Stray Magnet Blog

ACL injury and recovery timeline, plus triumphs and challenges

Originally Published June 11, 2013

We were out of town for Memorial Day Weekend when our dog Winston tore his ACL. We headed home early to seek medical attention, schedule surgery and start the healing and recovery. We would do anything for our dog but it has been harder than we thought. The 12 week recovery requires strict physical limitations, only standing on the leg to go to the bathroom the first three weeks followed by a 5 minute walk on week four and increasing slowly.

I didn’t realize how hard it would be to keep Winston off his feet. In some ways it feels like we have a newborn child requiring constant attention. We are committed to doing it, my summer outlook has just changed. Below is a timeline and some highlights of each days triumphs and tribulations. Each day we will try and update his progress if you want to follow.

Sunday May 26-Winston injured leg while we were out of town. House sitter notified us.

Monday May 27-Winston still limping.

Tuesday May 28- Dave home, sets up the earliest vet appointment for the following day.

Wednesday May 29-Winston goes to the vet and he says he’s pretty sure he has torn his ACL, offers a few surgery referral options.

Winston6_5Friday, May 31-Friday he met with the referred surgeon and he said he was 99% sure he tore his ACL and described the surgical procedure and recovery in broad strokes. He said it would be best to just do the x-ray while he was sedated right before the surgery and that it would be a long hard recovery, needing to restrict Winston 10-12 weeks. Dave scheduled the surgery for the first available time slot, Wednesday at 9a.m.

He also received an itemized bill for what all the costs would entail and it amounted to a used car, sponsoring three children through World Vision, 30 patient visits at Siloam, food and supplies for a month for the Nashville Food Project, and the list goes on. The doctor also mentioned the fact that it happened in one leg means he is at increase risk for it happening in the other leg. Hmmm maybe we should look into pet insurance? It’s a lot of money but if you can pay it, you want to! It made me pause and think about how many people have pets that can’t afford to pay for expensive medical bills. I am thankful there are organizations like “Brown Dog Foundation“ that help cover costs but the need is always greater than the available funds.

Sunday, June 2-I headed home with the kids from NC. When we walked in the door Winston didn’t greet us like he normally does (avoiding stairs) but as soon as we found him he was ecstatic and starting running in circles (we call armadillo dog) and jumping, none of which were good for the leg. I immediately thought recovery may be hard trying to restrict him.

For the next few days (Sunday-Tuesday) we blocked off rooms so he wouldn’t do stairs, carried him up to bed and walked him on the leash to go outside to potty. Even though it wasn’t necessary we thought it would be good practice and helpful on his good knee which was already compensating for the bad knee. For some reason I thought I could walk him to the backyard and let him be free for a few minutes, that his leg would hurt so he wouldn’t run. I was wrong. As soon as I let him off he bore down on both legs and sprinted across the yard chasing chipmunks and running his loop. Good to know for after the surgery, we’ll just have to keep him on the leash at all times and it needs to be tight.

Tuesday, June 4- I couldn’t stop praying for him and enlisted some friends to do the same during surgery the next day.

Surgery Day

Wednesday, June 5
Winston 6_6Wednesday morning I couldn’t help giving him a few extra hugs and trying to capture a snapshot in my head of what he looked like in case the unthinkable happened and he responded poorly to anesthesia and didn’t wake up. I had just read a chapter in Catherine Hickam’s book “Regret Free Parenting” about when she had a dream her son was in a car accident and instead of choosing to alter her day and protect him so choose to trust God and pray. Later that day she got a call from her daughter and her two kids were in an accident but everyone was okay. Part of her point was that when we worry or try and control things we basically are saying we don’t trust God. I was very intentional that day to keep praying and trusting. I was still worried but I kept asking God to take care of him.

Surgery was at 9a.m. and the doctor said he would try and call at 11:00. He said “don’t worry if you haven’t heard from me though. I may have another emergency that comes up and needs attention. If there is a problem we will contact you.” At 1:00 I was still waiting to hear and Dave and I were ready to call.

I spent a part of the day trying to prepare for his arrival home. He will have to wear one of those awful plastic cones (Elizabethean Collars) for a couple of weeks to keep him from licking his wound. I was doing some research to see if there were any better options out there. Seems to be the fabric (soft collar) that you can bend back for meals or the one that looks like an inner tube (big donut). That seems ideal so the pet can see and won’t bump into anything but I wonder if he will still be able to get to his back leg. Worth a try, always have the plastic cone as a backup.

