Conservative Management as a Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Treatment Option

Though this wasn’t our first choice when dealing with our dogs ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, Conservative Management (or Conservative Treatment) is a non-surgical option of CCL treatment that should be considered by all dog owners prior to surgery.

Consider the human knee for example, you’ve all probably heard of torn or ruptured ACL’s (meaning the ligament is entirely severed), and you’ve also heard of partially torn ACL’s (meaning the ligament is still intact, but has definiate damage. Now, let’s consider a pro athlete, surgery will be necessary for either case – torn ACL or partially torn ACL. However, let’s say we have a 40 year old man with a desk job who doesn’t do too much physical activity. Surgery would be the best bet for a torn ACL, however he could probably get through the rest of his life with a partially torn ACL, and using a brace and conservative management in situations where any further damage to the ligament could occur.

The same hold true for dogs, however, the unfortunate thing is that we don’t have the option of giving a dog an MRI, which will actually show the extent of ligament damage. With dogs, we can have an x-ray, and we can have veterinarians check for instability (drawer movement), but we will not not for sure if the ligament is completely torn, or just partially torn. This is where conservative management comes in. Depending on the size of your dog (conservative management is typically not an option for large dogs – 40+ lbs), the amount of instability (drawer movement) in the stifle (knee) joint and the amount of lameness your dog displays in the injured limb, your veterinarian may recommend conservative management rather than a surgical procedure.

For conservative management, these principles must be strictly adhered to, otherwise the stifle joint will be unable to recover naturally:

  1. Weight management / Diet control – Here are some weight management dog foods
  2. Complete restriction of movement in the beginning, along with rest
  3. Use of anti-inflammatory medications

Weight Management is not only something that will be recommended in the case of conservative management, but it will often be recommended following surgical procedures as well. Our dog dropped 1/3 of her body weight after surgery through diet control and weight management.

Rest & Restriction is required to allow the knee joint to heal in any way if its going to. This process can take 4-8 weeks, and at the end of this period, if the dog is still exhibiting lameness in the limb, surgery might be the best option. During this period, it’s a good idea to keep your dog in a crate or pen. We actually ordered these two plastic pens for Roxy during her recovery.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications can be used in combination with weight management and rest & restriction to help remove the swelling in the limb and let it recover. Here are some natural and over the counter anti-inflammatories that can aid in conservative management.

Before beginning a conservative management regimen, it is always best to contact your veterinarian and have the CCL injury professionaly diagnosed. After seeing a friend of mine try conservative management with a Labrador, I’d recommend seeing a vet ASAP after the injury.


  1. Maria Nieboer says

    I have a 7 lb chihuahua. she is 4 years old. I was told she has CCl and needs surgery. I have had her on anit-imflammatory med for 5 days. She has showed big improvements. Can I stay with conservative treatment for 4 weeks and see if she gets better. Rest, diet control and meds? Will this damage it worse.Thank you for your help

    • says

      Hi Maria –

      Thanks for your comment. As I’ve mentioned in other posts on this blog, I’m not a veterinarian, so I’d consult with your vet before making any decisions. In my personal experience, I’ve only heard of larger breed dogs tearing/rupturing the CCL, so conservative management of the injury may be an option for a small dog such as yours (again, consult your vet). As I mentioned in another post, I had a friend with a big yellow lab who tore its CCL and they elected not to have surgery and the dog really didn’t ever use its leg.

      If the CCL is in fact torn, that will cause an unstable knee joint, and could lead to other injuries, so if I were you, I’d follow these steps:
      If you’re looking to go the conservative management route, keep your dog inactive for the next couple of weeks. Maybe even penned up, like they tell you to do after a CCL surgery.Keep the dog on anti-inflammatory medicationConsult your vet at the end of the 2-3 weeks of inactivity and get a professional opinion. If you don’t like the answer, visit a 2nd or 3rd veterinarian.

      I hope this helps, feel free to ask any other questions. Best of luck to you and your dog.

  2. says

    Have you mentioned an orthopedic brace (aka orthosis)as a method of conservative treatment of CCL tears? Our company, Tamarack Habilitation Technologies, makes orthotic components. I want to make that association clear. However, many well respected veterinarians, such as Sherman Canapp, have reported “great success” with orthotic interventions. shows different braces (i.e., orthoses). Our blog, Inside Tamarack, also discusses dog braces in a post dated May 29, 2009. We cite several independent scientific articles there that may be useful.

