Can my dog recover from a torn knee ligament without surgery?

By September 18, 2015Uncategorized

Hello ! My name is  “Britney”  and I am a 15-year-old miniature poodle.

About 2 years ago I was out for a walk with my mom, Nancy, when I felt pain in my knee and couldn’t put any weight on my leg…ouch!

Mom brought me to RYAH where Dr. John  diagnosed my pain as an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) rupture. This means I’ve torn a small ligament that prevents my knee from rotating or moving forward.

Surgery is the best treatment for this condition, but at the time I was sick with some liver problems and a complicated skin infection. This is why Mom and my veterinary team at Royal York Animal Hospital decided the best way to treat my knee injury was with physical therapy.

Physical therapy is the treatment of injury or illness using techniques that decrease pain, restore function and mobility, and prevent permanent disabilities.

This is when we met Dr. Luisa Alvarez. She is trained in Animal Medical Acupuncture and Canine Rehabilitation Therapy. Her treatment plan had two goals; to reduce inflammation and pain and also to return my leg to normal function so I could get back to chasing squirrels!

Pet Acupuncture in Etobicoke

Britney sleeping soundly after acupuncture

Reducing inflammation and pain was the primary goal for the first 2 to 3 weeks of my treatment. Some of the modalities (techniques) included:

  • Cold therapy (Ice): reduces cell activity by reducing blood supply, also aids in decreasing pain.
  • Acupuncture: reduces pain and inflammation by stimulating local nerves and cells.
  • Laser: increase energy inside the cell, increases blood supply and relaxes muscles.
  • Joint mobilization: movements of isolated joint to increase blood supply and increase flexibility.
  • Electric stimulation: use of a soft current that blocks pain and reduces inflammation. It can also promote muscle contraction.
  • Massage: decreases pain, reduces swelling, breaks down scar tissue and promotes relaxation.

Once the inflammation and pain were under control we started working on getting my muscles strong again. To achieve this Mom and I worked on a series of therapeutic exercises:

  • Passive Range of Motion (PROM): Mom would move my leg for me, working my muscles with out the risk of re-injuring my leg.
  • Stretching: also with Mom’s assistance, this helped me regain my flexibility.
  • Active therapeutic exercise: this was done on my own, with Mom only helping by guiding me. This type of exercise increases strength and helped me use my leg normally again, also improving my balance and aerobic capacity. We started really slowly, by going for short walks on the leash. Mom sometimes would put a scrunchy on my good leg to encourage me to use the weaker one. As I got stronger, the exercise slowly got harder.

Nowadays I am doing great! Dr. Alvarez sometimes needs to be reminded which was my injured leg. I love to go out for walks and play like a happy dog. I still go for acupuncture to keep my leg from hurting. I don’t really enjoy the part with the needles, but I have the best naps after my treatment!!

Pet Acupuncture in Etobicoke

Britney after treatment

Other conditions where physical therapy may be beneficial include:

  • For orthopaedic conditions. May be used before, after or in place of surgery for treatment of fractures, hip dysplasia, amputations, etc
  • After some neurological surgeries (disk surgery, etc)
  • To relieve back pain and help in the recovery from some neurological conditions.
  • As part of a weight management plan.
  • Wellness and body conditioning (for athletes such as agility and working dogs)
  • Maintaining body condition and mobility in older dogs by promoting strength and flexibility.

Dr. Luisa Alvarez