Also got him an orthopedic, memory foam bed as he won’t be able to get up on furniture and we only have hard wood floors downstairs. I plan on sleeping downstairs on the sofa with him. Plus I had to pick up a babygate so that I could block the stairs.

Winston6_6At 1:20 I received the call from the doctor and sure enough there had been another emergency and that’s why he hadn’t called earlier. Winston did great in surgery. He had a complete ACL tear and a partially torn meniscus. They weren’t repairing any of the ligaments they were removing them and reshaping his shin bone so he doesn’t need them. I asked about the meniscus and what that meant? He said he would probably develop arthritis and perhaps earlier in life. Certainly didn’t sound like a horrible occurrence. Winston was in ICU and would stay there overnight. In the morning they would try and feed him and give him some pain meds orally and see how he did before releasing him that afternoon. He said 95% of those surgeries go home the next day. I like percentages except when you are in the lower percent. Huge sigh, hard part done, and everything seems to be okay-PRAISE GOD!!! Now we have to wait to get him home and begin the slow recovery process.

Winston6_7Thursday, June 6-Picked Winston up at the vet with both kids. The vet tech came in first read over the two page discharge papers and care instructions then had me sign off on them in case anything happened to him acknowledging it was my fault. When the vet came in and immediately said “looks like you have your hands full” just sitting with the kids. After he showed me the x-rays, and brought Winston in to look at his incision he walked us out opening the door and said “you sure you got this?” Not exactly a vote of confidence.

I confess I knew the recovery would be hard but I didn’t realize he wasn’t supposed to be on his feet at all except for going to the bathroom for the first two weeks. 24 hours later and it is much harder than I expected. It wouldn’t be so hard if I didn’t have two kids to take care of.

winston6_6Staple area bleeding a little…normal?

The plan to contain him in a part of our family room wasn’t very successful. He is constantly up on his foot, wanting to go out. Carrying him (60 pounds) outside to potty isn’t easy either. Realizing we couldn’t leave him alone at all with this scenario I sent a message out on facebook asking to borrow a crate. He’s had no interest in the therapeutic bed I bought him, he prefers the bath rug. Finally about 9p.m. he settled down to rest. I slept on the sofa beside him while he moved about with the cone. Not a bad night really but this morning he was up and at it again, moving around too much. I finally got him in the crate but when I went to put the cone on he got out. Three attempts to get him back in ended with him pushing off and landing on his bad leg-not good. I’ll just have to forgo the shower for now.

Week 1

Friday June 7
Winston carryingTried putting Winston in the crate. He didn’t like it but I wanted to get used to it so we could leave the house at some point. I opened it to put the cone on so I could shower and he pushed his way out. Three attempts to put him back in ended with him pushing off with his front legs and landing on his back-not good. So thankful a sitter came to get the kids out of the house! Started to eat a little which is good! I sat with him all morning then carried him to the computer and put his bed down beside me so he could sit while I worked.

ALSO great news! Cary (featured pet) was adopted! Lifted my spirits.

Still way to mobile, hard to confine. Wants to go out, stands at the door and when I take him he won’t potty tries to walk to backyard. Good news is he at least isn’t going after his staples so the cone can stay off while we are around. Thinking ahead to next week when Dave is out of town and wondering how I can take care of everyone. Winston is like an infant right now. These first two weeks are going to be tough especially when Dave has his surgery next Friday (torn lateral meniscus). Ate a little too!

Called our vet to see if we should give him a mild sedative to help him sleep (stay off of his leg while it heals)Dave slept downstairs with him.

Winston6_8Saturday, June 8, 2013-Mr. Mobile again. Still not going to the bathroom much. Dave tried to see if we could put his bed and quarantine him on the porch so he could enjoy the fresh air-didn’t work. Gave him ¼ of a pill (sedative) and an hour later was asleep. I don’t believe it! The first time in days that he has slept during the day-ahhhhh! Last thing I want to do is drug our dog but he’s off his leg which will let it heal. Of course, I walked out the door to buckle our daughter in her car seat and look what happened. Clearly he jumped up on the sofa which he is not supposed to do. Can’t leave him for a second.

Sunday, June 9-Actually left him alone for the first time since surgery to go to church. Carried him up to a second story bathroom and put the collar on. Not happy but it seemed to work out okay.

