I’m Not a Veterinarian, But About Your Dog’s Torn ACL…

People often write to me with medical questions and issues, which makes me sorry that they have not found a local veterinarian they can trust. I always remind people that I am NOT a vet and that any advice I give is not intended as medical advice. I can only help people do a better job of receiving good medical care for their pets. My book The Dog Bible has a whole chapter about how to look for and choose a vet who is a good fit for you. Whatever I recommend or suggest in a blog or on my radio shows is only to steer people in the right direction for good medical advice and treatment from an actual doctor!

A Question from Suparna About Little Bella’s Torn ACL

Dear Tracie,

I found you by reading your blog about your dog Maisie’s torn ACL. I really need your advice.

Since last night, our five-year-old Malti-Poo Bella Bella can’t put her left hind foot down. Before that she was only limping. I don’t have a veterinarian I trust, and have been running around to referrals. We don’t know how to handle this issue. I read so much about CBD oil for joint pain, partial ACL in dogs. Can you please let me know if that will help her? We live in Porter Ranch, California and would love to find an experienced, professional vet. Can you make a recommendation?

My background, We are a small family — my 15-year daughter, my husband Raj, me, and above all, our beautiful Malti-Poo, Bella. I come from a background where no one had pets and until I adopted Bella I was firm not to be close to any dogs or cats. My daughter pushed me for years and when we got Bella five years ago we all fell in love with her. My family was shocked to see me close to a dog. When Bella suddenly started limping we took her to a vet nearby. She said it was her knee, prescribed pain medication and suggested an x-ray. We took her to another vet who did the x-ray but diagnosed a partial tear. He said keep Bella confined and she will be OK but Bella loves to beg, jump. Then my pet sitter suggested I see this Clinic which had great surgeons. She was so wrong because the owner put her in a cage for 9 hours to get a sedated XRay. Her expert also said partial ACL. She was given 2 different pain meds: Metacam for 7 days by the first vet and then Rimadyl by the vet. My husband is worried that the partial ACL tear has become a completely torn ACL. Where should we go?

Dear Suparna —

I'm not a vet... (blog) I’m sorry for Bella’s situation and that you have not had a good support system to help you move forward in treating her condition. This is no time for CBD oil! That is a natural supplement shown to have some effect on joint pain from arthritis, and good for emotional states like anxiety. However, when a dog cannot put weight on her leg, we’re talking about the need for an orthopedic specialist.

You MUST have the dog properly evaluated by a board-certified veterinary surgeon. That is the next move. You can look for a general veterinarian for the future after that. You need a veterinarian who is further trained and experienced in bone surgery. Consult the listing for this in your area via the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, https://www.acvs.org/.

Several vets have now confirmed the ACL is torn. Whether it is partial or full tear, it probably needs to be surgically repaired. However, knowing what you will spend makes it feel that it is somewhat in your control. You should ask for an estimate for the initial visit at the time of the phone call when you schedule the appointment. Tell the office you can bring Bella’s current Xrays with you, but many orthopedic specialists want to do their own (sometimes higher quality) x-rays. They don’t do this to “make money,” they do it to make the best surgical plan beforehand and know what they are dealing with. Often a surgeon will wait until the day of surgery to take the additional pictures once Bella is sedated and before surgery begins — as Maisie’s surgeon did on her recent ACL repair.

No matter what is wrong with the knee, it is going to cost some money. That’s just the way it is with orthopedic problems. However, you will be wasting time and money by pursuing anything less than choosing a board-certified surgeon: you will be getting the best value for your money and the best hope of a good outcome. When the veterinarian offers you treatment options — medical, different surgical choices, or both — you should request a written estimate for everything and inquire about payment plans like CareCredit, if available.

I do wish you had found me sooner and gotten pet insurance, which I thoroughly recommend to every single pet owner out there. It is exactly for this sort of complicated and costly medical situation, and makes the decision-making process much less stressful and painful on you! I use Healthy Paws insurance and know that Trupanion is also a great company. It is something to consider for the future, although of course, it’s too late for this knee (and the other knee would not be covered by any insurance, since the likelihood of the other ACL tearing is statistically anywhere from 50-80%, I’m sorry to say) I hope that doesn’t happen to Bella, but right now you need her in good hands to fix that knee and get her running, jumping and begging again! In the meantime, keep her as quiet as you possibly can to minimize further damage and inflammation to that joint.

—Tracie Hotchner

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