Category Archives: ACL

Day 4 at Home: A Zoe Update and A Thank You

Every single day Zoe is getting a little bit better. Since my last post, we’ve been able to get her to start eating again! Her appetite has returned, thanks in part to the addition of some hypoallergenic wet food (mmm…). Granted, she only is willing to eat her gelatinous canned meat directly from my hands (a vegetarian’s dream), I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help her rebuild her strength.

Today has been Zoe’s best day yet; she really seems more like herself. We switched from icing her incisions to hot packing them, a change she seemed to welcome. Her cankles have subsided (can you imagine, the leggy Zoe with cankles?!) and while she’s still quite sore, she’s not as painful-seeming. Now that some of the swelling has subsided and thanks to her fancy haircut, it’s really clear how much leg muscle she’s lost. For who knows how long, she’s been relying on her upper-body strength. The good news is that today marks the beginning of 12 weeks of physical therapy where we can work to rebuild her muscle mass. Every two weeks, the program changes, so here’s what the first two weeks involve: 
First, there are the “passive range of motion exercises.” Over the next two weeks, we have to do a series of exercises that involve slowly flexing her knees forward and backward (5-10 times). Because she was signaling to me that this was uncomfortable for her (a lot of nervous lip-licking/turning back and looking at me), I didn’t push it. Hopefully we’ll have better luck tomorrow. The second component of her rehab is the “weight shifting exercise.” That involves standing her squarely on firm footing, and slowly distributing her weight evenly between both her legs, hough never putting all her weight on either injured leg. This is a tough exercise for a dog who’s had surgery on both  hind legs, but her surgeon said that we should still try a modified version of it. I’m terrified of hurting her, so I also took it easy on her today. 
After getting through the parts she didn’t like, I got to reward her with the third element of physical therapy: walking! Starting today, we are required(!!!) to do slow, short leash walks 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times daily. In addition to mixing up the rehab exercises, we get to increase the length of the walks every two weeks. 
It won’t surprise anyone that Zoe was delighted to be outside. Her tail was wagging and she was even doing a modified version of her prance. Believe it or not, she was even trying to pull me. Fortunately, all that time we spent working on “watch me” really paid off because I was able to use it as a means of slowing her down. The best part was that she was just so happy. As I’ve said before, walking is such an integral part of Zoe and my life together, so the feeling was mutual. 
Beyond learning how resilient Zoe is, this experience has also made me realize how many caring people K. and I have in our life. From phone calls, get-well cards, gifts, messages, hugs, prayers, emails, and even dog-sitting, many, many people have been there for us. I truly feel like people understand that to love us is to love Zoe. We are so grateful for the support.  
Zoe’s SociaBulls buddy, Willie, even lent her his Comfy Cone
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.


Zoe Update, Day 2: Home and Resting Up

Zoe is home!!!!!!!!!!

K. and I are so happy to have her back. It was too quiet here without her! (Though the cats loved it!).

Today is definitely a better day than yesterday. I was at the vet’s office yesterday for over an hour going over very specific instructions for Zoe’s recovery. First, there were all the medications to go over, though that that was the easy part. Here’s the real challenge: for the next eight weeks, she must remain in a “controlled confinement.” Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? Well, it isn’t. But it’s also crucial for Zoe’s recovery. A controlled confinement means that Zoe either has to be crated or supervised VERY closely in a small room without furniture she can jump on. We have to carry her up and down the stairs of our three story walk up, and absolutely cannot let her run or jump on anyone. God help us! The reason this is so important is because the first eight weeks are the critical period where the TTA device fuses. If she doesn’t injure herself during that time, the success rate for this surgery is very high and the chance of re-injury is extremely low. We are going to have to be super vigilant about all of this — especially once she starts feeling better! Right now, it’s not such a problem.

Zoe on the car ride home.
 I angered many a Chicago driver because I refused to drive over 25 miles an hour! 