Winston6_10Monday June 10-FINALLY pooped!!!
Had to carry him down 14 stairs and to the back of the back yard but he did it! Never thought I would be so excited about a poop and that I would tell people!
Bad thunderstorms, still shakes even when sedated.
Rough night of sleeping downstairs. I didn’t sleep much and both kids visited me at different times in the night since I am the single parent this week. Going to carry him up to our bedroom tomorrow night and put him in the bathroom, need a good night of sleep.

Tuesday June 11-Dave out of town and by 8 have already carried Winston out four times (2x in front, 2x in back) because he appears to need to go potty. I didn’t realize 60 pounds could be so hard to carry Hope my back holds out as Dave is having surgery Friday and I will definitely be the only one carrying our dog.

Week 2

Wednesday June 12- A week since surgery, doing pretty well. Carried up to the bedroom so I could get some sleep.  My back is hurting can’t wait for Dave to return home.

Thursday June 13- His hair is starting to grow back.

Winston Dave ACLFriday June 14- Dave’s surgery Day (torn lateral meniscus like Winston). Poor Winston had his first accident since he was a puppy. We were only gone for 5 hours but he obviously had to go. Washing the comforter and airing out the bathroom.

Saturday-Monday June 15-17-I’ve had a reprieve from carrying Winston upstairs to confine him when we leave the house or go to sleep because Dave is laid up recovering from his torn meniscus surgery. The men of the house are both hanging out in the family room together:) Thankful surgery went well for them both. Some funny similarities in the recovery process. So far Dave is a better patient.

Tuesday June 18- First Post-Op visit to the Vet to get Winston’s staples out. Rough visit because of the wait and other dogs but the vet said he looked good, 10 more weeks. At least he doesn’t have to wear the plastic cone collar when we leave the house anymore-yippee!!!

Week 3

Friday June 21- Accidental Overdose

W medsSomewhere in my exhaustion managing medications for two patients I grabbed the wrong bottle and instead of giving Winston 2 pain killers I gave him 2 sedatives and I didn’t know it. About lunch time I noticed Winston was lethargic and not very responsive. To my knowledge nothing had changed. I worried he had a stroke, re-injured his leg and was in shock or had heat stroke. The kids and I took him to the emergency vet clinic where he had his ACL surgery in case it was related and no one could figure out what was wrong with him. His vitals seemed good but he absolutely looked off. We decided to run a blood test to rule out things. As soon as we left him his blood pressure dropped and he had a fainting spell. They went ahead and hooked him up to an IV and gave him some fluids. When I got home I noticed the green (sedative) pill box was in a different location on the counter and I wondered… I counted the pills and figured that’s what I must have done. I immediately called the vet and she said that’s got to be it. They went ahead and monitored him for the rest of the afternoon and he was very sleepy for the next 24 hours. Needless to say I felt like a horrible person! After all that he had previously been through, I drugged him, hauled him off the the emergency vet where he had to undergo additional medical treatment. A little scared about the cost… Thank you Winston for forgiving me.

winston foodWeek 4

His hair is starting to grow back!

Week 5

Winston had three days of potty problems (sparing descriptions and pictures although I did have to take a sample). He picked up Giardia and needed frequent trips outside. I got to cook him chicken, pasta and rice. At least he didn’t look at his plate and say “yucky” like my five year old. He loved it all! Antibiotics cleared it up in a few days. Poor guy he’s been through the ringer.

Week 6

Wishing my husband could lift/carry Winston upstairs to the bedroom…

Week 7

Winston sofa
Had a pet sitter take care of Winston while we had a family vacation. Sad not to take Winston but had no idea how nice it was to have a break of lifting, quarantining and walking him on the leash.

Week 8

Wow, he seems much improved. He’s putting weight consistently on the leg and is walking well. The problem is he thinks he is 100% and wants to roam, run free outside, climb stairs and jump up on all the furniture. He doesn’t understand why he can’t get on the sofa:( Three more weeks until we get his follow up x-rays and see if his physical restrictions can be lifted.

Week 11

We had our follow up appointment and x-rays, hoping for a green light to resume full activities with no restrictions. Good News: Plate in place, bone healing nicely. Bad News: 85% healed, noticeable muscle atrophy. He needs three more weeks of being on the leash outside and needs to double his exercise (walks) to help build muscle. He can be loose in the house now and can jump on the sofa. That makes him happy:) It’s been a long road but he is worth it!

Week 12

Winston jumped on the bed for the first time! He’s doing great.

Week 13

The day we get approval for him to run free is the day part of our fence has to be taken out to clear a tree that has fallen. So funny! Oh well, at least we are used to walking him. Another month or so won’t hurt any of us. So thankful he is healed!