  3. Jenny Sherman says

    We have a very active 1 1/2 year old Golden Retriever named Lily and she has torn her left rear cruciate. We have been trying conservative management in an attempt to avoid surgery but she is difficult to keep down. We have seen 2 orthopedic surgeons and TPLO is their preference. But it’s not mine and I canceled her surgery. I am so afraid she will not heal well since she is so difficult to subdue. She is taking Quiet Momments right now along with periodic Deramax and she has bursts of energy that only a puppy has. She can’t help it. She has limited confined to the house and cage and only in and out on the leash to potty. I would like to try a brace if you think we could have success. I have asked the vet for a more powerful sedative but she has refused. If someone couldn’t afford the surgery what would they do. I feel since we are not given any alternatives to helping her heal without surgery that the vets are neglecting their responsibility. If we said we absolutely could not afford surgery, what would they recommend? Would they just say OH WELL. I hope not. I just want to do what is best for my hurting puppy. Please help me. We live in Orange County CA.

  4. says

    Hi Jenny,

    Sorry to hear about your puppy Lily. I’d recommend taking her to another veterinarian in order to get a 2nd and possibly 3rd opinion. As with everything in life, people will have their preferences, as you mentioned the vets that you have seen prefer TPLO. It’s a very new procedure, but I think you might want to try looking into Tightrope Surgery (, as it is a newer, less invasive procedure that is comparable to the procedure done in human ankles. The invasiveness is one of the major drawbacks of TPLO. But then again, TPLO is typically recommended for larger breed dogs.

    I’d assume that living in Orange County, CA you’d have a lot of options for surgical procedures as there are many dog lovers in your area, however I do know from experience that CA has high prices for everything (we ended up paying over $3,500 in total for our dogs surgery).

    Anyways, we wish you the best of luck and we hope that you’ll continue to share your stories with us as you go along.

    Best of luck.

  5. susan says

    Hello, I have a four month old pointer who was kicked by my horse last week, he has seen the vet and she she has done some x-rays , these show a slight freacture at the top of the tibia and some fluid around the joint, the vet cannot tell for certain about the cruciate ligament but there is a bit of movement in the joint and has advised four weeks cage rest, as you can appreciate this is quite hard for an active puppie and when I let him out to go to the toilet he gets very excited and I am worried that he is doing more damage, I was wondering if by restricting the leg in some way it would help the healing process?. The vet has also said she is not too sure about surgery because of his age, if you could give me some advice myself and freddie would be very grateful.

  6. says

    Another aspect to consider when surgical intervention is not an option is physical rehabilitation. Modalities such as therapeutic exercise, massage, hydrotherapy, low-level laser therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, ultrasound and a host of others can all be used to minimize pain, build muscle, prevent muscle atrophy and maintain range of motion in the knee. Rehabilitation also helps with weight loss. As always, seek the advice of your veterinarian before beginning an exercise program for your pet. A qualified rehabilitation practitioner will work closely with your vet to develop a program specific to your pet’s needs.

  7. Iris Bliss says

    Our 13 year old Schipperke chased a rabbit in our back yard yesterday and cannot put weight on her left hind leg.
    A vet found the knee joint had a fair amount of movement, but said the right one also was a little
    loose. She has some renal problem for which we use a careful diet and she had a cancer removed from the inside of her left leg 14 months ago (no recurrence). She cannot receive preventive shots as she became very ill from both her last rabies and 3 in 1 shots. We feel me must take a conservative approach to helping her. We plan to pick up a crate and are carrying her to her food, water, outside trips etc whenever possible. The vet we saw prescribed tramadol every 8 hours for pain and we plan to pick up an anti-inflammatory at a pet store today. We would do anything for her … any alternatives to surgery that have
    worked well? Will anti-inflammatory affect renal function?

    Thanks for any advice….we do plan to see another vet asap

  8. tracy says

    My 2 year old golden retriever, Riley, has torn his CCL and the surgeon we meet with recommended the TPLO. I am not in a position to afford this surgery, but do not want further harm to happen to Riley’s knee. He has been taking anti-inflamm. med and is anxious to get moving again. I have been limiting his activity. Can anyone give me more information on what to do?

  9. Spleena says

    What did you end up doing? My golden has a partially torn ccl and is only 9 months. The vet didn’t say she should have surgery until the ligament tears completely, so I am stuck with a puppy who wants to run and can’t. Just wondering how things are going for your Riley?


