I wanted to write a post about Buddie’s surgery for his torn ACL. It has been such an ordeal and there is so much information/misinformation out there about surgical options that I thought at least contributing my story will help someone like me who is sitting up late at night trying to figure out what decisions to make for their pet.
I am not a good decision-maker in the first place, I tend to want to research more and more and then never feel 100% confident in my decisions. This case is especially hard for me, because there is so much unknown when it comes to a pet and (obviously) when a life you really care for hangs in the balance, you want to make the best decision possible.
We ended up getting CCL surgery, where an artificial ligament is threaded through the knee bones to replace the ACL. I’m actually not sure if ours is the TightRope surgery or if they use a different material…I’m going to have to check with the doctor so I know which procedure it was for sure.
Buddie is a very active Dalmatian mix. He was born at Willing Hearts Dalmatian Rescue to a dal mother, and the other half is unknown. If you look at him, he looks like a spotted pit bull, he is pit bull-ish in the head and face and never grew to a full Dalmatian size, he’s about 60 lbs. We specifically chose to adopt Buddie since he was a baby and we would know his exact age and full medical history. We had recently lost our Dalmatian Freddie & the illness that took him (Auto-Immune Hemolytic Anemia) was difficult to cure since there were so many unknowns about Fred…I had found him as a stray.
So anyway, we have had Buddie for a relatively uneventful 5 years, he actually just turned 5 on November 6th. During this time the most severe issues he’s had has been a bout with Lyme’s disease and tearing his ACL a couple of times. Whenever he had an issue with the ACL, he would whine and limp for a few days and we would give him a buffered aspirin for the pain.
Some nights he would have some stiffness or soreness in his knee, but it was never to the extent that he favored one leg or seemed to need treatment. Our vet at the time had told us that they didn’t recommend anything for ACL tears and to just restrict his activity. Well as I mentioned earlier, the other night he was outside and just started screaming in pain. Since then his leg was in the air and it was quite painful. We took Buddie to Columbus Central Veterinary Hospital in Columbus, NJ and we happened to see Dr. Howard Redlus, who performs surgeries there at the hospital and does quite a few ACL repairs. He immediately diagnosed this injury as Buddie’s ACL and put him under sedation to determine whether or not the ACL was completely torn or just sprained. Of course, it was completely torn.
They sent us home with some pain medication and a packet about ACL surgery. I was instantly leery of this, since I know how easy it can be to manipulate money out of someone who wants to do what is best for their pet. Did Buddie really need this surgery? While of course the cost ($2300) would be painful now more than ever (future home purchase, holidays, etc.) I really didn’t want to do the surgery if the outcome would not be worth the stress. Plus, what are the coincidences that this hospital would happen to have a packet of information on this surgery that my dog apparently so needed…it just made me extra nervous. Plus, there’s multiple surgery options out there, the CCL surgery which includes TightRope (putting in an artificial ligament) and the TPLO surgery (where the bones are shaved and altered in shape to use no ligaments) and TPLO does seem like the more highly recommended option for larger dogs.
Since this is already turning into a long post, I figure I will add separate posts about Buddie’s recovery and rehabilitation. This is pretty much just background about Buddie and my decision to go ahead with the CCL surgery. We went ahead with it because I felt like surgery was needed for Buddie’s leg, and I didn’t want to risk blowing out his other rear leg with all the extra pressure, or for arthritis to settle in his bad knee to the extent where he may not be able to use it again. While the TPLO surgery sounds like it is a better option for larger dogs (there can be issues with these artificial ligaments), I thought it just sounded too invasive to be altering his bones so severely. I think if we follow the instructions for complete recovery, Buddie will have a pretty good outcome.
Also, right now we are staying at my parents’ house and we have not only a move in our future, but a new baby in the coming months. I figured if there were any time for him to recover from surgery it would be now, while I can devote the most attention to him.
So that is the background on Buddie and my choice for his surgery. It has not been an easy decision, especially when there doesn’t seem to be such a clear cut right answer. The surgery itself went well, the doctor said that not only had Buddie completely tore his ACL, but the other ligament in that knee as well and must have been in quite a bit of pain.
Recovery is a long process and I’ll post more about this as I know first-hand how little information is out there for those of us looking. I have been able to find only a couple of blogs where dog owners have chronicled a similar surgery and recovery process, there is this blog about Bodhi and this one about Winston. Bodhi’s case seems the most similar to Bud’s, poor Winston had the CCL surgery and then ended up having the TPLO surgery after all.
If you are a dog-owner who just happened to stumble on my blog by searching for a surgery review or have any questions for me, please feel free to ask in the comments. If you are looking for more posts about Buddie (there will be more coming soon about his recovery), you can find them in one place by clicking here.