When my dog first injured his CCL, the research I did online was like being stuck on an awful rollercoaster ride. Slowly clicking up that first formidable hill one nerve wracking bit at a time was about all I could handle. I had no idea what was on the other side, but one thing I knew for sure was that I didn't want to look down once I reached the top. And there it was - the summit. The highest, scariest point where I was forced to make a decision. I couldn't stay stuck on that ride forever, but at the same time I was afraid to hop off.
My online learning began with a lame-o Google search - something like "dog knee pain". And there it was, more and more information that all pointed to one diagnosis - a CCL tear. I watched videos of dogs who sat, walked and ran the same way mine did. I searched for some magical cure that didn't involve surgery or spending a lot of money. I went to work, came home, ate, and got back online to search some more. And this routine became my day, everyday. I wanted to educate myself, but looking back, I'm pretty sure it was my pathetic way of avoiding making a move in any specific direction. For each successive day that he struggled, I felt another ton of guilt weighing me down.
I went to the conservative management site - you've probably visited it too. It's the one with the incognito guy who scares the bejesus out of us by talking about how surgery is unnecessary and then rants about infection this or osteosarcoma that. Yeah, that guy. Well, mister, it worked. You sidelined me away from surgery not once but many, many times. You fed into my wasting so much precious time.
I wanted to give conservative management (CM) a try. I did lots of things: Physical therapy exercises, cold laser treatments, a custom-fitted stifle brace, prescription medications and joint supplements. My dog liked when I put the heating pad on his leg and massaged him afterward, but any benefit was temporary. And that was the case for all of the conservative modalities. Had I started them sooner rather than taking on the almost full-time job of "online CCL injury researcher", he might've stood a chance. But I wasted time because I was too busy staring at my computer screen. SMH...you know what they say about hindsight.
If I could go back in time and get a do-over, I'd have started the CM stuff sooner. If I was convinced it wasn't working, I'd have chosen surgery more quickly. And that's the reason for this blog post. It's not to push one procedure over another but to help you to put your fears and procrastination aside and to help you see the situation with clarity from the start.
I've been asked so many times, "How did you KNOW when he had to have surgery?" I can tell you that there wasn't a crystal clear moment, it was a culmination of lots of things:
Did the opposite CCL tear? Yep. The odds are stacked against us on this one. If one side tears get ready, because while the percentages vary from one study to another, the likelihood of the opposite CCL tearing is somewhere around 60%. Even if the other side hadn't torn, he'd have needed surgery. I had two surgical consults, one for lateral suture and the other for TPLO. I decided on TPLO for the acutely torn side first and another TPLO eight months later for the other leg. He healed perfectly and without complications. Did I make the right decision to move forward with the surgeries? Absolutley, 100% YES. My little crazy man is back and better than ever!
Here are some helpful hints I wished I knew when my dog first hurt his knee:
Best of luck to you! Please give this blog post a like if it was helpful to you. If you've been through CCL surgery, please leave a comment that could help someone else have an easier time. If you're in the beginning stages and have questions, feel free to ask in the comments section below.