Torn CCL: The Unforseen Consequences Of Conservative Care

This forum is for dog lovers seeking everyday advice and suggestions on health-related issues. Remember, however, that advice on a public forum simply can't be a substitute for proper medical attention. Only your vet can say assuredly what is best for your dog.


Miss Lily, Lily- Belle
Barked: Tue Feb 12, '13 4:14am PST 
So, in the summer of 2011, Lily blew her right CCL out, and had to have a TPLO surgery to correct it. It was a big deal, and she went through a lot of pain, but the leg healed well, in time.

Unfortunately, as happens with so many dogs, a few months later, she suffered a partial tear of the CCL in her left leg. I'd been horrified by the ordeal she'd been through with the last surgery, and didn't want to put her through it again, so I did a lot of research on conservative care, and decided to go that route, against the advice of both my vet, and the surgeon who'd performed her TPLO.

I bought her an A-Trac brace, and kept her quiet, shortening our daily 4-mile walks to just once around the block, slowly. Over the next several months, her limping decreased to a negligible amount, but each month, when I'd take her in for her Adequan shot, my vet would check and tell me her stifle was still unstable, and was not improving.

The A-Trac brace is a thoughtfully-designed, high-quality piece, but Lily is a very anxious dog, and never adjusted to it. After several months of making her wear it, and seeing her stress and anxiety while wearing it never abated, I decided I couldn't put her through it anymore and discontinued its use.

I continued keeping her quiet, and planned to have her 2nd TPLO in the Spring of 2012. A week before the operation was scheduled, though, I wrecked my motorcycle and broke my right arm, fractured the other, fractured 3 ribs, and fractured my left knee. I have steps going to the back yard, and would have been unable to lift Lily to carry her down them, so the surgery was put off.

In December, my doctor cleared me to carry the weight, but I didn't want to do the surgery when there was the possibility of snow and ice, so I decided to wait till mid-March.

The decision was taken out of my hands, however, when 10 days ago, Lily woke up and would put no weight at all on her left leg. My vet confirmed it was a complete CCL tear, so a week ago, Lily had her 2nd TPLO.

The surgeon who did the surgery was very unhappy with me. He told me not only did she have a complete tear of her CCL, she also had a torn meniscus, which he assured me had been caused by her walking around on an unstable joint for over a year. He had to remove most of the meniscus, and told me her changes of enjoying as good a result from this surgery are not nearly as good as the last one, and that is directly attributable to my waiting to have the surgery. He said if I'd brought her to him right away with the partial tear, he would have bet she would have had a 99% chance of a full recovery. Not only that, but her recovery would have been much quicker, and less painful, as well.

I believe he is absolutely right. I chose to gamble with conservative care, instead of getting the surgery I knew she needed, and Lily is paying the price. The fact is, he didn't go far enough in his scolding of me.

Because of my poor choice, for nearly a year and a half, Lily has been in various levels of physical discomfort and pain. For nearly a year and a half, she's had to stay quietly in the house, instead of taking the daily walks she loves so much. Nearly a year and a half, out of a lifespan of (hopefully) 15 years. That is just unacceptable.

So, to those considering conservative care, I would say to you that your dog has a short lifespan, and every day is precious. I also say you need to consider the effects of leaving your dog on an unstable joint to the injury if that conservative care is not successful.

I can promise you, no amount of savings on the vet bill are worth the guilt I feel now.

Fritz, cats are- fun when they- run
Barked: Tue Feb 12, '13 7:26am PST 
hughughughugdog walk

Member Since
Barked: Wed Feb 13, '13 3:31pm PST 
You are so right, the longer you wait the worse it becomes.
My dog had a partial tear 2 years ago, I tried to let it heal on its own, he would be better, then worse. We tried laser, Adequan injections, underwater treadmill, anything to avoid surgery. We kept him as confined as we could, one day while walking him he pulled really hard on the leash and started limping worse than ever. I scheduled his surgery right away, because I waited the 3 months his ligament was completly torn and he has mild to moderate arthritis in that knee. He is doing great now but if anything were to happen to his other knee he would be in surgery right away!