  10. tracy says

    We did get the TPLO surgery last week, and he is doing great. His ligament was about 90% or more torn, and I could tell he was in pain on most days. The surgeon said he will make a full recovery and will be back running and playing at dog parks in 12 weeks. My golden is over 100 lbs, he’s a blondie which are bigger, but also 10 lbs overweight, so I didn’t want him to develop severe arthritis. He has mild arthritis now, but with him being so young I didn’t want him to have to suffer his whole life. From what I understand, especially in big dogs, the surgery is necessary and the ligament does not have to be fully torn. I got several opinions and all the docs agreed to get it done sooner the better. Good luck, and keep me updated!

  11. Andrea says

    I have a 7 year old golden with a torn CCL. Our vet is insisting on the TPLO surgery at a cost of $2,500. We simply can’t afford that right now. Also, along with the surgery comes a very long recovery, and with a very active dog, I’m afraid she will reinjure it. Or worse, tear the other knee. I have been doing a lot of research on using a brace as an alternative, but can not find much feedback on anyone who has used them with successful results (Ican’t find feedback negative or positive). Has anyone used these with positive or negative results???

    • Jen says

      I had great success with a brace we got in November. I have a 65 pound akita/blue heeler mix and he had a torn CCL, but I couldn’t afford the surgery which was estimates to be about $3000. I found MuttKnee Brace and they custom make every brace based on your measurements. They have a short video to make sure you are measuring right. Anyway, we ordered it and after some minor adjustments, it was a miracle. It’s like someone waved a magic wand. He had it on for about 23 hours a day for the first few weeks, but now he’s walking and running like a pup. I highly recommend them!

  12. says

    Hi Andrea –

    There was someone who was trying to promote their braces on our site, but I haven’t heard of anyone who has had much success by using braces. You may want to browse through the comments on this site and see if you can find the person who commented regarding using braces for the treatment of the CCL.

  13. Tim says


    Our 2 and a half year old Black Labrador recently began limping (rear right hand leg)after he’s been out for a walk….he is very active and very fit – i.e. not overweight etc. This was on the saturday evening…by sunday evening I could no longer notice any sign of a limp, but we took him to the vets to be on the safe side. The vet had a long feel and said he thought there was a very slight bit of inflammation around the cruciate but definatly not a fully torn cruciate. He reccomended 2 weeks of Rimadyl and 3 weeks of lead walks (2 x 30 mins per day) This was hard as he is a very energetic dog and is used to having 2 hours off lead every day. Still, I ensured we followed the instructions. We couldnt stop him charging around the garden though and on many occasions i was sure he would do more damage but there is still no sign of any limp and we have passed the 3 week stage. I’m just worried that if i let him go back to his old ways of charging around etc he may damage it further…the vet is well respected in our area and really loves dogs so i do trust him…could it be that it has healed up or that it wasn’t the cruciate in the begining and just a muscle strain?

    • kerry says

      Hi Tim, I was wondering how your conservative treatment for your lab worked? I know this was awhile ago. I have a lab who has torn his acl and they have recomended the TTA procedure of course. I thought i was set on surgery but now I’m trying to find success stories on larger dogs (70 + lbs) with conservative treatment for most likely a full tear. Thanks for any info you can provide.

      • Tim says

        Hi Kerry

        I think Beck had only done a partial tear, consequently with two weeks of strict short lead walks and anti inflammatory drugs he was ok…I’ve not seen any problems with the leg since although i’m ultra careful in avoiding throwing sticks or any activity which might risk further damage. The whole thing was very stressful and worrying so i know what you are going through and the thought of having to keep them in a crate for weeks is not good. hope all goes ok.

  14. Amanda - AHT says

    I’m an Animal Health Technologist in a small animal clinic, we see many dogs big and small in with partial or complete ruptured cruciate’s. We often advise clients to try conservative treatment, one because it is a costly surgery and yes often leads to the second torn cruciate. But most often we see owners back in for the surgery, it is just not an injury that will heal it’s self. We do not do the TPLO surgery, we use nylon lead to rebuild the ligament, i have seen first hand how well 90% of dogs recover. For anyone looking to find braces you can as your vet to show you how to put on a Robert Jones bandage, it is big and bulky but it works(we use them post surgical). For anyone looking for a weight management food please look on the back of the bag at the AAFCO label if it says FOR ALL LIFE STAGES it is a puppy food in the bag. Most people think that because the bag says for weight control or weight loss on the fount of the bag mean that’s what is in the bag. You will not find a store food product that will actually cause your pet to loose weight! you need to find this in a vet clinic. Amanda

    • Shelley says

      Hi Amanda,
      Thanks for the info on dog food! I want to clarify bracing, though. A Jones bandage, while providing protection post surgery, will not function the same as a brace designed to facilitate healing from a CCL injury. The braces currently on the market are designed to stabilize the stifle (preventing the forward movement of the tibia on the femur) and hold the ends of the ligament in proximity of eachother so that scar tissue can form between. Some are also designed to allow the dog to walk with “normal” joint movement, allowing for rehabilitation of the joint at the same time that it is healing.

