A CCL tear is the most common orthopedic injury in a dog. Surgery is the most frequently offered treatment option for most owners, but is it the right choice for your dog?

Dog with torn CCL

In a previous blog we discussed what a CCL tear is and treatment options. Two choices are surgery vs. non-surgery or conservative management. But how does an owner decide on what is right for their dog?

Unfortunately, when some owner’s decline surgery, conservative management is not explained in a way that helps the dog heal properly and regain use of their injured leg. Read on to learn more.

When is surgery not the best option for a dog?

There are many reasons why an owner may choose not to have on surgery for a CCL tear. Some of these reasons include:

  • Cost. Surgery for CCL tears are expensive (anywhere from 4k and up!). This can be prohibitive for a lot of owners. Some owners are also hesitant as surgery does not guarantee a positive outcome after all the money has been spent.
  • Age of the dog. Older dogs are not precluded from having surgery. However, many older dogs do have more health issues which may increase the risks of surgery. Again, many owners are often hesitant to submit their older dog to surgery for risk of negative outcomes or not feeling the financial costs of surgery are justified for an older dog.
  • Health of the dog. If a vet determines your dog’s health is too poor to perform surgery this option will not be given.
  • Weight. Dogs who are carrying excess weight might be deemed poor surgical candidates and also not be offered surgery.
  • Owner’s beliefs. This can take many forms. One example are owners who do not believe in putting their dog through the stress of surgery.
Are there any reasons why the conservative approach wouldn’t work for me dog?

There are two main reasons why a conservative approach might not be the best choice for your dog:

  1. Meniscus tear. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that provides cushion in the knee joint. There are two menisci in each knee joint. When the meniscus is torn (occurring in up to 80% of CCL tears), it can be very painful for a dog and impede successful rehab with surgery. Often a flap of cartilage gets caught when the knee is bending and straightening. (At Pawsitively Fit, if we find a dog with a CCL tear also has a meniscal tear, we will suggest the owner reconsider surgery).
  2. Lack of patience and commitment. Non-surgical healing from a CCL tear is slow. The dog needs to be kept on-leash, confined and prevented from running. If they are allowed to be too active too soon, the risk of further injury to the knee joint (including a meniscus tear increases) as well as risk of injury to the other knee joint.
    • Returning to normal length, leashed walks can take approximately 4-6 months
    • Returning to running/free-play can take 9-12 months.
What would a rehabilitation program without surgery look like?

The goals of rehabilitation without surgery are to allow time for scar tissue to develop to stabilize the knee joint as well as strengthening the muscles around the knee joint. Scar tissue and muscle will help to stabilize the knee with a torn CCL ligament. As discussed above, patience is needed!

What should I expect the rehab program to look like?

At Pawsitively Fit, each rehabilitation program is customized to your dog’s unique needs. We don’t do cookie cutter. Some dogs just simply do not respond to certain exercises! Here is a general idea of how a dog with a CCL-tear might progress through different stages of rehab:

non surgical CCL rehab

Did your dog have a CCL tear and you are looking for more information about how Pawsitively Fit can help? Click the button below and fill out the form and we will get in touch with you to discuss your unique situation!

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