Canine Cruciate Rupture, it’s not the best thing to hear your vet say, admittedly it isn’t the worst either. Unfortunately, this type of injury usually requires surgical intervention by a specialist orthopaedic vet, especially in larger breeds.
I wanted to share the journey that we’ve been on from initial injury to diagnosis of canine cruciate rupture and recovery. All whilst there’s a global pandemic going on too!
However, before we get started, I thought I should give a bit of background. Lilly is a 7, soon to be eight years old Labrador (at the time of writing this). We love walking the local Welsh mountains when the weather allows, though Lilly’s never been much of a zoomies kind of dog, actually she’s pretty chilled. With that in mind, let’s get on with our canine cruciate rupture journey!
The Injury Day
July 6th 2020, Wales was coming out of a lengthy lockdown with dog walkers allowed to resume work. It was Lilly’s first day back out with her favourite dog walker, and she was just as excited as I was. Not because I wanted to get rid of her for a few hours, but more because she’d get to play with other dogs and have fun, something she hadn’t been able to do in lockdown.
Lilly’s dog walker collected her at about 1 pm, so I went to do some work. However, at 2:21 pm, I got a text from Lilly’s dog walker to say that Lilly seems to have hurt her back left leg. So I downed tools and went to meet them at the side door to our garden.
I spoke with the dog walker, who said she had checked for any apparent wounds but couldn’t see anything. She said that Lilly was off-lead, not doing anything particularly crazy when she let out a cry and wouldn’t put her paw down.
The dog walker was so upset, but honestly, she did nothing wrong and has been Lilly’s dog walker since 2013! Lilly managed to get out of the van with no problem, but she was muddy and needed a shower so, we had to carry her upstairs to get her clean. Unfortunately, she didn’t put the paw down, so the wash was speedy and only to get the mud off.
I didn’t rush to the vets as, having worked at a vet as a nurse, I knew some rest could help with muscle strains, etc. However, once Lilly was dry and asked to go to the toilet, I went with her. It wasn’t easy for her, and she needed support to steady her whilst she went to the bathroom. I lifted Lilly onto the grass part of our garden as it’s raised, but I recorded her walking once back on the flat.
I forwarded the video to a friend of mine that’s a vet because I was worried that this was something more than just a muscle strain. I didn’t just drive to the vets because they only saw emergency cases. Lilly wasn’t an immediate emergency.
My vet friend replied pretty quickly and suggested that I called to make an appointment, as it looked to her that Lilly had ruptured her canine cruciate ligament. I immediately called my vets (I used to work there) and explained what my vet friend had said (this vet had also worked with me at Lilly’s vets). The receptionist told me to take her the following day for someone to look at her.
Visiting the Vets
The next day (July 7th), we went to Lilly’s appointment, and she saw one of the vets I knew. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go in with her to the examination room, so I waited anxiously for the vet to come back. The vets face as she stepped out of the room told me that yup, my vet friend was right! Indeed she was, the vet agreed with our suspicions of a canine cruciate rupture and gave some pain relief. She also advised if there was no improvement in a few days that x-rays would be needed, which an orthopaedic vet would ideally do. Their orthopaedic vet was on annual leave, and so was the other local orthopaedic vet.
Once we were home, I reached out to a group of my vet friends, telling them that we were pretty sure it was a canine cruciate rupture asking if anyone could recommend an orthopaedic vet. One name came out more than once, and that was Dr Mark Owen of Ossicle, based at Rowe Referrals in Bristol (UK), who has vast experience in dealing with canine cruciate rupture and repair. So on the 8th, I requested a referral be made from my vets directly to Rowe.
By the afternoon of July 10th, we hadn’t heard back from the referral vets within the timescale given, so I phoned them. I spoke to a lovely receptionist and explained that Lilly hadn’t been weight bearing since Monday afternoon. I was concerned that the stresses put on the other canine cruciate ligament in her right leg would cause that one to rupture. The last thing I needed or wanted for Lilly was a double canine cruciate rupture!
The receptionist asked me to forward Lilly’s video of her moving around as the orthopaedic vet did have her notes from my vets, but it was his day off. She promised to forward the video directly to Dr Mark Owen.
I forwarded the email to them, and much to my surprise, I was getting a callback within the hour. The receptionist explained that the vet had seen the video and could see how uncomfortable Lilly was; she also explained that, unfortunately, The vet was fully booked for the coming week but that he wanted Lilly added to the cancellation list as a priority. We agreed that any day and time would be fine; this is because I own my own small business and could take Lilly there when they called. I did explain I’d need a little notice as we live a 2-hour drive away in good traffic, which they agreed to.
The following email included all the forms for completing a direct claim through Lilly’s insurance (PetPlan Covered for Life). I immediately completed and emailed back to ensure there’d be no delays should a cancellation come up. I also phoned PetPlan and pre-authorised Rowe so that they could talk to PetPlan without issue.