  15. Sara Fairchild says

    My 3 yr old Cairn Terrier was diagnosed with a partial tear in his ACL. I went with the 8 weeks of crate rest and I just have to say, DON”T LOOK AT THE DOG DURING THIS TIME! It is difficult to do, but give him chew bones for activities and put him in the main area of the house to keep him a part of the family. I only let him out about 4 times a day on a short lead. He has done so well, but my question to rehab him now that it is time to let him out? He is not limping at all and thinks that he can go back to his old self. I do not want him to reinjure. I have begun to use a 20 ft lead to walk him, and am not allowing him to run. I will build up to that? I have no rehab places in my area (that I could afford anyhow!) What are your thoughts?

  16. Brett says

    Our 7 yr old golden has injured both of her CCL’s. We opted to try the braces (orthotics) but they can only be left on for 10 min periods because the dog is using different muscles & they tire easily at first. Two of them cost us $950 because they were custom made. The biggest problem is finding the time to put them on her several times a day. We have two small children so they consume a lot of our time. To our suprise the knees have healed pretty good just with rest & the scar tissue will allow her to move around pretty good. If you have a young dog I would recommend surgery but if she’s older they can get around pretty good with just rest if you cant afford the surgery. She use to limp real bad but now she walks normally & can run a little even though the next day she limps a little.

    • kerry says

      Hi Brett
      How is your dog doing. Is she still ok. I have a 6 year old lab who torn one acl, most likely a full tear says ortho doc. looking for success stories on conservative management. Thanks for any info. I’m really stressed about the recomended TTA surgery.

  17. Shelley White says

    I used the A-TraC Dynamic Brace for my retriever when she ruptured her CCL last winter. It worked beautifully!! It’s been seven months since I took the brace off and she has no indication of ever having been injured. The A-TraC brace was a good choice – she could put full weight on her injured leg immediately so she was able to rehab while healing. The brace is soft and pliable – she didn’t seem to mind it at all. I’m thrilled and would highly recommend it!

  18. says

    Hi Shelley –

    Thanks for the suggestions. Just keep in mind that a torn CCL can only be fully healed through surgery due to the fact that torn ligaments will not grow back together. However a partially torn ligament can heal through rest/conservative management/and even through the use of a brace.

    • Putri says

      M. Elizabeth,For what it’s worth, the buprenex dose may need to be lworeed, by as much as half. Speaking from experience with many cats, the textbook dose may leave a cat mildly or severely sedated. Ask the vet if you can lower or half the dose, you might see much better results.I would be cautious of any long term use of metacam, although some vets are comfortable with long term use in specific situations, if I recall, the manufacturer does not suggest it for senior cats, and especially for kidney or liver impaired cats.Dealing with chronic pancreatitis can be tough, and each cat has different medical needs. The pred you’re currently using is probably helpful, but I agree, it’s a tough decision to continue long term you have to weigh the benefits with the negatives. With the ligament problems now, the pred might be helping with inflammation in both cases, which in some aspect, helps to reduce the pain (but ultimately, an appropriate pain medication should be considered for long-term use if necessary).I realize this may not be the answer you’re seeking (you have some tough decisions, for sure), but when I’m in a serious predicament, I ask my vets what they would do if this were their own cat, I am always confident in their response, and I take their opinions very seriously in my considerations, usually opting for their recommendations. It doesn’t hurt to ask, if you are confident in their abilities, experience, etc. Here’s wishing you luck and I hope your kitty improves significantly. Please remember that cats generally self-limit their own activity after a major orthopedic surgery. With appropriate pain medication, following home care instructions, and having your vet monitor her progress (or answer your questions), you may have a bit less to worry about.

