In the Fall of 2020, our Akita/Cattle Dog, Oakley, tore his left ACL while playing chase with another dog at the park. We were hoping for just a pulled muscle or anything but surgery. TPLO surgery would put us back a few thousand dollars, so we waited to see if there was any solution other than surgery. After intensive research and trying to find alternatives, we pulled the plug and decided surgery was the best option since Oakley was only five years old. ACL recovery on its own is only an option if your dog is under forty pounds and not a completely torn ACL. Being a seventy-pound dog, Oakley's ACL was long past the recovery point without surgery. They tell you that you have a 50-60% chance of the second ACL tearing, usually within six months of the first injury, due to overcompensation from the other leg. Oakley's surgery was scheduled for January this year, and he did phenomenally. The day after surgery, Oakley felt better than he had in months. He even tried to dart out of the door to come to work with me, with his cone on. He is a working breed, after all. Our surgeon was phenomenal and had outlined all the recovery steps. After his stitches came out, we had set up Oakley's first appointment to start physical therapy and hydrotherapy.
Oakley was ahead of the game recovering and had his first physical therapy appointment. Our Physical Therapy appointment was beneficial to me as a worry wort dog mom. They explained exercises to do with him, supplements, and his physical limitations with each milestone in the recovery process. Fast forward to a mere three weeks later, and the inevitable happened. It was a rainy morning, and I went to let Zena out while I had a hold of Oakley's harness to place him on the teether outside to prevent him from running. As soon as I opened the door, Zena had let out a gut-wrenching scream and took off after a cat. Oakley proceeded behind Zena at full speed in the chase to get a cat that had landed its self in our fenced-in backyard. Even as a professional dog trainer, shit happens. We had a fenced-in yard, extra layer protection with an outdoor rope, and a backdoor Ring Camera that was supposed to alert at the sight of any critters. All of my management failed that day, and Oakley took off in the mud tearing his Right ACL that morning. I knew what had happened immediately, and there was no doubt in my mind that Oakley was going back under the knife.
One month after his left TPLO surgery, Oakley went back under for the right side. The same injury had occurred on the right side, one hundred percent torn ACL and fifty percent of the meniscus gone. This month of limbo was one of the toughest for Oakley and the hardest to see as dog parents. After his first surgery, Oakley had a new look at life and was ready to run again. That all just got taken away from him, again. Oakley was prescribed anti-inflammatory and bed rest until his surgery date in March. The week before his surgery, the NSAIDS had caused Oakley to have severe G.I. symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. As guardians, we want our fur babies to be happy and healthy. We were fortunate with a great support system of Veterinarians that pointed us in this direction of The Assisi Loop for his pain and inflammation. We could control his pain and get his G.I. problems under control. The gastrointestinal upset resulted from Oakley being on an anti-inflammatory for months. We had already started adding glucosamine and Tumeric to Oakley's diet, which helped with his inflammation and was able to control his pain and help his recovery with these holistic gems.
After Oakley's second surgery, we were finally on the road to recovery. We put Oakley through 6 sessions of Physical Therapy at Healing Pups that included hydrotherapy, infrared light laser, and the Veterinarian walking me through what to do and what not to do. These P.T. sessions were crucial for Oakley's recovery. He had lost 2-3 inches of muscle mass on his left leg in the span of a few months. My priority was getting our boy happy and healthy again and my promise to him.
Oakley would not be where he is today without the help of our Ortho surgeon Dr. Benitez, Dr. Aquino at Armstrong Veterinarian, The physical therapist Dr. Keffer at Healing Pups (Aqua Pups), Stephanie from Poll To Pastern, and the Assisi Loop.
The worst part is Oakley's two surgeries were not the end to our unfortunate luck….
In June 2020, I was taken out by two big dogs that had the zoomies and shattered my wrist, needing ortho surgery a few days after the incident. Surgery resulted in a plate and nine screws to put together my wrist and months of recovery. Luckily I was already prepared for yet another orthopedic surgery.
Before surgery, we started doing red light therapy with Poll To Pastern. Stephanie is phenomenal and does private sessions for red light, red light pad rental, or you can buy a pad from her. Trust me if you have multiple dogs or any type of joint pain the investment in purchasing a pad is worth it. After Oakley's second surgery and renting a red light pad through the first recovery, we had decided to invest in an infrared light pad, which I suggest for anyone with a multi-dog household. The red light pad helped Oakley's inflammation, scar tissue, and hair growth. You can read and see the healing pictures of his scar tissue here.
This tPEMF device helps reduce inflammation in dogs and cats and can be used every 2 hours for pain/inflammation. Side note this Assisi Loop worked wonders after my ortho surgery. We struggled to get the swelling down in my right hand and wrist. After surgery, I was in a splint, then a cast for a few weeks, and then a brace, and because of the severity of my injury, the swelling and pain were tremendous. I was desperate and looked at the Assisi Loop and said, why not? It worked for my dog, so it should work for me. It worked miracles, reducing the swelling so I could get movement back in my fingers and start P.T. myself. The Assisi Loop is a must-have if you or your pup have surgery and want a more holistic approach than anti-inflammatory.
This was one of the first supplements the Physical therapist started Oakley on. This formula helped tremendously and was a clear difference when he was on it. They now have collagen chews with glucosamine and turmeric, and collagen in it. Our goal was to make sure he had plenty of Collagen from bone broth or supplements to help build his muscle back.
We used this brace when we were trying to find alternatives to surgery. It was tricky to keep on if you did not have a proper harness. With the Blue 9 Balance harness, we could keep it on most of the day and take the brace off at night. We got our money's worth from this brace to help Oakley not put full pressure on his bad leg and support the other leg.
This harness makes life easier right after surgery and helps get your pet outside to use the bathroom with minimal movement when they are still groggy and achy. Then the lift strap helped tremendously to balance Oakleys weight going upstairs or into the car after surgery.
This post is lengthy, but I would have loved to have a guide a year ago. I am proud to say Oakley and myself have fully recovered from our surgeries. Between the two of us, we have a lot of screws in our body now; Oakley had six screws in each knee and nine in my wrist. I am also happy that we never have to relive those months again. Don't forget you have to take care of yourself to be the best dog parent possible. A spa day or treat your self day might be a requirement once you get your pup on the road to recovery.
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A-Z DOGS LLC was created to look at the whole dog for a successful and custom training program. Ruth has been in the dog professional career for eight-plus years and has experience with small and large breeds, behavioral, and reactivity. Ruth and her husband, Alan, love dogs and have three of their own. Oakley is a 5 yr old Akita and Cattle Dog Mix that they adopted. Zena is a Husky and Pitt mix that Ruth took in as an unruly puppy. Last but not least is the five-pound chihuahua that they rescued as well. We love empowering owners and their dogs to enjoy a stress-free life together.