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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Dr. Schulman, Star dog vet pt. 2 and Dog ACL injury

Have you ever heard of an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury in dogs? I hadn't and I was in for a big surprise. A slight limp becomes a more continual limp which becomes more pronounced until an xray confirms it is a problem that has to be dealt with.

The ACL is a knee ligament and is a common and often ignored site of problems. One site said "approximately 50% of all dogs have partial or chronic tears without obvious instability" and one of the signs they talk about is a dog sitting on one leg with the other one outstretched - and I thought it was so cute when Honey sat exactly like this photo example they used.

From what I have been learning, there are a couple of different options for surgery which include traditional, TPLO and a new surgery called TTA. There is also a program of conservative management which, unfortunately, in the long term, isn't that successful in larger, young dogs.

I went to see Dr. Schulman, a very talented veterinary orthopedic surgeon, heading a practice at Animal Medical Center on Sepulveda in Los Angeles. His recommendation was for a TPLO which is a big decision. It is expensive and there is a very long rehabilitation program which is the scariest part. When you have an extremely active dog that only knows two speeds (0 and 60) the idea of keeping them still for two months, followed by limited activity for two to three more months - well, it seems overwhelming. I went to the internet to look for help and there it was - a yahoo group called orthodogs. After reading about other successful surgeries and rehabilitations - including on other very active dogs - and lots of encouragement from the very supportive members, it became do-able. One recommendation was to keep the dog mentally stimulated which led me to another very helpful site, where I found suggestions for games and tricks to help me, oh yeah, and Honey, through this.

Honey had the surgery and everything went well. It will be a long time until she will be running again but I know it will all be worth it when I see her trying (and failing) to chase down a squirrel.

Recommendations: No one without a medical background can really make recommendations on this but, after going through it with Honey, this is what I would've wanted someone to say to me. At the first sign of trouble, go to a vet you trust (if you don't have one, start asking around. It is a more common situation than you think - seems especially so in pits and Aussies.) This is a situation you want to take care of sooner rather than later. Then, sign up for the orthodogs group and start reading about other dogs and their owners who have been or are going through it.


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