How a Stifle Brace Saved My Dog from ACL Surgery

knee braceMy dog has a partial tear of his ACL/CCL (ligament) in the left rear leg. I’ve been blogging about this for a number of weeks, and he’s had an issue for about 6 weeks. We’ve tried rest, homeopathic meds, cold laser therapy, and now we are onto the custom orthotic better known as the knee brace. I don’t want my dog to have ACL surgery if at all possible.

To recap, our we went down the cold laser route and blogged about that in our first entry to this saga.

Then we went down the getting fitted for a brace and how it all works in our second entry about the ACL tear here.

We are taking more conservative approaches because:

A) I don’t want to have to put my dog through something as invasive as surgery, especially considering this Veterinary Practice News article solidified my decision.

B) I prefer to do what is in my dog’s best interest and go the conservative and alternative route, considering veterinary medicine is in many ways, starting to mirror its human equivalent.

dog ACL brace

After the initial casting and waiting for the custom orthotic to be made by My Pet’s Brace, we trekked to the facility about two hours from our hometown.

Not to sound all infomercially, but the folks at My Pet’s Brace know their stuff.  For $625, Dexter will be wearing a knee brace that is moveable, conforms to his stifle anatomy, has a 90-day adjustments and modification warranty, and is already being readily accepted by my dog.

When we went to pick up the brace, we were instructed on how to apply it, what to watch for, any abnormalities, and then we applied the brace in front of the man who made it. Dexter is a very easygoing dog but I know at this point, with all of the manipulations to his leg, he had to be thinking “yikes, Mom, enough with the poking and prodding.”

We were able to videotape his first walk with the new brace in place, and he did incredibly well. Some dogs take hours, other take days, but eventually a well-fitting custom orthotic is something to which dogs adapt.

As you can see, Dexter did incredibly well. We need to start him out with wearing it for 3 hours at a time, increase to 4, and so on. He is to wear it during “active” waking hours. For a 4-year-old Cocker Spaniel, that means he will be wearing it for probably 7 or so hours a day: walks, any activities outside, etc. For indoor use and nap time, we want his leg to breathe. I will continue the homeopathic anti-inflammatories of Traumeel and Heel and use Tramadol if needed. Through all of this, Dexter never let out a peep to indicate pain. Dogs are good at masking that, so pet parents need to be astute and know what “the norm” is.

I will keep Fidose readers posted every few weeks now, as our plan of action is to keep the knee stable, allow scar tissue to properly form, and avoid the knife. I wouldn’t rush to my doctor for a partial ligament tear with the goal of surgery and I have the same expectation for my dog.

cocker spaniel Dexter

Consider every option and do research before jumping in feet first to allow your dog to undergo invasive surgery. It is an option for some dogs, but not all, through my research and talking to many dog moms and dads whose dogs have a full or partial ligament tear.

Side note: Our friend at My Brown Newfies has a larger dog (obviously, a Newfoundland aka “Newfie”) that has the same problem. They are going the conservative route, too, and you can follow that saga on her My Brown Newfies blog.

Happy Trails!

Comments

  1. My terrier mix healed quickly from 2 cruciate ligament tears with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Ligaplex II, cold laser and the fabulous A traC dynamic brace. No surgery!

  2. Wow. It looks and sounds like Dexter is really getting along well with the brace. He is walking great with it! I think it would take Sherman a really long time to get use to one, but maybe he would surprise me!

    It’s so nice to follow along with someone else who has opted for conservative treatment, sometimes I question my choice, but now that I see how well Sherman is doing I am glad we went the route that we did!

    Thanks for the shout out, see you in a few days!

    • I know, it’s good to follow your course, too. I have a friend who has a dog who tore the ACL and had to have surgery – the dog was really miserable. But conservative does work. It’s harder on us, I think, to not allow them to play and engage. And for the dog I think they just don’t understand “rest.” It’s in their DNA to run and play. In any case, yes, see you at BlogPaws. Safe travels!

  3. So glad that brace is helping poor little Dexter, I hope he gets well real soon. You are such a amazing owner to go above and beyond for your little guy, (I would do the same! :))

  4. I agree 100%, don’t have ACL surgery if at all possible, that is a last desperate measure. I hope it all goes well for Dexter and the brace does what it was designed to do.

  5. My Yorkshire Terrier went through a similar ordeal where both his hind legs was diagnosed with ACL/CCL. It took three trips to the orthotic place to get his custom braces made. It is the 3rd day since we got them and my dog has been doing pretty well for having two ligament ruptures. He can’t urinate in a normal one leg lift motion though, he still tries but the leg that’s lifted is much lower and it seems like he’s always about to fall (never did though). It has been a year since this post was made but I hope Dexter is continually doing well, hopefully my dog will adapt quickly and get back to his old self soon!

