Diagnosing CCL tears is easy and straightforward, right?
This is a story from Dog Knee Injury website. Having gone through cruciate tears with Jasmine twice, this topic is of special interest to me. Having your dog go through that is frustrating enough. But what if you couldn’t even get it properly diagnosed and treated?
Don’t ever hesitate to get a second opinion when things do feel right. Some conditions are hard to diagnose, and some conditions are hard to treat. Knee injuries, however, are not the case! Or at least they shouldn’t be.
Forrest Gumbo’s story
About 3 years ago, Forrest Gumbo, our approximately 3-year-old, healthy 45-pound pit bull that we adopted at 9 months old, the love of my life, was doing his usual figure 8 “zoomies” after one of our morning runs, and he injured his right rear leg. He limped a little for a bit and always seemed to favor that leg, but he seemed “fine,” although he would hold his leg up every once in a while, which was peculiar.
The vet visit
We saw a vet who did a quick x-ray. He said Forrest probably had a small tear. So we received some Deramaxx and advice to start Forrest on a Glucosamine Chondroitin supplement and walk less. And life went on.
I tried to accept this but was saddened that my little man was not 100% and may never be.
After about a year and a half of shorter walks, a few pounds heavier, several different joint supplements, Forrest wasn’t any happier. He became
- more aggravated in his behavior
- not wanting to play much
- not wanting to eat
Our trainer was telling me, “this dog is in severe pain.” And, most importantly, Forrest was holding the leg up often. I researched online and decided it was a cruciate tear.
Consultation with a specialist
I took him to supposedly one of the best orthopedic vets. He told me Forrest had hip dysplasia, was 5 pounds overweight, had possible arthritis, and recommended long-term Rimadyl.
I didn’t want to accept this, so I asked for his x-rays and took them to a holistic vet. We saw her a few months earlier. We tried acupuncture, and she has cool ideas that I agree with.
The x-rays were so fuzzy she couldn’t read them. So then, after leaving him ALL day at the traditional vet for the x-rays, I found out they had not sedated Forrest to properly x-ray an agitated dog. And they had not even looked at his knee.
On to the next young, modern traditional vet. He did sedate Forrest, and much NOT to my surprise, Forrest’s hips were absolutely perfect.
Since I didn’t explicitly ask to x-ray his knees, even though I told her that I suspected a cruciate tear, there were again no knee x-rays.
At this point, I started thinking:
- I am speaking another language to the vets
- I am crazy
- Probably he just doesn’t like his rambunctious 2-year-old rescued American Bulldog sister
- Nothing is orthopedically wrong and he is just a weird rescue dog with “phantom pain” as she described to me.
Really? Just keep doing Rimadyl and joint supplements… he lost a few pounds from eating home-made food plus the very best dry kibble.
I almost started thinking he might have nerve damage or a slipped disc in his back. My husband, all this time, insisting something is wrong with his groin area…
Seeing a behaviorist
Well, I decided to take Forrest to a behaviorist veterinarian because he is obviously insane; after all, he is a rescued pit bull.
She required all x-rays, medical records, etc. So I stopped by to pick up the x-rays, and they had lost them!
At this point, I am losing all faith in traditional veterinarians. The vet I originally saw was on maternity leave and unavailable. We left the office with the older, experienced vet offering to sedate Forrest again and take new x-rays.
Since it was only his hips, and I clearly saw that he did not have anything wrong with them, I figured this was unnecessary for the behaviorist vet.
The next day, I let Forrest run hard with another dog in our neighborhood because we no longer see such joy in him. When I got home that night, Forrest was dragging his back leg and could barely walk.
I looked at this as a sign from above and figured the more experienced vet was who we were meant to see.
While he was sedated, I asked that let’s get this straight for the last time – x-ray everything!
The diagnosis and surgery
Guess what? He has a cruciate tear and needs surgery ASAP.
What are my options? I work at an all-natural pet supply store, and I have talked (probably too much) to many people who’ve had the traditional repair, as well as the TPLO, done… what was best for my not small but not large dog?
I researched and saw that none of the surgeries is 100%, so I chose the traditional repair.
I was told, “I’ve been doing this surgery for 30 years”. Sign us up. Let’s get him better. So I borrowed an extra-large crate, got the cone of shame, and a few days later, I am picking Forrest up with a horrible tape cast on his leg (which is not used by many vets anymore, so I am told and with good reason), some Tramadol, Rimadyl, no post-op instructions, and a “we’ll see you in 10 days to remove the bandage.”
The tape ripped his fur and skin off to where it was raw, and all he wanted to do was lick it.
I used Vetericyn to ward off infection and tried to use the cone when I wasn’t there myself to stop him from licking… oh, and LOTS of bones to distract him. By the time we got to the 10-day mark, the nasty tape cast was almost off.
His sutures looked really good, though, and he was already using his leg, so I thought he was well on his way to recovery… so why did everyone tell me that it took so much longer to recover? I was cautious not to let him run/jump, only walked him on his leash, allowing him to dictate the pace, even sent his nutty sister to doggy daycare so she wouldn’t pummel him for about 6 weeks.
We tried to do a range of motion exercises (recommended by the young vet), but he would get agitated and seemed like he was in pain; we bought an 8-foot pool to do hydrotherapy (recommended by the older vet) he would stand there in the water.
The progress or the lack of thereof
In between, I took him to be seen by the vet a few times, and I was told he was “doing great” even though I felt like he was still limping too much and he was walking sideways.
Did he re-injure it? Was it his left leg, like I was told would probably be next due to overcompensating with that leg?
Some days he seemed okay.
There we were, a week after the visit, where I was told: “there is nothing wrong with his knees,” and they even charged me for an office visit.
I was beginning to think maybe I was one of “those people” when they finally told me to go see the orthopedic surgeon at a very well-known referral office; yes, the same one that most of my customers recommended, but I was too worried about offending my vets. In fact, on the way to the vet today, he was standing up and hanging out the window like old times. I was hoping I would be told I was crazy.
A week later, he was diagnosed with a possible meniscal tear, a very probable (post-operative?) luxating patella, and a torn cruciate ligament.
Forrest will be going for TPLO surgery along with arthroscopic surgery. I do not know what the days ahead will be like (except for working overtime to pay for this 2nd surgery since my veterinary pet insurance money allotted for this surgery was spent on the first surgery, and they do not cover “congenital” health items such as a luxating patella).
I am worried about infection with the plate inserted in his skinny little legs. I’ve been warned that his left leg cruciate is also torn, but I knew that and we had already started ligament herbs and cold laser treatment with the holistic vet; I’m praying we can salvage that leg with CM, but I am also hopeful that I will once again see my sweet Forrest’s smile as he heals!
Mandie created Dog Knee Injury in response to the lack of informational resources available when her dog, Tucker, was diagnosed with a CCL tear in 2007. Dog Knee Injury is an informational website dedicated to helping dog owners facing CCL (cranial cruciate ligament) injuries in their dogs.