  19. Shelley White says

    Thanks for responding to my email Kenneth! My dog’s diagnosis (by two vets) was “completely ruptured” cruciate ligament. The brace works the same as Extracapsular surgery in that it stabilizes the stife so that scar tissue can form. Bracing is a form of “conservative management”. With the brace the dog can go out for walks and move around rather than be fully confined. With walking, the dog can maintain and build muscle in the injured leg, preventing atrophied which in turn can cause injury to the other knee due to off-loading weight. I think the dog is considerably happier being able to get around rather than being completely confined! Why completely confine your dog when you can use the brace? Bracing doesn’t work all the time – the owner has to be willing to follow the rehab protocol closely. Neither does surgery work all the time. All medical discussion asside (I am not a vet), the fact is my dog is walking without a limp and (confirmed by vet check) shows absolutely no sign of being in pain. She runs like she always did and I have not seen her favor her leg at all in the seven months since I took the brace off. I don’t poo-poo surgery but I do feel passionate about dog owners knowing about bracing as a viable option. I’m a single mom caught without steady work and I simply could not afford the surgery. It was heart-wrenching for me. Since the brace doesn’t preclude surgery, it’s worth a try at a cost of $300 – $400 rather than $2,000 – $5,000 for surgery.
    Thanks for listening!

    • EARLE WEISS says


    • Lisa says

      I have a five year old golden who has a acl tear in her rear right leg. I have ordered a brace for surgery to me is always a last choice, as they can’t talk. How is you dog now? Jaz is two weeks into the injury As we wait for the brace. She was starting to improve but this morning we saw her stretch a little as she was going down to the carpet and you could tell she hurt herself as we got up and quicklyn three legs went to her bed. We have her restricted to the carpet area and only goes out for pee and poo times. I can’t take her out for walks at all as we have serious steps to get down to ground level. We made a potty area on our deck and sleep on the main with her or hubby Carries her up to bed. How old is your golden and did you follow the doctor advise with the brace rehab. Thanks I hope I can correspond with you as it is hard to find someone who is following cm and can provide support. We live in Baffin island very isolated, not much for choice, I would have to fly out with her it we had to go the surgery route.

  20. Lena Flagel says

    Update on Annie:

    My golden retriever ended up having TPLO last June just before her 1st birthday. It was horrible trying to keep her quiet, but we got her to start swimming about 6 weeks later, while wearing a life jacket, and that really helped. We have a pool, so it was easy. She could spend her energy and not hurt her leg. By September she was running like a crazy dog again and you would NEVER know she did anything to that leg. She runs like a horse, jumps all the time and has more muscle in that leg than she ever did before. I was so worried she would tear her other leg, but she hasn’t yet and I just really work on keeping her weight down and her exercise levels high. She is a very high-energy dog and we are just now learning how to take walks on leash without pulling me! She loves to chase tennis balls with the chuck it and you should watch her run.

    Beyond the cost of the surgery, the waiting for healing and the worry about the other leg, I would reccommend this surgery! I am sooo glad I could afford to do it for her. I depleted my savings for a while, but it was worth it. Be sure to research your doctor and check to see how many surgeries they have performed. My doctor had training in Oregon from the guy who invented TPLO and he included all the follow up doctor visits and x-rays in the cost. It was about $2,700 after it was all done, I am a happy dog owner.

    Hope that gives some help….by the way, marrow bones were soooo helpful as my dr. didn’t give me any sedatives for Annie and we were going mad for a while!

    Best of luck–

    • says

      Hi Lena –

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! I appreciate the time and detail that you put into it and I know that all of the readers of our site will appreciate it as well.

  21. Melissa says

    My dog a French mastiff just had surgery 4 days ago. Wondering if anyone can estimate how long his hoof will be swollen? He is taking an antibiotic, a pain reliever and Deramaxx. I’m so nervous about his recovery. It has been difficult to contain him from jumping he is so easily excited. I have kept all visitors away! Any word about the recovery process would be greatly appreciated!

  22. Alex says

    My American Cocker spaniel was diagnosed with a complete rupture of his right CCL. 2 different surgeons, at 2 different hospitals recommended the TOPL surgery for him. Although he does not appear to be in any serious pain, he refrains from putting any weight on the leg.

    I was at first eager and willing to do whatever it took for him to be better, including the best and most expensive surgery. After much research, and talking it through with friends and family, I came to the realization that a torn CCL is not an emergency, nor does it require immediate action. I also realized that I should give him the opportunity to heal on his own, knowing full well that any Conservative Management approach would be a slow and trying process on both of us.

    I am glad to report that it has been 24 days since the injury. Although Duggan is still limping a lot (60% of the time), there has already been an obvious improvement. He even put full weight on the bad leg over the weekend! Despite both of the surgeons telling me that he has no chance of recovery without surgery, I know that what I am doing is the best thing for my dog, and I am seeing some remarkable things.