After the initial excitement wore off yesterday, Zoe started to seem like she was in a lot of pain and grew really groggy. Her legs are very bruised and swollen, and the incisions are gigantic. (K., who had ACL surgery 6 years ago, says that he and Zoe will now be twins). It was awful to see her hurting and not be able to do much beyond give her pain medication and ice her legs. Even though she was super uncomfortable, she was still Zoe. No matter how terrible she felt, she would raise her head a little and wag her tail when we pet her or came in the room.

Sad Zoe face. 
The main issue we encountered yesterday was her refusal to eat. This isn’t unusual because she’s on pain killers, an anti-inflammatory, and antibiotics — all of which could upset her stomach. So when I would try to feed her, she’d dramatically turn her head away in disgust. After a few hours at home, I did manage to get her to eat some dog treats and a few pieces of kibble out of my hands, but that was it. She’s markedly thinner now and needs to start eating again. 
Zoe’s skinny little shaved butt. So pathetic! (That’s a pain killer patch on her hip).

After much prompting, I was able to convince her to drink a tiny bit out of her SociaBulls water bottle. (Whatever works!). I was just relieved she was drinking a little. Before we went to sleep, we were able to take her outside and get her to pee (again, the small victories…). If any of our neighbors saw or heard us, they must’ve thought we were crazy! (Picture us gathered around a scrawny, squatting dog in a giant cone of shame, clapping and exclaiming praise in high-pitched voices). We didn’t care. 

Because Zoe usually sleeps with us at night, I knew she would cry if we left her in her crate in the living room alone. While it’s nice that she has a big crate, it’s so big that we can’t fit it in our bedroom easily. So, I slept on the couch next to her crate — that is until Zoe woke me up at three in the morning. She was whining and I thought perhaps she wanted to go outside, but instead when I took her out of her create, she went to her water bowl and drank a ton. I’ve never been so happy to be woken up in the middle of the night!
By the morning, she seemed better. She’s still quite stiff, but she is a little more alert and has drank water without any prompting. She’s also willing to take treats from me, but is still rejecting her regular kibble. After talking to the vet, we decided that I should go pick up some special canned food for her because it has a higher water content and might be a special treat that’ll entice her to eat. Hopefully that will work! 
My study buddy.
We don’t start physical therapy with her until Saturday, but I’m looking forward to getting her moving again. In the meantime, I’m glad to see her resting. 
That’s the Zoe update for now. Thank you again for all your love! We appreciate it! 

A Wordy Wednesday: Zoe Update

For those of you who follow us on Facebook where we post regular updates, this may not be news to you (in which case, sorry for the repetition!). But in case you haven’t been following the FB page, here’s the current update:

Zoe’s surgery was successful! As the surgeon had suspected, she did have two complete ACL tears in both her hind legs, but her menisci were intact (that is a good thing!). She was already found standing up in her room the night after her surgery, and she is in good spirits. The bandages are off, and she’s able to go on short walks (which amazes me). The vet techs all say they love her, and that she’s still a sweetheart despite her pain. 🙂 It sounds very much like my Zoe is still being Zoe.

The main concern right now is that she’s refusing to eat or drink water. She also hasn’t urinated since they took the catheter out after her surgery. (I never thought I’d be writing about catheters on my animal blog, but here we are). I’m not that surprised that she’s not eating because the medication might be making her nauseous, and she’s a notoriously picky eater (who yes, is still on the kangaroo and oats diet). Last I heard, they were going to give her fluids intravenously in the hopes that it’d prompt her to go.

One of the hardest parts is that we haven’t been able to visit her. While visiting is allowed at the hospital, K. and I decided that despite the fact that *we* want to see her, it wouldn’t be in Zoe’s best interest She is absolutely not supposed to get excited right now, and we have a feeling that our presence would rile her up. Also, we were worried that she’d get anxious if we came and then left, so we’re holding off on seeing her until she can go home.

Anyway, I’m waiting for a morning update from the vet, so fingers crossed she’s doing better and can come home today. Thanks for all of your love and support! It means a lot to us!

We’re looking forward to the days at Prairie Wolf when Zoe can look and feel like this again. 🙂


I just spoke to the vet, and she drank water and peed (finally!). She can come home today!!! 🙂 I’m on my way to go get her now!

