Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Love Is Sleeping At My Feet: ACL Surgery Complications

This story was submitted by one of my readers, who wishes to remain anonymous. It is not fair that some dogs have been dealt such terrible cards. But love overcomes much!


My love and his brother were both rescued from a canal when they were 3-4 months old. My love had a badly broken radius/ulna and his brother was extremely sick from Valley Fever. They were lucky that the person who picked them up was a vet. She started treating them and kept them at the clinic.

I met them and started taking them out for walks and would drive them around in my car just so they could get out of their kennel for a bit. I took them one day to a friend who had a huge back yard with grass. They had never experienced grass on their feet before and it was hilarious watching them realize just how good it felt. That was the day I fell in love. The weekend before Christmas I brought them both home. They were about 8 months old. I must have been crazy as I already had 2 other dogs, Now I had 4.

It will be 9 years this coming Christmas. I would have never dreamed what I got that Christmas in these dogs. So many challenges, so much learning, and so much love. I love all my dogs but I have to be honest and say that the dog I am calling My love has a special place in my heart. He is a pit/chow mix. His issues over the years have given me more than I can explain. His front leg had to have 3 surgeries to get it right. It is straight but short which causes his shoulder to become tired at times. And if you notice in my story I mention he has had 6 surgeries this past year. Besides the 3 major ortho surgeries for the ACLs, during this time he also has 3 mast cell tumors removed. Nine surgeries in his 9 years!  

My Love's Story 


My love is lying at my feet. Asleep, tired, peaceful. We went for a walk today. Thirty minutes and he lifted his leg to pee! I cried. My tears were joyful. Its been over a year since My love could manage thirty minutes and being able to actually lift his leg again might seem like a small thing to you but such a wonderful sight for my eyes.

It's been a long year to get here.

Six different surgeries. Many many visits to my regular vet, Neuro vet, Ortho vet, body work, X-rays, blood tests, countless medications, diet changes, supplements. We are still not quite at the end but, oh, we have come so far.

Last summer My love wasn't himself. He didn't want to walk much, played only short times, lost weight and the muscles in his rear end and legs were atrophying. He was showing signs of pain and being a very stoic boy--I knew something was wrong. And so it began. Our journey to figure out what was going on and then trying to get back to wellness.

At first we thought is was a spine issue but nothing could be found. Then possibly DM (Degenerative Myelopathy). Thankfully not! Finally, after 7 months of no improvement the issue truly manifested. ACL tears. I am sure they started out as partial tears as no drawer sign was present for many months. But then the right side went and less than 2 weeks later the left side was also positive. He had been trying to tell me he hurt and now it was critical. Bilateral ACL tears had to be extremely painful.

Those that have been through this know that surgery doesn't come cheap but what else could I do. Thanks to the help of my regular vet I was able to schedule the first surgery right away. Due to costs I chose the tightrope surgery. We did the left leg first. Surgery went well, he did well--so well that we proceeded with the right leg 3 weeks later.

I chose the TTA for the right leg. My thoughts were that it seemed a better surgery for a 55 lb dog. That if the other repair didn't hold up and needed to be redone, this leg would be good to go, stronger.

The surgery was done in April. From the very beginning there were issues. Much more swelling, bruising, and pain than the other leg. He didn't want to get up on it or use it much at all. At first I just told myself it’s a bigger surgery, more invasive so its going to take more time. More issues… the incision didn't want to heal. He started to be obsessive about trying to lick it. I had him in an ecollar for a month and still it wasn't healed. We tried many things. He developed a lick granuloma below the incision site. He was trying to tell me something was wrong in there.

I did much physical therapy. ROM exercises, swimming, massage, heat, ice, anything I could find info on and that might help. Almost three months passed and he still wasn't really walking well. Not only was the right side bothering him but he started showing signs that there was a problem with the left side. My heart sunk. Did he put so much pressure on the left side that now the repair broke down? Another trip to the vet. Left side tested stable. Ok but what is this side painful and what is going on with the right? I felt terrible. I have put him through all of this only to have it really no better than before the surgery. Give it more time I was told. I was discouraged.

Shortly after that visit I came home to find his leg swollen. It felt fluid filled and we went right away to our vet. We did a needle aspiration. I was hoping to see clear fluids on that syringe but it was far from that. We looked at some under the microscope and definitely saw white blood cells. Not a good sign. The rest was sent out. Started on antibiotics, again.