    I just want to urge everyone and anyone out there considering surgery that it IS NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY, and MAY NOT BE THE BEST THING FOR YORU DOG. It is possible for them to heal on their own. It’s not easy emotionally, physically (all the lifting and carrying), nor financially (I changed Duggan’s diet, started him on glocosamine/chondrine, Cartrophen injections, hydrotherapy etc), but it’s still an option. And at least for me, the repercussions of surgery versus conservative management are worth a little deliberation.

    Surgery is irreversible, can lead to death, is costly emotionally and financially, is invasive, can cause terminal complications etc. Taking a more conservative and natural approach is also costly and can have complications in terms of arthritis.

    And at the end of the day, if the conservative approach fails despite my best efforts, I can have the surgery done. If you decide to have the surgery without giving nature a change to heal itself, there is no turning back.

    • Pam says

      Was wondering how your dog is doing? My 10 year old Shih Tzu tore his cruciate ligament on 5/2/2011. It has been almost 3 months now. I am trying desparately to do the conservative treatment modality. I have been to 3 veterinarian doctors, including my regular vet, a rehab/PT specialist, and an orthopedic surgeon for consultations.

      Would be interested to hear from someone who is doing conservative treatment and is 3 to 6 months out from date of injury. I know every case is different, but would like to know what others are experiencing. My dog is older and overweight (although we are doing quite a good job at his weight loss down to 23.4 pounds from 28). If we can avoid surgery, I will do anything in my power to do that. He has good days and he has bad days. We have been VERY compliant with all restrictions. He is also on Deramaxx antiinflammatory and pain reliever-toradol.

      He is being kept very low key. In the beginning, I did a lot of carrying him around!! I still do from time to time. He does no jumping, no steps, no running (if I can help it–sometimes he just wants to play :(

      Looking forward to any and all encourangement.


      • kerry says

        my 11 yr.old golden retr.tore her acl 4 months ago, has always been able to put weight on it, if walking slowly, but the minute she starts to speed up to a trot she holds the leg up. this morning though she must have done something because now she wont’ put any weight on it at all. I have been doing the conservatice management and was going pretty good.

        giving her really good dog food and quinoa and LOTS OF RAW MEAT…plus supplements. Man now I feel like I am back to square one – I would like to get her the orthopets dog brace but am very frustrated that I need to have a vet sign for it….

  23. Joy says

    Thank you so much. Our 2 year old golden retriever/great white pyrinees mix has a ? tear and we are just not in a position to pay $3000 for surgery so I’m exploring options. Our clinic was in a big rush to do surgery, I called a small-town vet who over the phone was very supportive in waiting a month she said they can heal, and if the dog isn’t a hunting dog etc they can be ok without surgery, now to read your post I don’t feel like the worst dog owner if I don’t rush right in. She doesn’t seem in pain so we’ll watch for now!

  24. Jenny Sherman says

    Hi Joy,

    We waited and finally had the surgery for our 1 1/2 year old Golden Retriever and it was incredibly expensive, over $5000. She injured the other leg 3 months later and we opted NOT to do the surgery. It healed just finer after a few months and she has no problems with it. On the other hand, the surgery leg has had numerous problems and is currently on pain meds and sees a physical therapist and goes to aqua therapy 3 times a week. The leg was great for a year and she ran just like before the injury. But we realize had we been able to keep her from running and really restricted her activity for a few months we could have eliminated the surgery and she probably would have been fine. I am sorry we did the surgery but at the time we thought we had no choice. We even saw 3 different surgeons to make sure she needed trhe surgery and they all said absolutely. Seeing how much stronger and more healthy the leg that didn’t have the surgery is, I WOULD NEVER DO THE CRUCIATE SURGERY AGAIN. Restrict all activity and NO stairs for a minimum for 3-4 months even if it seems to be healed. If you can do that for 6 months even better. If you had the surgery you would have to do the same thing so why not let it heal on it’s own. Be patient and let nature work it’s miracles. Take care.

    • Angela says

      Jenny, our 5 y/o lab supposedly has a CCL tear. She only limps after extreme fun (jumping in and out of the boat, quick stop and go movements). She is a hunting dog and we are very worried about the rehab and the other leg having issues. I was just wondering what your dogs symptoms were and if anyone has the same sypmtoms as we do; ie: only limping after real vigorous exercise, and then recooping after a few hours. I just don’t feel she fully tore the ligament. Thanks,

  25. Melissa says

    I think that is great. But I question the injury? Was it seen by a vet? Did the vet recommend surgery for the other knee too and you apted not to do it? I still question if we made the right choice. Since the surgery, thankfully our dogi is doing great! At first I was overwhelmed and felt so sad and guilty; Worried to. It cost us our family vacation. But now I see him running again and he seems so happy! I think we made the right choice.