Zoe Update

Well, it’s the midst of finals week and I have revisions of a very important paper due on Friday. Instead of working on that though, I thought I’d redirect my anxiety into blogging.

As I mentioned last week and posted on Facebook, we had thought Zoe had partially torn her ACL in both her hind legs. The plan was to just try to keep her calm and see if the anti-inflammatories made a difference. If the tears were partial, there was no need for a surgical consult right away. However, after giving it more thought and speaking with our vet again, K.and I decided that it would be best to take Zoe to an orthopedic surgeon now because it would allow us to know exactly what is going on with her. Once we had all the necessary information, then we could begin to outline all our options.

So, I took Zoe to the orthopedic surgeon for a consult last week, and the news was not what we were hoping to hear: Zoe has fully torn both her ACLs. She needs surgery as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the worse the potential for severe arthritis in her knees becomes.

Photo by A. of Two Pitties.

After examining Zoe, the surgeon explained that she is a classic patient for this kind of injury: young, exuberant, and athletic. Her limp isn’t as pronounced because the injury is in both of her hind legs, which has allowed her to better mask it. (I know, it sounds counterintuitive to me too). The good news is that Zoe hardly seems to know she’s hurt. While she is very stiff going up stairs or climbing up furniture, she does not act like she is in serious pain. But after examining her x-rays and palpating her knees, the surgeon said that there are basically no ligaments left.

While she said she wouldn’t recommend this for all her patients, the surgeon recommended that Zoe have a TTA procedure on both her hind legs at once. Operating on both legs at the same time used to be frowned upon in the veterinary world, but apparently the technology has gotten better and for dogs like Zoe, it’s the best option. The alternative would be to operate on one leg, wait 8 weeks for it to begin to heal, and then put Zoe through the surgery and recovery all over again.

So here is the new plan: Zoe will have surgery on January 7, 2013. She will stay overnight at the hospital, and then will be in an e-collar for two weeks to avoid infection. (The surgeon said that she’s had dogs lick the incision site, and then develop a fierce infection. Upon treating the infection, it would go dormant and reassert itself a year or two later, forcing the removal of the implant!). After the surgery, Zoe is not to run, jump, or play at all for eight weeks in order to allow her knees to heal. (Obviously, the cats will have to remain separated from her at all times). We will also do extensive physical therapy with her for at least three months.

In the weeks leading up to the surgery, we are supposed to keep Zoe as calm as possible. She is not supposed to run, play, or walk longer than 10-15 minutes at a time. We usually walk 2 hours a day, but now we can only do 10 minute walks, three times a day. That is a quarter of her regular exercise.

No SociaBulls for a long, long time. 😦

We also have to carry her up and down the stairs (we live in a building without an elevator).

To help us with the stairs, we purchased something called the “help ’em up harness.” It’s great — the only problem is that Zoe hates it and starts shaking whenever I take it out. She doesn’t understand why she can’t just get up and down the stairs in her own way (who cares if she looks like a bunny trying to do it?!). I’ve been trying to slowly get her acclimated to the harness by associating it with positive things like treats and short walks, and in the meantime, I have been carrying her up and down the stairs. My arms, legs, and back are pretty sore, so I think I might need to move to the harness soon to avoid really hurting myself! Though Zoe is a petite girl, she’s still 50+ pounds.

Then there’s the financial issue. Let’s just say that we will be paying off this surgery for a long, long time. Unfortunately, we do not have pet insurance. We had been planning on purchasing it for Zoe, but then her allergies started, and we thought we would no longer be able to be approved anywhere. I don’t think that’s even true, but it’s too late now. (See Two Pitties in the City for a fantastic post on dog insurance — don’t make our mistake!!). Obviously, we would do anything for Zoe and want only the best for her, so we will make it work somehow.

Beyond those challenges, we’ve encountered other side effects resulting from Zoe’s decreased physical activity. See Exhibit A:

Do you see Zoe in this photo? 

We received this gem of a photo from our dog walker. As you can see, Zoe pulled the blanket that was over her crate inside, and also managed to pull a pillow from our couch into her crate and destroy it. Such an event happened twice in a week.

