Torn CCL/ACL on 10 yr. Old Lab, Been Torn a Year…

Torn CCL/ACL on 10 yr. Old Lab, Been Torn a Year…

Hi Deborah – I’m so glad I found your blog/website after researching for hours. I am at a total loss of what to do for my beloved yellow lab, Sam. Sam is 10 years old, weighs 98 pounds (vet said he had a large girth) and that his weight was fine. A year ago this vet said he had a pulled or torn ligament in his left leg. She said he could have surgery even though he was old, or prescribe adequan (very expensive) or keep him inactive. There was no guarantee of either treatment. I kept Sam inactive for quite a few months, with limited leash walks. I thought he was getting better but he’s not. There have been a few times; he took off running across our yard, which I know was bad. But I’m more careful now about opening the door and him on the leash. I took Sam for a 2nd opinion yesterday (1 year later), this vet said he had a torn cruciate ligament and needed surgery. He gave no medication for pain or recommendation of using anti-inflammatories. Neither vet recommended Xrays or other tests. They just did the manually testing of his leg. He is slow to get up, limps for a minute but then walks on that leg, but does not put full pressure on it. He doesn’t limp when he’s walking. It’s mostly after he’s been lying down, he struggles to get up, limps for a minute or two, then he seems fine. I limit his walking to about 5 minutes 4 times a day. He never seems like he’s in pain. He’s always wagging his tail even when he’s lying down. The only thing I’ve really noticed is at night while we are watching TV, he normally sleeps; now he seems to stay awake and look around, which maybe that means he’s in pain, I just don’t know. I really don’t want to do surgery on Sam, not at his age. I’ve read quite a bit on your site, and it looks like there may be a nonsurgical route for ACL injuries…. I thought you might allow me to ask you a few questions: Deborah, I live in Foley Alabama, is there anybody like you my area that you know of? Anybody you can recommend? Can you give me any kind of advice of what I should be doing for Sam? Should I let the Vet give Sam Adequan? I will do it if you think it will help. When is surgery really necessary and should it be done on a 10 year old lab? I don’t know who else to turn to, please help. Thanks Lisa from Alabama

Here is the first answer I sent you via Facebook-

Here is my FB rehab page, and you may already be a fan, since we have at least one friend in common, but there is no easy way for me to search and sort who follows this page
I will get to answer your post on my website as soon as I can. Otherwise, I do know the answers to all of your questions are on one or both of my sites…it just takes a lot of reading ! So while you wait for me to be able to answer, check out the homework and other related posts if you haven’t already.
Sam does need pain meds of some sort and he does not need to rush into surgery based on what you have told me. X rays won’t show torn ligaments, however they will show clouding in the joint which just tells us what we already know, that there is joint disruption and damage.
See the post I just made on the wordpress blog regarding Clark, the hip dog.

And here are more answers now that I have some time:

I will always do a paid phone consult, so if you are interested, let me know and we will set that up.

I do not know of anyone else that practices the way I do, with standard therapy interventions and certification within veterinary medicine (CCRP) yet using the tried and true, long-standing principles of athletic training and strength training protocol. There are a few people in the U.S. that I know of who also carry the strength and conditioning certification that I do, the CSCS®.

The protocol for dealing with this situation did not exist that I could find when I first came into companion animal practice, in 2004-05. I began writing simple programs based on my background and experience. These have been refined and honed and proved to be beneficial.

Additionally I was blessed with a Great Dane companion for 10.5 years who was bone-on-bone in both knees, had all three ligaments torn in the right knee and two torn in the left. She had a genetic bone disorder called OCD (for short), and had two TPLO’s that didn’t work out, or, the end result was not what we would have aimed to accomplish. I am not anti-surgery and not because of her situation. It is through her situation that I learned even more about improving function non-surgically or in the face of very complicated circumstances.

At the least, I have substantiated with some vets in this area and around about (who have inquired and followed my simple homework) the beneficial effect of slow, weight-bearing, pain-controlled return to function after surgery. I built my Grace’s thigh muscles to better support her joints, and I had plenty of opportunity to see the benefits of increased muscle mass in her case. I have also appreciated the benefits in other cases.

I hope that you have found many of the other answers you were seeking elsewhere in this blog.  I suggest pretending like it all just happened and start at the beginning of my homework suggestions (under “homework”) and I strongly suggest, as I said previously, that you obtain an anti-inflammatory if Sam’s system will support it (your vet will do blood work to substantiate this), and if not an nsaid, then use Tramadol or Gabapentin. There are lots of options for pain control (see my Q&A post regarding limping after surgery), and if you just pretend like it happened recently and really start again at the beginning, building up from there, I really think you will realise great benefit for Sam.

Adequan seems to work really well on relatively few dogs (animals). I tried it a lot in my Grace, and I was working with a surgeon friend, so we tried it three different ways (IM, IA, SQ)on three different trials, to no effect for her. Some of my clients say it has helped their dogs substantially. A surgeon on the East Coast told me in 2005 that he didn’t think it would work for my Grace and that they had stopped using it in horses due to little effect. It’s expensive, yes, and it’s great if it works on your dog.

In the meantime use fish oil and a glucosamine/chondroitin/msm combo for joint health. Your vet may carry these products. I have info posted elsewhere regarding these supplements. If Sam takes off running and injures the joint, then make him rest for the remainder of the day and he has to go back to slow leash walks until he is no longer lame. You may also use ice, right on his knee, 20 min, when he has a limping/lameness episode. Hopefully you will be able to have a veterinary relationship where more pain medicines are utilised for greater overall benefit. Check out for more pain management info. I’m with you in that he is probably uncomfortable at night. Pain meds will help this, and the other options I gave you will help it some.

If he were my dog, I would definitely follow my homework and the supplement advice, the pain med advice, and I’d recheck with me when the first four weeks of homework are completed. I would not have surgery on him right now based on what you have told me, however I also have seen older dogs do well in surgery…so it’s not the surgery that is offputting; it’s just that I think he can thrive, based on what you have told me, without surgery. You have opportunity to find out if you get strict with the restrictions and homework again. He will have difficulty every time he spazzes out until he builds more thigh muscle. Then the joint should suffer less impact. At the least, if you follow this simple homework, it could serve as pre-hab, and if you decide on surgery, he will be in better shape and presumably recover better after surgery.

That is all I have time for right now.

Our next consult should be a paid phone consult if you’d like to go further. Thanks for presenting Sam to us-



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