How to: BooBoo’s torn ACL

Diane, a founding member of the Fellowship of the Farmy who has been reading since the very first day of the blog asked me a question this week about her blue heeler who has a torn  ACL. (This link has a good picture of the problem).   She has also decided not to go the surgery route. BooBoo has torn his too so she wanted to compare notes on recovery without surgery.  

So hopefully this post will help Di. Also I am sure there will be lots of advice in the comments section.

I have not gone the surgery route for two reasons.  The most important being that post surgery there is a very long period when the dog has to be crated or locked up in an area the size of your wardrobe for at least eight weeks.

I know for sure that if I locked Boo into a cage for that long he would become depressed then angry then agressive. Ton would be OK we could send him to Nanny’s and he could have the crate in her front room and be fine. BooBoo is a different animal altogether. He never lets me out of his sight, it is a running joke that he wants to live in my pocket, left inside is one thing, but he needs to move, left inside in a crate would destroy him psychologically.

Then you add reason number two which is the cost of an operation that may or may not work and it seems to me that being proactive with the tear myself is a better option for this dog.

So here is what I decided to do. As usual I made a plan (after discussing with you all a year or so ago).

First change the objective – the dog and me working together to get better.  And the time line – a long, long time.  I chose to try and build muscle tissue around the tear so it is supported, reducing the risk of a complete break. Rehabilatating the leg will  take upwards of two years this way. It is not an instant fix.

So. New Rules. No jumping: down, up or over, ever. No running for the time being. No frisbee ever again. No riding in the back of the truck ever again. Nothing that has hard impact.

To reduce the swelling – for the first two months Boo was on a chain watching or left inside. He was allowed off for toilet breaks and that is all. Just a couch potato. It was miserable.

Then for the next four or five months BooBoo was on a leash at my side as I walked or on his chain where he could watch me work and if he began to hobble again back he went to the chain or my bedroom where he felt safe or he sat in the truck and watched me out the window as we started all over again. You will remember that you seldom saw him in photographs for that time. I attached the leash to my trousers so I could still use two hands, he was right behind me.

It was grueling.

He had no long walks, no runs at all. Just accompanying me on the chores then back inside or on the chain.  After a while this all became habit and then I didn’t need to chain him or leash him. He lies down and waits. He stands at the truck door waiting to be lifted down. He is like a shadow at my side. He never jumps the gates and carries a frisbee sometimes out of habit – no-one will ever throw it for him again.  Still no long walks.

I have to mention here that going on the chain is a treat for Boo.  He is happy when I call him to the chain. When I attach the chain to his collar he gets good long pats and Good Dogs and treats. This is not a punishment for him and better than a crate – he has never been crated.

Luckily the worst of it was through the winter when I am not outside for too long anyway. So he could rest inside by the fire.

And this is working. In the last two months he has begun to walk on all four paws as he follows me about. Much to my surprise. In the last few weeks there is a marked improvement. His bad leg was a little wobbly at first but he walks on it almost all the time now. I have realised that it has been a long time since he walked on three legs, hobbling about.

But when he stands still he is not standing on his bad foot but I am thinking that this has become a habit. Stationary he holds that paw off the ground and twists it.

So, recently, and for very, very short periods of time  I put a good front paw through his collar and get him to stand solidly on the three remaining feet, forcing him to put all his weight on the bad leg to build the muscle up and break the habit of rolling his toes under his paw when he is waiting. After a month of that I will get him to walk a few steps on three legs and so on.

Now, over a year from his injury: he can go off leash most of the time, he is allowed to run to the barn, once or twice a day.  And sometimes he runs out into the fields to blow the cobwebs away. He always uses his four feet now. He just walks behind me following his imaginary leash. And has adjusted to being left inside for part of the day, every day.

We must remember our time line – this will take years. “Go slow BooBoo” is now a command.

Boo will not achieve the height of canine fitness that he had when he was younger. He will never be the dog he once was but slowly, slowly I hope to get all four legs even and one day he will be painfree again.

Slowly, slowly.

