifs” you may be facing if your dog has to have this surgery done.

Once Sherlock was diagnosed with the injury, and I knew right away when it happened and what he had done to himself, so I wasn’t shocked or surprised when my vet told me that was what he had done.

First thing to do when you find out your dog has done this is take the time and visit different vets.  Surgery costs range from $1800.00 to $5,000.00 or more depending upon the type of procedure you have done and who you go to.  Yes, there are various types of procedures to correct this injury and I will define them and discuss non-surgery procedures also.

A tear vs a rip on a ligament is different.  If your dog has just a tear and the only way to determine that is through an ultrasound.  Not all vets have the ability to provide you with an ultrasound so you may need to go see a specialist for this procedure.  Most vet hospitals do have an ultrasound machine to perform this on your dog.  Cost for an ultrasound starts around $350.00.  Cha-ching!

Always talk to your friends or family members too to see if they know of a good veterinarian that can perform this surgery, because not all vets are knowledgeable of this procedure or can offer it.  So yes, I went to two different vets prior to picking one.  Consultation costs for two vets and some medications for inflammation: $300.00 plus.  Cha-ching!

Once you have selected a vet, they will discuss with you during your consultation the procedure they “believe” will be best for your dog based upon size and weight and their activity level.  The descriptions of all the various procedures are listed below and the acronyms will get very confusing.  Don’t worry I won’t test you later.

TTA: Surgery Tibial tuberosity advancement – This surgery changes the angle of the bones within the knee.  This is where they actually cut away a portion of the bone of the tibia and move it and than it is held in place using titanium bone plates and screws.  In time the bone will “regrow” and fill the space that was removed.  This surgery is more extensive and has a much higher price tag. (Based upon talking to some vet technicians that are experienced in this surgery, they don’t tell you that eventually the plate may have to be removed.  Ouch! Cha-ching!)

TPLO: Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy – This type of surgery they adjust the slope of the tibial plateau to prevent unwanted forward motion within the joint, and also requires having a plate adhered to the bone to keep it in place.  Again this plate may be removed after healing has taken place.

Extra Capsular Suture: (traditional repair, extracapsular imbrication)  - With this surgery they actually “drill” holes through the bone or use titanium screws and heavy gauge line and make a figure eight that holds the leg and knee joint in place.  This is referred to as typical because this was the type of surgery that was always performed prior to the ones listed above.

Fibular Heal Transposition: (fibular head transfer) – For this surgery they actually use another ligament in the knee and reposition it to take the place of the one that was torn.

Conservative Management : non surgical procedure – Since this is not a surgical procedure this may take longer but it still has a price tag depending upon what practices you use with this method.  There is medications to control inflammation, physical therapy to “rebuild” the area affected., and braces you can purchase for your dog to make the leg more stable during this period.  (No the tendon or ligament will not repair itself.)  Through various exercises and medications your dog will regain the use of the leg, but they will eventually develop arthritis. 

I have listed the above procedures in the order of the most costly procedure first with the one that is the least costly and least evasive. 

Conservative management can work for many dogs and but it still has a price tag that can be hefty for some.

To give you an idea of the cost with CM; a brace can start around $350.00.  Rimadyl 100 mg bottle is about $75.00 for 60 tablets, various pain medication such as Glyco Flex is about $100.00 for a bottle of 80 tablets, and Glucosamine tablets or capsules $50.00 for a bottle of 120, consultation with a Canine Physical Therapist $100.00, a 45 minute physical therapy appointment $105.00. 

Physical therapy also can range from cold laser treatments, to water therapy, chiropractic work or acupuncture, to just doing various exercises in a controlled environment so the PT Vet can observe the range of motion and your dogs stability on the leg.

The above is about one month of medications.  The physical therapy should be done at least once a week for a number of weeks depending upon the severity of the tear. In the end you may end up spending close to $2500.00 or more to do the non-surgical procedure with no guarantee of your dog’s leg.

Braces don’t always work either.  Some dogs don’t take well to them and will chew on them.  Some braces have to be custom made so they will have a higher price tag that listed, but the basic one for a dog of approximately 50 to 90 pounds about $350.00.

With all the research I did and all the forums and vets I spoke to, the majority stated, you have to have the surgery done.

A number of people would immediately say, “Well your dog was overweight and that is why it happened.” No he wasn’t.  He was and still is of an ideal weight for the breed that he is.  These injuries just happen.

So let’s just say I currently own the bionic dog, as I now refer to Sherlock.  We are on 2+ months for his right knee and are working on 5 weeks on his left knee.  Total cost for 2 knee surgeries and 3 PT appointments and all his meds…..
Over $5,000.00.  CHA-CHING!!!

As of right now I am doing on the PT work with him at home.  It saves money and time.  I have also found out that in the area of Chester County there are only 2 Canine Physical Therapy places.  One is in West Chester and the other is in Frazer.

I will keep you informed of his progress as we move through the next couple of months of his rehabilitation. 

I will also provide you with some other information in regards to doing your own PT work if you find you may need it.  You can write me here and I will answer any questions you may have or inquiries or concerns if you have experienced this yourself.  Please keep in mind I am not a vet, but I am a responsible pet owner and pet sitter.  Sharing information is just part of my job.

Patience is all I can say.  Lots and Lots of Patience!  We have a long road ahead of us and I know it may not be till next Summer that he will be able to run again.

Here is the link to the one website that explains in detail more information regarding this surgery.

Also there is an on-line forum called Conservative Management that has a wealth of information that you can obtain and share about your dog, his injury or his surgery.  It is a great group to join if you just want to find out more information about braces, physical therapy and how other dog owners handle this injury with their pet.

Have a Happy Pet Day Everyone!  Stay Cool! 

Give your dog some ice cubes or Frosty Paws.  And whatever you do Don’t leave your dog in a car during these temperatures!  And if you see a dog in a car, REPORT IT!  Dogs can begin to suffer from the heat in just a couple of minutes being in a car even with the windows cracked!

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