See Exhibit B:

Ironically, I gave K. this blanket while he was recovering from his own ACL surgery.
Yes, she destroyed K.’s beloved Bears blanket, which she somehow pulled into her crate from the couch. 
Over the past two years with Zoe, she’s only shredded something in her crate twice — and that was within the first few weeks of bringing her home. Without her regular exercise, Zoe is redirecting her energy in negative ways. I’ve tried using brain toys and giving her special bones to chew, which do seem to help. Still, nothing replaces a good long walk — for either of us. I’m particularly devastated to miss SociaBulls walks, which have been a regular part of our weekend routine for the past year (though at least I can participate in my capacity as new member co-coordinator and as a dogless walker!).
Photo by A. of Two Pitties.
I’m sorry if this post has been a downer, but I’m still processing all of this. I know that we are lucky that Zoe is not suffering from anything life-threatening, and that we have access to such wonderful veterinary care. The months ahead will be a challenge, but I know we will get through it somehow! 
If anyone has been through a similar experience, I would love to hear how you managed. Any advice about keeping Zoe calm (and anything else) is welcome! Thanks for the support, friends.

Update: Zoe loves life a little too hard (no, really)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Zoe loves life.

She is just a happy dog. All the time. 
All it takes is fleeting eye contact to get Zoe’s tail wagging.
Zoe loves blankets.
Or rather, being underneath blankets.
And cats.
Well, sort of.
Zoe loves naptime with her people,
and SociaBulls walks.
(Thanks TwoPitties for the photo!).
Even when she’s experiencing something she hates, she can’t stay upset for long. 
She’s just a really goofy dog who always makes us laugh.
Part of her zest for life manifests itself in feats of athleticism. She’s been known to jump over other dogs, cats, human beings, and various pieces of furniture. While I try to channel her energy in long walks, sometimes that isn’t enough. 
As anyone who has been following us on Facebook knows, Zoe has been limping on and off in her back legs for the past few months. At first, I thought she had just played too hard and maybe strained a muscle. When the limp went away, I figured I was right. But then I started to notice that she was still having a difficult time climbing up our stairs or jumping onto the couch. Her movements were stiff, almost arthritic. For a two year old dog, we knew something was wrong. When she became nearly unable to put weight on her left hind leg after a walk, I called the vet. We brought her in for x-rays, and it turns out that she has partially tore her ACL (it’s called a CCL for dogs) in both of her back legs. This accounts for her “bunny hop” method for traversing stairs and her difficulty with repetitive movements (like going from a sit to a stand). Apparently, this is a very common injury in larger dogs. We don’t know exactly when or how Zoe did this, but somewhere over the course of her life-loving antics, she managed to do serious injury to both her hind legs. The good news is that since our vet visit, we have put her on an anti-inflammatory, which has helped a lot. She doesn’t seem to be in pain, and as everyone on our SociaBulls walk yesterday could see, she is certainly acting like her normal self. 
Photo by A. of Two Pitties.
So what does this mean? Well, we’re not quite sure yet. It’s possible, and perhaps likely, that Zoe will fully tear her ACL in both legs. (When a dog, or human for that matter, tears one ACL, the other one is often next to go). The plan currently is to see how Zoe does after this round of anti-inflammatories, and then reconvene with the vet. We’ll also probably have a consult with an orthopedic surgeon to see what our options are. As of right now, I am definitely not inclined to rush to surgery, especially when her only symptoms now are only stiffness after walks. I’ll never forget when K. tore his ACL playing soccer, and how traumatic and painful his surgery and recovery were. We don’t want to put Zoe through something like that unless it’s absolutely necessary. 
For the time being we’ll wait and do our best to keep Zoe calm, which has been the real challenge. The vet has said that we are allowed to keep walking her because it’s safer to tire her out that way than to risk the alternative (i.e., the zoomies), but she still has a lot of energy. 
In any event, I really appreciate the outpouring of love when we posted the news on our Facebook page, and I know that many of you have been through similar ordeals with your pups. I’ve appreciated your advice and stories. I’ll be keeping you posted!