I hope that helps, Di.

And have a lovely day. It is windy and cloudy nd cold  here – Wai is happy outside! The new chicks are huddling under their lights.

Love celi

Weather: It is taking some time to adjust to these wild weather swings. Farming is changing for me.

Friday 08/04 20% / 0 in
Cloudy early with partial sunshine expected late. High 71F. Winds WNW at 15 to 25 mph.

Friday Night 08/04 10% / 0 in
Clear skies. Low around 55F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.


56 Comments on “How to: BooBoo’s torn ACL

  1. oh my such a slow but patient and in the end a good solution and cure. You are marvelous as is Boo! Big hugs to you and Boo…and all the rest of the critters and humans in the Farmy.

  2. I think “slowly, slowly” is the best life advice, and much overlooked in these times we live in. We have forgotten things have timelines that
    aren’t ours.

  3. It all sounds so sensible. My poor little Alfi had the operation last November and although I wasn’t advised to crate him afterwards I took it very gently. The operation was not a success and six months later he was still limping. We’re still on very gentle exercise and for a month I have been gently massaging his leg and he’s taking 500mg of glucosamine daily. The improvement has been stunning as quite often I understand that an injury like this can also lead to arthritis. I really wish I hadn’t put him through the operation. It was hideous and he had a horrible time of it. Best to do as you’re doing.

  4. Poor Boo! It is good to know he is healing though. My Border Collie was like Boo; he never let me out of his sight, even for a moment. So it surprised me to learn that Ton would make it in a crate for an extended period of time. I was thinking that your dedication to Boo’s recovery is not unlike his dedication to you — life works both ways. Hope you have a lovely day too. — Mame 🙃

    • Though I have never put TonTon IN a cage. So I don’t know for sure… However he likes going to The Matriarchs and having a retreat and layingabout all day so i think he might quite like it – unless you closed the door of course!

  5. I am in awe of your capability to assess a problem, gather facts, weigh the options, and proceed with your gut feelings, knowledge, and experience. You are a rarity, Dr. Doolittle!

  6. You are amazing in the care you take with your animals Miss C. I truly don’t think that I’ve ever seen anyone like you.

  7. Thank you so very much for sharing the knowledge you’ve gathered while going through this painstaking process. You have, as the saying goes, (the gift of: ) The Patience of Job… I shall bookmark this post and file it away for the possibility of “someday…” and sending many huge hugs to help buttress your healing touch: )

    • Sometimes I think we leap straight to the quick fix which is often surgery without fully realising what comes after the surgery – given that one can afford it of course .. c

      • Some of us do; but I figure, if something didn’t happen overnight (unless it’s a sudden injury like an ACL) but even then why should we expect it to heal overnight? No, “Slow and steady wins the race” and there’s more than one way to “pay” for something. Personally, I’d rather invest the time and effort to fix something properly than use the “shortcut”; )

  8. Boomer tore his acl…and like you I took it slowly, slowly slowly. I used DMSO every morning and every evening until full recovery….then several months down the road he strained it again….we started over.

    It can be done…this healing…the developing of scar tissue around the tear. After that it’s watchful time for all, because it can come undone. Quickly…a turn just wrong, anything.

    Here the operation would have cost me $10,000.00 ….something I just didn’t have. So this was the only way I could go.

    Well done Miss C.

      • Well, not me. I met a lady who bought braces for her dog. The dog blew out two knees…the braces cost $400 a piece…I couldn’t do that either.