Two days later my vet calls with terrible news. Staphylococcus. Not MRSA but nonetheless this is a leg that has a plate, some screws and a cage in it. Being a surgical nurse I knew at that moment we were headed back to surgery. That hardware needed to come out. A visit with the Ortho surgeon confirmed. There as no guarantee what the leg would look like, if it would be OK without the hardware or even if the hardware could be removed without permanent damage to the joint. He might even lose the leg because of it! To top it off the left leg still seemed painful so could he manage if that was the only leg left?

To say I was upset was an understatement. I felt guilty and terrible at the same time. I knew this was nobody's fault but I was getting so many conflicting opinions from friends. There were some who insinuated enough is enough. I had put him through so much that I should just let him go peacefully. This really hurt. The word euthanasia was not even in my thoughts. This was my love! He is only 9 years old and he isn't sick he simply has orthopedic issues. Yes these issues were not small but I had heard of many people who have gone through ACL repair more than once. I wasn't going to give up on my love. The thoughts about the other leg seeming painful soon turned into the theory that he probably has staph in both legs and it should get better when the infection is cleared.

Three weeks ago the hardware was removed. The joint looked good, the surgery went well and his leg was intact. The only issue today is the healing of the incision. He has taken sutures and staple out numerous times. He still has to wear a collar when I cant supervise but it is getting there. We have about a half inch that we are letting heal with second intention. He is still on antibiotics for a few more weeks and will stay on his supplements but after so many months he is no longer taking any pain meds. He is using his left leg with no issues and the right is getting stronger every day. His muscle tone is starting to return and that happy goofy dog that stole my heart is back.

My love is lying at my feet. Asleep, tired, peaceful. We went for a walk today. Thirty minutes and he lifted his leg to pee! I cried.

PS: A huge thanks to my regular vet for sticking with me over this past year. He has been there to talk and inform and help me and my dog through it all and I couldn't have made it this far with out him. He is such a great guy and truly cares about people and their pets.

Related articles:
Talk To Me About ACL Injuries
ACL Injuries in Dogs: Non-Surgical Alternatives?
ACL Injuries in Dogs and Stem Cell Regenerative Therapy
Newest Surgery For Ruptured ACL In Dogs
Preventing ACL Injuries In Dogs
ACL Injuries In Dogs: Xena's Story 
ACL Injury Conservative Management: Sandy's Story
Surviving The Post-Op: After Your Dog's ACL Surgery
Talk to Me About Arthritis
Don't Forget the Physical Therapy

8 comments

  1. So glad to hear that your love is doing better and is on the road to recovery! Thanks for sharing your story. It was very touching and very inspirational.

    Hopefully, your story will help other pet owners that find themselves in a similar situation. It can be all to easy to give into the pressures placed by well-meaning but misguided naysayers like your friends who urged you to end it for your love.

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  2. Wow. This is amazing and you have been his angel My Love's angel and will be forever.

    We all go through things for some sort of reason which usually isn't revealed until later. My Love is a dog who has given so much to you and you have given to him. It's actually quite beautiful.

    Here's to your continued joy together along the healing path you are on.

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  3. Dear Lorie and K9 Coach, thank you for your heart-felt comments!

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  4. What a tragic life "My Love" has endured. She is certainly a fighter and hopefully will be healthier without the metal implants in her knee.
    I hope that she is eating a diet of real foods, taking immune system supporting supplements, and does not have other underlying conditions (besides the MCTs) that would adversely affect her healing.
    Feel better, "My Love"!
    Dr. PM

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  5. I cried too, when I read this. Its the sweetest story I've read in a while! I had to put my best friend down with a terribly broken jaw...it was the hardest thing I ever did and I miss her so much. I'm so glad you had a much happier ending. Love the blog BTW! My first time here...I'll be back!

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  6. Rebecca, sorry about your dog! It is the good times you had together that count!

    Welcome to my blog, glad you enjoyed it! :-)

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  7. First I want to thank-you for posting my Love's story and for the kind comments that were made. I wanted to give you an update on how he is doing. Its been 3 1/2 months since his last surgery now and he has come so far. His strength is returning. He is running and playing and seems to have no pain. Walks are back to an hour. Best of all 3 weeks ago he was able to jump in my truck on his own. That was a pleasure to see(and a relief to my back LOL!)as for the past year and a half I had been lifting him up. Life is fun again for us both. A real Thanksgiving gift in my life!

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  8. So wonderful to hear he's doing so well! And just in time for Thanksgiving, what a great timing too :-)

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