The weekend was a long one, and I felt so bad for Lilly, she was struggling, but there was nothing else I could do other than wait.
Along came Monday, and that afternoon my phone rang; Rowe said that there had been a cancellation on Wednesday, July 15th and asked if I would like to take Lilly; I jumped at it!
The Journey to Rowe
We had to set off very early by that, I mean 5:45 am, to ensure we’d reach Rowe before 8 am as requested on Monday. Thankfully my dad was coming with us. Lilly wondered why there was no breakfast that day but also knew something was up as I’d packed some food for her.
The journey up was pretty uneventful; Lilly couldn’t get in and out of her crate too easy in the car, so we opted for her zippy bed. Not ideal, but I needed her to be comfortable and not to injure herself further, especially as we’d need to help her get out of the car.
We arrived at around 7:45 am, so I waited until 8 am to call and let them know we had arrived. We went through most of the information in the car due to Covid restrictions meaning we couldn’t go in. One of the nurses came out to collect Lilly, and I signed the paperwork agreeing that if Dr Mark Owen’s investigations did indeed confirm that it was a canine cruciate rupture, that he could go ahead and complete the TTA surgery to repair the damage.
Before anything happened surgery wise, The nurse told me that Dr Owen would call to discuss his findings. Lilly was a little weary as I’ve pretty much always been with her, especially for her last surgery as I worked at the vet’s. This time I’d be 58 miles away in Wales whilst Lilly would be in England; however, she went with the nurse without much fuss other than a glance back.
The drive back was strange, really strange. I hated that I wasn’t there with Lilly, and when we got home, the house’s emptiness was just odd. We’d only been back around 30 minutes when the phone rang at around midday. Dr Mark Owen confirmed it was indeed a canine cruciate rupture and that he would complete the operation that afternoon. We spoke for a little while, and because of my background and my knowledge of osteology, it helped. Dr Owen explained that usually, when a dog has one canine cruciate rupture, the other canine cruciate breaks, too, though the timescale is unknown. It could happen at any time! Dr Owen said he would call once the operation was complete and Lilly was completely awake, I thanked him, and that was that.
It was around 6 pm when the phone went again, and it was Dr Mark Owen saying that everything had gone well and that Lilly’s meniscus was intact! That was fantastic news; he also said that Lilly was awake and had already had something to eat. Another sigh of relief, The nurse also told me that I could call later that night for another update if I wanted to. I again thanked him and bid him goodnight.
Before going to bed, I wanted to check on Lilly, so I called Rowe and spoke to the night staff, who let me know that Lilly was doing just fine. She left her cone alone and had been out to the toilet without issue and was using her leg! I was so surprised, it had only been a few hours since her operation, and she was already putting the paw down and using the leg!! It put my mind at ease, and the nurse said that the vet would call again in the morning with an update before the day team took over.
Day 1 Post Op
8 am, the phone rang; it was the on-duty vet calling with an update just as the nurse had said the night before. The vet said that Lilly had a comfortable night, was doing great, eating and drinking as well as toileting and would be discharged later that day once Dr Mark Owen had seen her too. They set the time for 1 pm, and I was so relieved to have a set time to get my gorgeous girl!
My dad and I set off to get Lilly and arrived shortly before 1 pm; I phoned in and let them know we were there and paid the insurance excess and admin fee for the direct insurance claim. Unfortunately, a few emergencies were going into the vets, and we had to wait much longer to get Lilly, but that’s ok; I’ve been the other side.
They dealt with emergencies and then irate customers because their appointment was delayed or they had to wait. 2 pm came, and no sign of Lilly, so I called just in case there was an issue with Lilly not wanting to leave her kennel. The receptionist apologised and promised a nurse would call me back within 5 minutes, which they did.
The discharge information was discussed and the date set for seven weeks for Lilly to return for a check-up and x-rays to check bone healing and alignment. Within 20 minutes of the call, Lilly was bounding out to us, tail wagging and bright-eyed on all four legs! I lifted her into the car and secured her in place, which was interesting because the cone she had was pretty big!
The ride home was not great, Lilly doesn’t travel well after the anaesthetic, and she was sick a couple of times. I was so glad to have her home, and we’d put down a lot of mats and rugs over the laminate as the nurse told us that Lilly should not be allowed to slip. As Lilly was crate trained as a puppy, she was instantly calm and relaxed and indeed did go off to sleep.
The first night at home was not fun, the anaesthesia was still wearing off, and Lilly whined for most of the night. It meant that I didn’t sleep much at all, nor did Lilly.
To Be Continued
Wow, this post has gotten pretty long. I will split it into a series. Our canine cruciate rupture journey is also quite long, and if I’m honest, trying to cram it into one blog post would have you reading for hours! If you’d like to follow our journey, please sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest news and blog releases.
You can also find my must-have items for your dog’s recovery from canine cruciate ligament surgery here.
Find out more information about Canine Cruciate Rupture in Dogs here
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.