  26. carol says

    Angela, I have an almost 2 year old basenji who injured his rear leg in a fall off of a tunnel at a dog park. He never seemed to be in pain, favored the leg occasionally for a while, and then seemed to be OK. However after a number of months he started favoring the leg again only after long/hard physical activity. The vet could find no problem in his leg and said that soft tissue injuries can take a long time to heal. Almost 10 months later he is still favoring the leg after hard exercise and the vet has noticed atrophy in that leg. She said that we can see a specialist but that it will be expensive and that we can try the consideraly less expensive route of rest. However since this injury is so old and my dog has excercised as hard as ever since the initial injury I’m wondering if rest will help at this point.

  27. walter brasch says

    Our 65# shep/husky has a CCL: left hind leg. His right hind leg had CCL 2 years ago, and we used conservative treatment–and it worked. He’s very active and surgery would not be probable, although a surgeon strongly recommended it. (The CCL healed on its own with treatment) We had a pill daily and 2 syrups. One was a blackish syrup. We didn’t keep notes. Does anyone know what it is that we’re referringto. We have Cabot on tramadol for pain, plus low dose prednisone.

  28. Erika says

    I have a 1 yr. old Mini Goldendoodle. We left him with a sitter while we were out of town, and when we got home, he was limping and would not bear down on his rear leg. Initially, we thought he had just tweeked it and wanted give him a few days of down time to see if he would bounce back. He didn’t.

    This was back on Sept. 12th and now it has been 6 weeks. We went to our vet and they did x-rays and couldn’t identify the problem and sent us to the ortho specialist. The ortho specialist took more digital x rays and said that our Oskar would TPLO and that he had a ruptured cruciate.

    Now, I am not sure what to do. I feel like we can afford the surgery, which is almost $4500 here in San Fran, because of our pet insurance. However, I am not sure that is what is best for Oskar. He is young and only weighs about 28 lbs. It just seems so dramatic to have TPLO surgery on a 1 yr old pup, but I am worried that he may have injured it so severely that non-surgical recovery won’t work. Additionally, we had to push the surgery out 4 weeks to allow for additional bone growth, since Oskar’s bones are still forming in that leg.

    Does anyone know if surgery is a better option in young dogs and if it decreases the risk of re-injury? Also, I am curious if anyone knows the risks, since we are almost 6 weeks out from the date of the injury. Do we need to get the surgery or would a non-surgical approach still work? He does have noticeable atrophy in the leg, so that is a concern as well.



  29. scott says

    Here’s a story that should provide hope to anyone with a pooch with a CCL problem…

    We have a 140lb. newfoundland. He is very active and blew out his right CCL 6 years at 18 months. It started with a tear. He wiped out on our tile floor. We were devistated.

    We took him to a specialist. He immediately wanted to cut. That didn’t give us the warm and fuzzies. We then went to another about an hour away from us. He said the ligament was torn, but not ruptured so there was hope. He suggested waiting to see what happened.

    Well, a month or so later, Porter blew his knee completely. Started just toe tapping and wouldn’t put much weight on it. We went back to the vet and he suggested TPLO. We went through with the surgery. About $4,000! It’s heavy duty surgery. But, Porter came out in flying colors. Took a solid 7 or 8 months before we let him off
    leash, but the surgery worked pretty well.

    I say pretty well because he’s always been a bit light on that leg since then, but he runs, jumps and doesn’t show any signs of discomfort.

    Everything was great until December, 2009. That’s when he started limping on his left side. He had now injured his other knee, which is about a 50/50 chance with large breeds after they have one knee rupture. We’re not sure what he did, but he is very active and runs/jumps all by himself, so he probably fell in our yard or running up our stairs.

    This time we did a lot of research about Conservative Management. We really didn’t want to put him or us through surgery again. After speaking to a couple of different vets and people who had gone this route, we decided to take a chance. The vets really didn’t give us much hope as they said usually CM only works on smaller animals, but it was worth a shot.