        • HI dayphoto! I’d never heard of DMSO before, and since reading your entry have started researching it. One article said it was the miracle drug for athletes in the 1980s! Can you tell me how you use it on your dog, and how much of it you use? Do you wash the joint, or put alcohol on it before you apply the DMSO twice a day? I read that the impurities can be taken right into the body along with the medicine. What brand do you recommend? Thank you for your help! Diane

          • Hi, Diane! I sure can…we’ve used DMSO gel for years and years…on horses, when they sprain a muscle and, even, on cows when they hurt their hoof. Although I had never had a dog rip his acl, until Boomer I had never used DMSO on a dog.
            BUT….if DMSO would help horses and cows why not a dog. So twice a day I washed off Boomer’s knee with clear warm water, dipped my fingers into DMSO and put it on the knee. Once on the knee I held my hand over the knee and the DMSO. (DMSO warms up the area. Boomer always, always got a sweet relaxed look on his face, when I did this.) I held my hand there for a few minutes….say three. I did this for about a week.
            The improvement of the muscle was noticeable. I didn’t over-do the DMSO…after a while it will start to irritate the skin. I used the DMSO with my bare hand so I could maintain physical contact with the gel and his leg, thus knowing the extent of warmth.
            IF you notice it is TOO warm…indicating the muscles no longer need the gel…immediately wash it off with warm water and DO NOT APPLY AGAIN!
            I get my DMSO gel from our Medical Veterinary Supply store—They carry Nature’s Gift. 70% DMSO with 30% Distilled Water.
            I hope this helps!

            • Oh Linda, thank you so very very much for this information! I so appreciate it!!! xo Diane

  9. Poor Boo – I’m glad he’s beginning to get a bit better. It’s a dog’s life 😉

  10. I think your approach, Celi, has implications for emotional healing too (mine at least), though it might take a while to find a guide who plans understands the importance of limited goals and insists on them. but also isn’t discouraged by setbacks. “He will never be the dog he once was but slowly, slowly I hope to get all four legs even and one day he will be painfree again.” Such wisdom as you convey must be innate or, as they say, “hard won.” Slowly, slowly.

    • Hard won maybe – though even as a teenager an old man said to me I was a patient child – patience is my best i think. Until I am Impatient then all hell breaks loose. c

  11. I had been wondering about Boo and how he was going, so glad to hear he’s improved. My Mirrhi has been healing from an ACL injury too…….she’s a border collie/heeler/kelpie mix…….one of those dogs that likes to run like the wind, stop suddenly and turn. She was playing with a friend’s dog and was weaving and turning so he couldn’t catch her and slipped on wet grass. it’s not a tear, the vet said, but to imagine a hair that has a little kink in it. Still painful enough for her not to put weight on it, and to be happy to lie on her bed most of the day. So I’m doing what you’re doing…….gentle exercise, no more jumping or chasing the ball. This is the hardest part, she loves that ball, but when I tried her with a little throw, up came her leg again afterwards. I think because the ball bounces many times and she bounces to catch it. The neighbourhood kids used to love throwing the ball for her, but that’s all stopped now. I also use the slowly, slowly command, and she listens to this and does, slows right down. I swim her every day too, and give her an osteo-forte capsule for dogs this is herbal and seems to be helping. Then there’s daily reiki and massage……..she lays down and holds her leg up when I tell her it’s reiki time. Like Boo, she’ll never be the same dog she was, but is now pain free and we still have our daily walks, although slow and gentle so it doesn’t happen again.

    • That is wonderful that she is comfortable and going on walks now. Well done. BooBoo is not there yet – we walked one night that Amanda was here and it has taken a couple of weeks to get over it – back to slowly slowly.. c

  12. I don’t believe I have commented before but today I feel compelled to tell you this blog means so much to me. Living in a condo in the city, the blog let’s me see how you live but even more, it tells me about your heart. I’ve been reading for a couple of years now and have come to love the daily updates on people and creatures I feel like I almost know. I have become obsessed with Wai, such a brave soul with a huge personality. Thank you Celi for not giving up on him or on Boo.

    • Bonnie what a wonderful comment. That you have been reading for a couple of years! I am so grateful. Wai was very grumpy when I let him back out this evening. I thoughtlessly tweeked his EAR to get him up and Oh MY! he got in such a mood! Growling at me. He leapt up and ran to stand beside Ton. I laughed but he and Ton took it very seriously! c

  13. We have read and seen reports recently where some surgeries for humans do not have the desired outcomes, or are not really needed– like knee surgery and prostate surgery. You have the skill for working with animals and the patience. I’m so glad Boo is able to run again, at least to the barn! xx

    • He is doing very well – he will not be fixed and back to being a teenager again – his life is changed – the good thing is knowing it. c

    • Too true, Ardys . . . . actually oft the worst outcome for humans is back surgery . . . . being aware what has happened to many people hoping for a relatively ‘ quick fix’ I personally am putting up with much regular pain but using methods like Celi does for a very fortunate Boo . . . methinks he knows . . .

