July 8, 2020

When your dog tears his ACL

A tragic situation has brought me back to my blogging. I've missed writing and have so many stories left to tell. But first, I want others to know how to navigate the current situation I'm in - my dog Aspen has torn his ACL (actually known as his CCL - canine crutiate ligament).

Aspen is practically albino, so he has always had sensitive skin. When a "sore" showed up on his left leg, I thought it would heal with a little bit of time. Unfortunately, he started to limp as well. So we made a trip to the vet and got the bad news - something was wrong with Aspen's knee.

While at the vet's office, Aspen would not let the vet move his affected knee around to complete a "drawer test". Doing a drawer test, the vet stabilizes the femur and tries to move the tibia forward like opening a drawer. Even without the test, the vet was pretty certain there was a partial or full tear of Aspen's CCL.

I immediately started researching what the crap a CCL was, how do you fix it, and how do you know your dog has hurt it. Once I read through some of the signs, I knew immediately that's what has happened to Aspen.

1. Toe touching: When a dog has an affected knee, the dog will stand on all fours, but slightly raise the affected leg off the ground so there is no weight on the knee. Aspen had already been doing this when I noticed his limping. You can see his back left paw isn't firmly planted on the ground like his other paws.

2. Sit sign: When a dog with a CCL injury sits, the affected hind leg will extend out when sitting because it hurts to bed the knee. You can see in this picture that Aspen puts his left leg out straight because it hurts to bend his knee.

3. Swelling: Aspen has been so stoic, I didn't really notice he was in any pain. How does your dog let you know that they are hurting? But when I felt the front of both knees at the same time, I could tell his left knee was DOUBLE the size of the other one. I have been giving him carprofen - an anti inflammatory - and also trying to apply cold therapy to help with the swelling. He wasn't super excited about the cold being on his leg, but once I wrapped it more, he would tolerate it. I found the best time to do it is at bedtime when I'm still awake reading and he's passed out beside me.

A few days later, I scheduled an appointment to have Aspen put under sedation to get a better exam of his knee and X-rays. Well, the blog is called Bad Luck Jenn for a reason. I received a call from the vet letting me know that she was able to manipulate Aspen's knee under sedation, but that after an X-ray of his OTHER knee, the X-ray machine broke. They were not able to get x-rays of Aspen's sore knee to see what exactly was going on. But with the extreme swelling and a positive "drawer sign", I was told to take Aspen to get surgery asap.

Now I'm deciding all these things - what type of surgery to get, where to get the surgery done, how to move my money around so I have THOUSANDS of dollars for his surgery. And then I know that no matter which surgery he ends up getting, rehabiliation and life post-surgery is going to be extremely difficult in my house. Aspen is 2.5 years old and basically still a big, goofy, uncoordinated puppy. And his younger sister, Opal, is even more energetic & always wants to rough house.

I'm meeting with an orthopedic surgeon FRIDAY to discuss options for Aspen and schedule his surgery as soon as possible. There is a 50% chance that once a dog has torn a CCL, the dog will tear the other one. Currently Aspen is adjusting all of his weight - 109 pounds - to his right knee, so a quick surgery is needed before he has too much work on the right knee and tears it's CCL as well.

Stay tuned, I plan to blog about the whole experience from start to finish. My next job is to decide which surgery to have - TTA, MMP TPLO, or CBLO. Yeah, that's a bunch of letters that I had no idea what they meant either.

Aspen has created his own WISH LIST for things to help his recovery.

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