Ares TPLO Surgery and Recovery

This is going to be more of a diary tracking Ares TPLO surgery and recovery, than a number of blog articles.  I'll be adding updates on a regular basis, but I will be updating this article each time, versus making new posts. 

First a little history.  Ares (Dantero's Ares – FRIII, PSA2, NADF1) is a 9 year old male Belgian Malinois who has trained and competed most of his life in protection sports.  When he was approximately 1.5 years old he fell backwards off the palisade (an 8 foot high scaling wall) and landed badly on his back right leg, injuring the hock joint.  He's had on and off issues with that joint ever since.  Generally it's fine, but on occasion it pops out a little and he will favor the leg, sit slow, etc.  A quick trip to the chiropractor and he's good as new again.  For the last year or so he's been actively competing in PSA3, training in nose work, and helping me with my livestock on occasion.  Between PSA and nose work he's trained and average of 4 days a week.  Otherwise his main activity is running up and down the hills on my property, swimming, and hiking.  Over time he has lost some muscle tone in that back right leg, and had begun to favor it more.  Approximately a year ago we started giving him Adequan injections and they were a game changer.  He went from moving normally but toe touching when standing on a semi-regular basis, and having an obvious limp to being on 3 legs on a bad day, to normal the majority of the time and only showing minor signs of soreness if he really overdid it.  That soreness would go away with a few days of down time. 

March 28, 2021 – Ares finished up 3 days of PSA3 competition.  The first day, Friday, was a mock trial, but he did a full PSA3 routine.  Saturday and Sunday were real trials, and he did full routines both days.  On Sunday he walked off the trial field after protection looking good.  Some very minor favoring of the back leg, but he was weight bearing.  We spent about 20 minutes hanging out while I talked to people and he got pets and scratches before I put him in his crate.  Approximately an hour later I took him out of the crate for a quick potty break, and he was 3 legged.  Did not want to put any weight on the back right leg.  He did start using it a little bit during our walk, but was favoring it strongly.  When I went over him, I noticed the knee was warm, although it didn’t feel swollen.

Ares PSA3 routine, at some point during the protection is when he tore his cruciate

I made an appointment for Ares with his chiropractor and put him on “house arrest” until he could be seen.  He wasn’t on full crate rest, but was only allowed to go outside supervised to potty, was not allowed to be out with the other dogs, etc.  As Ares is a house dog, he’s generally pretty calm in the house.  The first few days after the trial he didn’t want to get up from the dog bed, except for a quick bathroom break.  After a few days he was moving around more but limping badly on the back leg.  The chiropractor was able to see him in early April, diagnosed him as having “drawer movement” in the knee, and recommended a specialist.  Their earliest opening was mid-June so I booked it, then talked to my regular vet to see if he had any other recommendations.  He recommended another specialist who comes into his office on a regular basis to do surgeries for him, so we set up an appointment.

Video taken 1 month post injury

April 27, 2021 – Ares spent the day with the specialist, Dr. Ganz, getting sedated, x-rayed, poked and prodded.  Final diagnosis is a total cruciate tear and a recommendation for a TPLO.  Until then just continue to keep him quiet and give him pain meds as needed.  There is some remodeling on the right knee.  While the Adequan has done a great job with the hock issues, he has had some on and off lameness still.  It looks like there may have been some micro-tears of the cruciate happening on and off the last year or so, and that is what caused the occasional lameness. I thought we’d just gone to long between injections.   For more information on exactly what the CCL does, what happens when it is torn, and possible techniques to fix it, check out this video Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture – 3D Animation for Veterinary Undergraduates 

Right Knee

Left Knee

Video taken 6 weeks post injury

May 20, 2021 – Ares had his TPLO surgery.  The surgeon said that he did have threads of the cruciate ligaments left, but they were very thin and stretched out, basically not doing anything to help stabilize the knee.  The meniscus was in good shape, and did not need to be fixed.  Overall surgery went well and now it's crate rest, on leash bathroom breaks, and we start rehab in a few weeks.

Ares was sent home the day after surgery with pain meds (Tramadol/Rimadyl) and sedatives (Acepromazine).  He is allowed 4 SLOW walks a day, for up to 10 minutes.  

Video of Ares walking the day 1 after surgery  The chickens are giving him moral support 🙂

After surgery there was minimal bruising, I was actually surprised at how little there was considering how invasive the surgery is.  

2 days post surgery

Over the course of the next few days, Ares did develope a fair amount of edema, which all went down the leg and settled in his hock.

3 days post surgery

For the most part though the edema had resolved by day 5 post surgery.  The minimal bruising is almost completely gone, and he just has some razor burn left that is bugging him.  He's doing well with his daily walks, and handling the crate/x-pen time well so far.  I am letting him out whenever possible and just having him lay on a dog bed next to me while I telecommute.  I also incorporate at least 2 of his walks with my chores with the livestock.  He doesn't get to do anything with them, but he can wander around in the chicken pen with me while I collect eggs, stand near the gate when I let the goats out to browse, etc. so he gets some mental stimulation each day.

5 days post surgery

Ares walking 1 week post surgery

May 28, 2021  Ares had his first post-op checkup.  The vet was super happy with where he's at, how well he's using the leg, the incision site, etc.  Unfortunately sometime during the trip to or from the vet's office we had a setback.  Ares was riding loose in the middle of my van, as my crates are in the back and up on a platform, necessitating me lifting him in and out which could easily go bad as he tries to "help".  I suspect while he was turning in circles to make himself a “bed” in the blankets, he may have twisted the leg a little.  By the time we got home, he was showing more of a limp when walking, and was back to doing more toe-touching instead of weight bearing when standing.  The next day he had a small pocket of edema right at the top of the incision site, over the knee.  It looked like it was swollen, but when I pressed on it was obviously fluid.  This cleared up within a minute or two during his first walk.  The next time I let him out of the crate for another walk, he had another slightly larger pocket of edema, which also cleared up once he started walking.  It took 2-3 days, but then he was back to where he was pre-setback in terms of weight bearing when standing, and walking with only a minimal limp.

June 3, 2021 – 2 weeks post surgery.  Ares is walking well, weight bearing when standing still, and using the leg during the sudden unauthorized trots.  No, he is not supposed to be trotting at all yet, but there have been a few moments of "yahoo" where he trots a couple steps before the leash stops him.  I will also admit he has randomly jumped up on me a couple of times.  But so far he hasn't managed to do any obvious damage. He is still taking Rimadyl and Tramadol every day.   2 week video

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