  14. The interesting part is that you’ve adjusted his attitude as well as modified his exercise. He UNDERSTANDS what he’s supposed to do, and for me, that’s the most remarkable part. He’s not fighting you and his injury management. That’s treating the whole dog…

  15. Interesting and valuable info. Our Deez has an injury also, we think a combination of an old [unknown to us] event and an overuse strain when we had to leave him with a family member for a day while the G.O. had an op on his knee. He – and we- are now taking it slowly and we can see some improvement, so Boo’s outcome is heartening.

  16. You’re right again here C. Slow and steady always wins the race…Just ask the Tortise! 🙂 He is truly a lucky dog to have your slow and steady guidance to healing…just like Wai and all the other lucky creatures that have been under your care. He would probably be happy just to babysit most days anyway…so just keep bringing him little ones to watch over! 🙂

  17. I’m glad Boo is doing better…slowly, but surely. I could use him here in Texas tho. We got a new kitten and he needs a Nanny. He is a foundling. I drove up to my mechanic’s shop and heard mewing…traced it to the underside of a truck and there he was sitting on the spare tire. My mechanic came outside and asked me what the hell I was doing under his truck..haha I managed to grab the kitten and showed him. He laughed. We are still auditioning names for him. The vet gave him a couple of shots and cleared him otherwise.

    • There are lots of “tire” names out there – what about Pirelli? Racing tires so if you’ve got a racing kitten, that might fit. Firestone doesn’t have the same ring to it LOL.

      Chris S in Canada

  18. Fancy that – you finding a kitten under a truck! Who’d have thunk! You have a nose for those wee creatures. Looking forward to hearing her?her namec

  19. Wonderful to hear that Boo is well on the road to recovery, slowly slowly. Your onions look divine, so big and fat and juicy and a great tomato crop this year too. Laura

  20. Boo is such a darling… it’s wonderful that he understands your love and how to adjust to his new life…. I’m trying not to adjust, and keep promising myself that the still numb broken leg is Not the new normal….and please don’t tweak Wai”s ear… the Animal Ear Police/ or the Protection of Piggie Ear Society will be alerted !!!!

  21. 8 weeks? My last pup had TPLO surgery and I just restricted her to a small bedroom and got her a ramp to avoid stairs. I think it’s like any recovery – some docs go dramatic and others allow more PT type of activity. Of course a heeler is going to obey more than a Rottweiler like I had 🙂

  22. Celi, thank you so very, very much for this post!!! Your info and the input from the Fellowship has allowed me to form a plan for Dolly! And I feel so heartened by how Boo has responded, and we are actually already positive about Dolly’s recovery now!!! I so appreciate the input from the Fellowship of the Farmy, as there are so many who have experienced similar situations and have excellent advice! Huge Thank You Celi and Our Fellowship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. I’m late to the show again….. We did the TPLO surgery on our Beagle and I regret it to this day. Yes, the surgery worked. She was the kind of dog we could crate, but between my husband, my work and my mother – we had someone with her everyday. The water treadmill at the vets office 5 days a week was a treat for her – she loved it. BUT – the reason I regret doing it was that they damaged her kidneys with the anesthesia. She lived only 5 years after the surgery and passed at the young age of 10. But – then again – rehabing her at home would not have worked either as we both have jobs outside the home.

    so Damned if you do Damned if you don’t was our options. Good luck Di!

    • Thank you so much for your input Pat!!! With what everyone has said, I will absolutely not go the surgery route. Slow and steady…..I must remember this, and give Dolly a chance to heal. Sending hugs your way! Diane

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