It’s been a bit of a rough week and let me tell you why. My poor pupper, Bulleit, had to have surgery. He tore his Cruciate ligament and had to have it repaired. As of this writing, he’s four days post-op. He’s doing really well, but it has been a lot to deal with this week and his recovery will take around six weeks. Since this particular injury is fairly common in larger breeds, I thought I’d share some tips on how to prevent this injury in your own dogs, and some things I’ve learned in the last few days that may make it easier for you if you have to have the TPLO procedure done on your dog.
1. Keeping a balanced diet – Make sure that the food you give to your dog contains a good amount of protein for the growth and repair of their tissues. You should also make sure they get a suitable helping of healthy oils like Omega-3, which is commonly found in fish, as this helps with joint care and development.
2. Taking daily exercise – You need to ensure that your dog’s muscles remain strong and flexible so that their joints are properly supported. Bigger breeds tend to require more exercise than smaller ones.
3. Avoiding “weekend warrior syndrome” – If you don’t exercise your dog a great deal during the week, but then go for strenuous walks or runs over the weekend, you may just have “weekend warrior syndrome”. While this approach is well-intentioned, it can sometimes do more harm than good.
4. Maintaining a healthy weight – Heavier dogs are most likely to suffer cruciate ligament injury, partly due to increased pressure on their joints when moving. To reduce the likelihood of your pet developing this kind of damage, it’s best to be careful what you feed them and to keep an eye on how much they eat.
5. Recognizing early signs – If you can catch a dog’s cruciate ligament injury early, it’s likely that a greater number of treatment options will be open to you. Success rates are also greater when vets can tend to a pet with joint injuries shortly after they occur.
That’s why it’s vital to look out for the early signs of CCL damage. These include:
– Swelling of the affected joint
– An unwillingness to put weight on the affected joint
– Holding up the affected rear limb
– Difficulty standing from a sitting or lying position
– Walking stiffly or unsteadily
– An apparent dislike of the joint being touched or handled
– Stiffness on rising
So, now that we know how to help prevent and what to look for, let’s talk about what I’ve learned and how you can make things easier for you and your furbaby if they were to need this surgery.
First tip: make a med chart. Something simple in Word or Excel will work, but something to help you keep track of meds. Bulleit is currently on four different meds and a joint supplement. Some meds are three times per day, some are once, but making a chart, and checking off each time he gets his meds has been really helpful.
Second: find an alternative for the cone. Whether you use an inflatable e-collar, one the soft ‘UFO’ cones, or in our case, I ordered a sleeve for his leg to protect him from licking at the incision. The cones make him and I both sad, so I wanted to find something else ASAP.
Third: carpet and containment. We moved a large area rug into our kitchen and have a gate up to keep Bulleit in the kitchen. This gives him room to move around, but not too much. He also can’t jump up on anything, and the area rug gives him more solid footing than bare floors.
And finally, and don’t come for me on this one. Buy a muzzle. Just in case. You are going to have to do physical therapy on your dog and they aren’t going to enjoy it. Bulleit is the sweetest dog in the world, but he did get snappy with the vet about having his leg manipulated. So far *knock on wood*, I haven’t needed the muzzle for his exercises yet, but I have it on hand just in case. It’s better for them to spend a few minutes in a muzzle than for them to bite you simply because they don’t have a way to vocalize their pain.