  6. Thanks for sharing your recovery story about Dexter. My Huskie recently tore his acl and I bought him an a-trac brace from Woundwear. It seems to be working great and I hope he will be able to get better without surgery.

  7. How’s Dexter doing now? My Pointer has a suspected partial tear and I have an appointment at My Pets Brace next week for brace.

    • Hi Mel – We had to have two surgeries because ultimately the brace was not helping. I loved the whole process at My Pet’s Brace and I am glad I tried, but if you have an active dog like mine and have a partial tear, chances are it will go full tear. But give the brace a try and let us know how it goes.

      • It did well for us but he ended up progressing to a full tear. It is costly but it is effective and it is made to custom fit your dog. We did have a rub incident with the brace and we had to get a neoprene piece from the folks at the brace center.

  8. Could you elaborate a little more on what happened after the brace was put on, etc? You mentioned blogging about the process, but I didn’t see any entries about it.

      • Hi Carol,
        we have a small Westie-poo with a torn ACL in his left hind leg. We’ve been restricting his activity and see very slow progress. I’m considering a brace; however, the more I read, the more it seems that I may be better off to simply continue restricting activity and letting it scar naturally. Surgery is an option but I also understand that they can easily re-injur it post op. My understanding with your dog is that, ultimately, the brace did not work….is this true?

        • Hi Alex –

          Thanks so much for reaching out. For many dogs, the brace will work – for us, it did not. We were trying to prevent a partial ACL tear from going to a full ACL tear. We followed doctor’s orders to the letter. But generally speaking, an active dog with a partial tear will more than likely move into a full tear. My dog tore the first ACL and then we tried the custom brace with eventual surgery. And almost a year to the date he tore the other leg ACL, and we did surgery. Best decisions we ever made to have the surgery by a qualified orthopedist – be sure they are board certified. It is very rare that the dog will re-injure the surgically operated on leg. I suggest reading my series on this and let me know how it goes – oh and your dog has arthritis setting in now. Plus if he tore the meniscus, that needs to be removed, too – and the longer the ACL is torn, now you have bone rubbing on bone, arthritis setting in, and a meniscus exposed to a tear.

          Here’s the info and links to read and please keep me posted: http://fidoseofreality.com/the-everything-guide-to-dog-acl-injuries/

  9. My name is Karin from N.Y. I have a 6-year-old puggle with two ruptured ACL’s! She likes to chase rabbits in my backyard. I was devastated to find out she was injured so badly. I am very hesitant to make the appointment for bilateral surgery. She started to walk again without a limp shortly after she tore the ligament in the other leg. It is going on two weeks now.. I carry her everywhere and try to keep her stable. She has been medication for the inflammation and pain. Shortly after she hurt her second knee I noticed that she wasn’t as depressed as she was when the initial injury occurred. She isn’t lethargic and has almost all of her energy back. I am so happy that I didn’t rush into surgery like I have been told to do. There’s a good chance that she will do very well without it. It is not being ruled out, just on hold forever, hopefully!
    I knew it would be best to get braces for her to wear a few hours a day. Especially, when she is in the backyard to keep her from going wild & chasing everything that she saw. So, I started to search for braces. I did A LOT of homework. I was very close to purchasing a pair from Mutt Knee Brace (mentioned in the above comparison chart). They were very professional, they make custom sizes & their price is very reasonable. But, I decided to take a chance and order from a company I found online called “Balto Dog”. They come in 3 sizes and there aren’t many photos to go by online. The product looked sturdy and came with a splint that was removable. I got very prompt replies via email along with some very helpful advice for my puggle’s well-being. So, I went with my gut feeling and ordered the size Small. The price was great (well under $300. For two braces). I received them in a few days and I couldn’t be HAPPIER!
    PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS COMPANY!
    They fit my dog perfectly and she is an awkward dog to fit anything onto. She walks well in them. She squatted to go to the bathroom in them. They were at my house when I came home from work yesterday so I haven’t had much time to take her anywhere with them on. But, I had them on for a lot longer than I had planned. We came in from being outside for a bit and she started to relax and got all spread out – then she fell asleep while wearing them! This is not how my dog behaves when you put something on her! Obviously, I took them off before I went to sleep. The product is BRILLIANT! And very Handsome, I might add. I made the best decision. And now I want to give back, so I am going to try to get my positive feedback out there for people in need of it! EXCELLENT BRACES WITH A SPLINT. THEY SHOULD BE LISTED ON THE COMPARISON CHART ABOVE!! I have photos of my puggle wearing them both.

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