Need Advice From Other Owners Who've Helped Dogs Through Joint Surgery (Hip/Knee)

by Jo-Anne
(Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

Sydney, August 2014

Sydney, August 2014

I'm looking for advice and experiences of other Australian Shepherd owners who have gone through joint surgeries and recoveries with their dogs. Specifically hip and knee surgeries, as we have been advised to pursue a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) or a Tight Rope® Procedure to repair a Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture ( where they will re-shape the bones in her knee to stabilize the joint to reduce pain and compensate for the ruptured ligament within her knee); as well as a femoral head and neck excision to reduce the pain and improve mobility caused by hip-dysplasia. As these are major surgeries, and very costly (about $5,000 for one hip and the knee surgery if we do both at once as recommended) with the possibility the other hip may need to be done later on at a cost of $2,300 for a single femoral head excision) we are looking for information from others on what the recovery was like, what your dogs mobility was like afterwards, and general quality of life. The longevity of my dogs life is largely beyond my control, but the quality of her life is well within my control and It's my responsibility to ensure she has the best quality at every stage possible. We've been advised that leading up to surgery we need to limit our dogs movement, to prevent pain and further damage, so have been carrying her up and down stairs as she moves about on three legs and has trouble with stairs and can no longer jump up to her place on our bed. We've also been told the recovery will be 8-12 weeks, crated, with minimal short walks on a short leash, with pain medication for the rest of her life. Our dog hasn't been crated since she was a pup, and is used to having the run of the two-storey house, including all the beds, as well as the run of our nearly two acre yard, so this will be a big adjustment. We want to prepare for it as best as possible, based on tips and experience of others, but due to the changes and investment, we are also looking to ensure we are doing the right thing for our dog ( our fist baby, for two years before we had kids) and not being selfish.

Our beloved red-tri girl Sydney is 8.5 years old, (she turns 9 in February 2015), and is about 50 lbs. She's been on Hill's prescription diet J/D since 2008 (specialized food for dogs with joint disorders, full of glucosamine and chondroitin). She was recently diagnosed with a torn cranial-cruciate ligament, after we noticed lameness in her right hind leg. Since the onset during a camping trip about three weeks ago she had been favoring the leg, and more and more frequently not using it and supporting herself on the remaining three legs. We initially tried rest, and then went to the vet who prescribed Deramaxx, as we suspected her hip dysplasia was perhaps causing more problems with her advancing age. As the medication, meant to reduce her pain while her leg rested, seemed to have little effect we pursued X-rays ( 3 separate views), which after review by our vet of 7 years and a visiting veterinary orthopaedic surgeon, seemed to suggest the torn ligament.

As I previously alluded, Sydney also has hip dysplasia. She was diagnosed as a pup in her first 2 years, after we noticed variances in her gait and especially in the way she ran during flyball practices, which we had to stop shortly after the diagnosis. At the time our vet advised it was minor as a pup but would likely worsen with age and may need surgery. For the most part she has been fine in the intervening years, and has regular exercise and is usually limited to mild to moderate activity, with some occasional limping after heavy physical exertion after playing with her best friend, a Siberian husky.

With this bout of lameness though, and a new set of X-rays that show the suspected ruptured ligament and worsening of the bone wear and some mild muscle atrophy in the right hip (which has always been the worse of the two), our vet is now recommending we pursue the TPLO to stabilize the right knee, and that we seriously consider doing the femoral head excision on the right hip at the same time, to try and correct both issues and rectify the current pain and lameness, as we aren't sure whether the knee or hip is the primary cause at present. We are concerned about what her mobility, quality of life and range of motion will be afterwards- especially as the ligament will not be repaired in the knee, only the bones re shaped, and the hip will be supported by the muscles alone once the head of the femur is cut away, to relieve the misshapen and painful joint. She is otherwise happy and healthy, and aside from her very limited mobility and a slightly reduced appetite possibly due to pain and likely due to reduced activity level as well, she seems to be herself. Although she is whining slightly more when her mobility keeps her from following us around, and she is normally a Velcro dog and sticks as close to us as possible.

As you understand, this is a big decision, and seems like a lot to put our girl through (crating, pain, recovery, changes in lifestyle, constant medication, limited mobility), though we want her to live out the remainder of her life as happily and comfortable as possible and are bearing in mind that at almost nine, she could reasonably live another three to five years.

Any advice from the experience of other Aussie owners would be very very much appreciated.


Sydney's loving family, Jo-Anne, Jeff, Eva (5 1/2 ) and Lily (2 1/2)

Comments for Need Advice From Other Owners Who've Helped Dogs Through Joint Surgery (Hip/Knee)

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Tight rope surgery
by: Lynn Moody

Our 14 yr old Aussie had the tightrope surgery done 3 1/2 yrs ago. We have been totally pleased with the results. We have multiple stairs in our home & she stills navigates those stairs multiple times a day. We don't regret having gone with this less invasive surgery.

dog with torn acl ccl too. Solution that worked.
by: Anonymous

Hi, Sorry to hear about your dog's torn ccl acl joint.

There are alternatives for acl ccl injuries in dogs that are safer, cheaper and really work.

Your vet will not tell you because dog knee joint surgeries are very profitable.

You may want to consider a custom Dog Knee Brace for your dog very soon to start supporting the injured leg to take the pressure off the good leg.

If you opt for surgery for your dog's knee, greater chance the other knee will fail too.

With a brace, the support starts right away, so with bracing, much less chance the other knee will ever go out. A brace is a great way to avoid two surgeries.