    Porter was confined in a small room and when we were home we’d let him out, but only under VERY close supervision. He was always on leash. No stairs, no walks except for potty breaks in the yard. He was confined to a 3×5 area when we weren’t home. This went on for 3 months. At that point we started short (5 minute) walks a couple of
    times a day. still always on leash. From that point we increased his walks over time to about 15 minutes by 6 months.

    We had one setback about 2 months in. We didn’t pay attention for a second and he bolted (as I said, he’s very active and wanted to run badly). He ended up limping again! From this point we were militant about keeping him calm. This is easily the most important thing to keep in mind during your dogs recovery. DO NOT rush…healing takes a long time to occur.

    At 6 months we let him off leash in our yard. He was still supervised and we didn’t let him run. A little trotting was about it. We continued to walk him 2 or 3 times a day for 10 to 15 minutes a time. Every month we’d give him a little more freedom. By 12 months you’d never even know he was hurt!

    Now (Nov, 2011), He’s now back to full activity…swimming, running, acting like a nut! We still don’t allow him to jump off things and we don’t chase him a lot or let him deak back and forth, which puts a lot of stress on knees. But, other than that, he free to do as he wishes. He couldn’t be happier.

    We put Porter on various supplements…fish oil, vitamin E, Glucosomin/chondroitin. We also cut his food slightly to be sure he didn’t put weight on. We continue with the supplements to this day.

    we also started him on Adequan. This is a miracle drug for arthritis pain! we give it to him once every 6 weeks and you can see the Readifference in him. It’s incredible. I highly recommend it. Find a vet that will let you inject it and you’ll save a ton of money.

    We read much of this site before deciding on CM. Many people make the same comment about their dog being too active and thinking they won’t be able to control them or the dog will be too sad sitting around all day. Believe me, it’s harder on the owner than the dog. If you have the willpower to control your dog, you can do this. Really, it’s not much different than TPLO. You’d still have to keep the animal calm for months.

    One interesting thing, last year we had Porter’s right knee xrayed. It was quite damaged by arthritis. we were told that was one of the main reasons to undergo surgery…to reduce athritis. That apparently didn’t work! Some day we are going to have both knees xrayed to see the difference.

    A final thought…my wife blew out here knee for a 2nd time last year. We went to one well known surgeon…he said he needed to operate. Based on Porter’s outcome, we were somewhat skeptical. We went to NYC to see another top notch surgeon. He said no surgery…basically follow the same CM idea. It’s been a year now and her knee is doing very well without surgery!

    To sum it up, CM worked very well for us. I would highly recommend trying it, but you HAVE to COMMIT yourself to it. It’s going to be hard, but if you stick to it, it can work. I’m sure there are cases where surgery is the only way out, but don’t be too quick to decide on this route. I don’t see any reason to not try CM before cutting.

    I definitely don’t buy the idea that arthritis will be worse if you wait…we didn’t wait and Porter still got pretty bad arthritis in the repaired leg.

    I know if you’re just going through this now with your dog, you’re probably very upset. Believe me it’s not the end of the world. Your dog will get better…it’s just going to take some time and a lot of care.

    • Mike says

      This is reassuring we are just going through this now. I came from the vet 12 hours ago and they recommend surgery. Our Golden is 8 years old with a sensitive stomach and arthritis. For the surgery we would have to travel 2 hours to Ottawa Ontario Canada and the cost is $4500.00. We only want to do what is right for Abby and we really are not sure what to do.

      • Scott says

        I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure you guys are really distressed. I know we were.

        As a followup to my original post, shortly after writing it Porter got reinjured himself falling in our car. This time he tore his meniscus (we can hear his knee pop while he walks). We went back to full CM. Also still on Adequan and sometimes Rymidal. He’s doing remarkably well…as a matter of fact he just placed 4th in his age group at a National Newfie Dog Show!

        There’s no doubt that he will end up with some arthritis from this but at his age (also 8), we’re still not thinking surgery…we just don’t think it will help in that much at this stage of his life.

        It’s a tough decision as to what to do. The surgery is very expensive as you mentioned. Your dog is still fairly young but starting to age as is Porter. Maybe try CM for a month or two and see how it goes and then decide. That may cause some addtional arthritis, but I think that’s inevitable anyway. Just be sure to REALLY stick to the program. Take it SLOW. You may get lucky and things work out well. Definitely give Adequan a try.

        Best of luck to you and your dog!

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  1. […] Management Also, the link below gives you a quick glimpse at what conservative management is. Conservative Management as a Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Treatment Option | Dog Knee Surgery CCL… I have heard of conservative management working on partial tears. We take our lab to physical […]

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