Tuesday, May 31, 2011

House Arrest

My Sweet Ginny Girl is like a deer, always in motion.  

To see her gliding, bouncy step is mesmerizing.  It's like she's walking on air.  Her speed is something else.  Somewhere in that Heinz 57 mix is a little bit of greyhound.

About 6 weeks ago she pulled up lame on her right rear leg.  She's been lame from time to time before after heavy exercise but she's always pulled through.  This time though it's been pretty persistent.  Enough so that I took her to the Vet who talked about knee injuries and gave me some doggie NSAIDs.

After 3 rounds of NSAIDs Ginny's no better so the Vet is now talking surgery.

Now to be honest with you, I was a very bad Mom.  While she was on the meds you wouldn't know anything was wrong with her.  And that was my big mistake.  I didn't rest the joint and of course the meds were taking care of the pain so she ran and played as usual.  I didn't restrict her OR decrease her usual exercise routine.  She seemed fine, so I was fine.  Bad move.

This past Saturday I inquired about the type of surgery the vet was recommending.  Ligament/knee surgeries are one of the most common canine surgeries performed.  Anterior Cruciate Ligament or ACL procedures can vary in cost from Conventional (which was what OUR Vet quoted us at $1450) to the latest and greatest Tibial Plateau Leveling or TPLO ($2700 and up).

I spent most of this weekend researching the web and also doing a gut-check on myself.

I think I'm like a lot of people who not only want to do what's right for their pet, but also take opinions at face value.  If that's what the Vet says to do than it must be the right thing to do.   After all, He/She has the degree and I don't.

So after talking with the Vet tech on the phone Monday, I went ahead and signed up for blood work Tuesday with surgery on Wednesday.  I continued to research and came across an interesting web site.  Dog Ligament Injury 
discusses all aspects of this injury but offers up something more.  No surgery.

The Conservative Method this site promotes simply says to restrict your dog's activities for an extended period of time (up to 1 year) in order to allow the joint to develop enough scar tissue to support itself again.

What I didn't know (and what wasn't explained to me) is that this surgery is not a cure.  It provides a temporary "support" until the more permanent scar tissue develops around the artificial support implanted.  Dogs that have this problem often need both legs done.  Why?  Because the other leg, which has been supporting the lame one, also goes bad.  Geez.

OK...So here's the question.  Since I'm going to have scar tissue either way, with or without surgery, why am I putting my dog through the risks of surgery, not to mention paying out big bucks in order to do it?  

She'll be restricted for 4-6 weeks post-operatively too.  Why not TRY the enforced restrictions NOW and utilize surgery only as a last resort? 

SM and I read the website and talked it over.  It just makes sense.  We agreed to try the Conservative Method first.  So I called and canceled the surgery and Ginny is now under "House Arrest".  No more jumping, running, limited walking (potty breaks only) and lots of down time for the next 8 weeks.  Wish us luck! 

Max, the website author, puts it best...(Thank You, Max for offering us a common sense alternative!)

The following was written in May 2007, five years after Tigger's injury:
 --- It is five years since Tigger ruptured ligaments in both rear legs. His injury was severe. His non-surgical recovery was very successful. Since his recovery he has had no trouble with his stifles(knees).  He has led a very active life, both before his injury and after his recovery.  Big dogs like Tigger age more quickly than smaller dogs, and he is showing his age now at 12.  He has slowed down and is no longer a frisky young fellow, but the joints that were badly injured and recovered without surgery are still fine.  Looking back I am glad that I rejected TPLO surgery for Tigger.  It was difficult to decide to go against the surgeons' advice then. They presented themselves as so certain that surgery was absolutely necessary. Time has proven that Tigger did not need TPLO or any other surgery.  I know now that surgeons commonly misrepresent the facts about TPLO in order to sell people on this very profitable procedure.  Many dogs who are subjected to TPLOs would recover from their injuries without surgery just as Tigger did if they were given a chance to do so.   I am confident that the best way to approach a dog's ligament injury is to first try the non-surgical approach. Improvement over the first 8 weeks will indicate that the dog can probably successfully recover without surgery.  Agreeing to immediate surgery puts the dog at risk for various complications and imperfect results which could be avoided with a non-surgical recovery. While surgery is sometimes necessary, I believe that surgeries are recommended and done much more often than they should be.


  1. Good luck with that! It is not going to be easy and I am sure you will get the sad eyes, but stay strong. I would try that route before surgery too.

  2. Hey Tami!
    We've gone through similar issues with my mother-in-law's dog with our vet ordering complete bedrest...(he was so serious about restricting her activities that he really wanted her crated 24/7) and that is hard with a border collie mix too! She had no more daily walks, no more playing, no more gleeful running...but it worked and so far she has side-stepped the surgery decision. You are very wise to try this first even though it will be hard to restrain your sweet pup from her energetic ways, but try to stay strong and know you've got her best interests at heart. We also had back issues with our Maltese (she ruptured a disc) and she was ordered on complete restrictions too in lieu of surgery and has now recovered... finally... took a loooong time, and we still carry her up and down stairs and won't let her jump off anything...if we can catch her first! Good Luck! (Oh, both dogs were on meds while they were on bedrest...probably similar to what Ginny's been on)
    PS We all thought the POC was great and are hoping they'll make a 5th! Tom and Melissa are also looking forward to the new HP movie coming out. The last couple of ones got just a little too much for me for some reason! Sorry this is so long!!!

  3. I love it! The least invasive is always a good beginning. Animals (including us) have the ability to heal from within. You know we wish you the best! Sending ~healing vibes~ your way!

  4. :{ I don't blame you for trying house arrest either. If it works, wonderful, if not then you can always schedule another appointment. Poor doggie

  5. I think you made the right decision. Veterinary medicine seems to be going the way of human medicine, which means it will become increasingly unaffordable for many folks. You've got our best wishes for successful healing.