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.
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.
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.