If both legs have torn ccl acl then you can get 2 Dog Knee Braces to support both legs, as many others are now doing.

We went to or search with words Posh Dog Knee Brace for lots of informative info RE Dog Knee Brace VS Surgery and read the NEWS page with informative articles.

Our own elderly large dog had a torn ACL CCL full rupture and torn meniscus. Vet estimated $4755+ for ccl acl tplo surgery. The very painful surgery with very high risks and failure were unacceptable to us. Instead, we got a fully functioning global stabilizing posh dog knee brace that really works better and safer than any ccl acl tplo tta type surgeries.

My dog healed without surgery wearing the Posh Dog Knee Brace for 10+ months and was able to walk longer and longer each day wearing the dog knee brace and many others dogs are now wearing the Posh Dog Knee Brace and NOT getting surgery because their dogs can heal without surgery wearing a Dog knee brace that globally supports the knee so the knee can heal. A Dog Knee Brace is the safer cheaper alternative instead of surgery. Please don't put your poor dog thru this very painful joint surgery with a very low success rate and high dangerous side effects when there is a safer alternative that is cheaper too. Braces cause less arthritis then knee surgery.

It is safer to start with the least invasive solution.

I had Pet Insurance that would pay for either the excruciating painful joint surgery or the safer painless Dog Knee Brace. So I had a choice since pet insurance pays for dog knee braces because they do work better than surgery.

Many Vets lie to force patients to buy joint surgery that their dog really does NOT need and will not tell you about safer cheaper alternatives. They think by telling you to kill your dog or get painful joint surgery, you will find the money for them to profit off your dog.

This is sad but true. They don't listen that you cannot afford or don't have the money. They play your emotions, and hope you get the money to pay for it. Braces don't have the additional costs of complications and aftercare.

Saw dog knee braces at Fido Friendly Magazine / Blog last week.

Hope this is helpful. Went thru this and found a great solution that actually helped my dog heal without surgery and hope this will help others from my experience.

Ligament repair
by: Andy

My at the time 4 year old extremely active girl starting favoring her right leg and was diagnosed as a cruciate ligament tear. We were advised she could do well without the repair with activity limits and pain monitoring. If you knew her you would realize that was not an option. After a very difficult limiting of activity post op she had a complete recovery and very active life. One of our other males has hip issues and if his activity levels warranted we would have his modified, but as we have been told since he was a young dog he does not have dysplasia, we treat him with rimadyl for pain and he does well.

Torn ACL Surgery
by: Anonymous

Hi - I had a chocolate lab with a torn ACL - he injured himself at about 6.5 years old. Did the surgery and had to crate him for 8 weeks also. he was used to having full run of 3 acres fenced in with a swimming pool so this was a huge adjustment. I bought a crate big enough for him to stand up and turn around in. I got one that he could see out of all sides. My dad built a platform for the bottom of the crate and put wheels on the platform. Then we bungeed the crate to the platform and I could roll him all over the house - wherever we were, he could go to (he was 85 pounds so this was a lifesaver). We walked every day on a leash, short walks, etc. just like you are saying. He recovered very nicely and did not have to be on pain meds for his entire life (it sounds like your surgery is different and a little more complex than ours was). Anyway, our big adjustment was that he then became an inside dog which was fine. He did eventually fully recover and lived a long full life, until he was 14.5 years old which is really old for a lab. Good luck with your decision! The crate on wheels thing is the ticket!!!

Tplo surgergy
by: AnonymousElaine

Our Aussie had surgery last summer! I'm not going to sugar coat was hell. She recovered fine but it is a long road and was not fun with the recovery and crating her for 3 months!!! With that being said... I'm glad we did it and was totally necessary. Now we are facing another surgery on her opposite leg...augggh!!!!

RE AnonElaine tplo surgery hell on other leg
by: Anonymous

Hi Elaine, Tplo surgery hell, other leg failed.
I am so sorry your vet or surgeon did not tell you about safe alternatives like a dog knee brace. Your dog should have worn a dog knee brace, would have healed in a few months without the hell of going thru surgery. Your poor dog, and the vet didn't tell you when you buy tplo surgery on one leg, there is some 80% chance of the other knee failing. That is why your vet should have told you to get a brace so you wouldn't go thru this hell. But vets sell tplo for $5000 so most vets do not mention the safe alternatives that work way better than surgery. Of course surgeons only sell surgery so they never want to tell their paying customers about the safe alternative of a posh dog knee brace. If you have Not done the surgery yet, then buy a dog knee brace right away so your dog can start healing right away without all the unnecessary pain and high risk of surgery. I Fired my vet when they did not tell me about braces and tried to sell me on the tplo unnecessary surgery. Lots of dogs heal wearing a dog knee brace so why put any poor dog thru a unnecessary painful not to mention expensive surgery. An acquaintance told me her 3 year old dog died of a bone infection after tplo and said now that she knows about dog knee braces, she will never ever buy tplo or tta surgery if a future dog has a acl or ccl tear. Get a Dog Knee Brace now if you haven't done the surgery yet. Save your dog from unnecessary pain when there is a super safe solution of a dog knee brace.

Tplo surgergy
by: AnonymousElaine
Our Aussie had surgery last summer! I'm not going to sugar coat was hell. She recovered fine but it is a long road and was not fun with the recovery and crating her for 3 months!!! With that being said... I'm glad we did it and was totally necessary. Now we are facing another surgery on her opposite leg...augggh!!!!

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