Strong, athletic, and energetic, Alaskan malamutes love to romp around, especially when they’re puppies. In early May 2018, Dr. Rick Williams purchased a dual knee brace from us for his dog, Zoe, an Alaskan malamute who tore the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in both legs. At just 15 months, Zoe wasn’t old enough to undergo knee surgery so Dr. Williams looked into non-invasive methods to help her injury heal.
CCL Injury in Both Hind Legs
Along with his online order for the Ortho Dog Cruciate Care Knee Brace, Dr. Williams sent us some information on Zoe’s condition. In about 60% of CCL injuries, once one leg has a ligament tear, the other leg gets injured shortly thereafter. This was the case with Zoe:
“Our poor Zoe, a 15-month-old Alaskan malamute, tore the ACL in her right leg. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for her to tear the left, as she couldn’t use her right leg. They can’t do surgery for at least four months, as her bones are just not ‘grown in’ as of yet. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch her crawling around like a big turtle. She has two big sisters she wants to play with (about 140 lbs each), and we just can’t allow her to do it.
Sometimes she gets a tad better, walks or runs, and—you guessed it—re-injures her legs. We are hoping this will not only give her needed support, but also help her to avoid re-injury. The brace looks like a great design, and we are very hopeful this will give her relief, unfortunately on both legs. We will give you updates as she progresses!”
Adjusting to the Dog Knee Brace: One Leg at a Time
To help Zoe get accustomed to wearing a canine knee brace, we recommended that Dr. Williams begin by bracing just one knee at a time. This is our general recommendation for most cases, as it is more difficult for a dog to ambulate with both knees braced. In situations where there are acute, recent tears in both, you can add the other knee brace from the get-go, but it usually works easier for the dog if they have a chance to get used to one brace at a time.
As promised, Dr. William sent us an update with Zoe, after about ten days of her wearing the brace:
“So far she is doing really well. The rig really forces her to calm down, and stop re-injuring her legs. This is huge for us!
She really doesn’t seem to mind the brace at all. She is just a puppy, about 115 pounds, and too young for the orthopedic doctor to do surgery—maybe in a couple months when her bones are fully grown. Laying down and getting up in the braces were the hardest for her, but she is getting the hang of it! So far, so good!”
Dog ACL Surgery Alternatives Lead to Full Recovery
About a month later, we checked in to see if there was any news on Zoe’s injury and recovery.
Dr. William’s had some exciting news to share!
“You guys will love this! We went to the orthopedic doggie surgeon early this week, to get X-rays to see if her bones were ‘grown’ in enough to get ACL surgery. It looks like, for the time being, there is no reason to get surgery! Between the braces and the cold laser (which we purchased), she is doing really fine!
She occasionally has bad days when she overdoes it, but for now, no invasive surgery! We couldn’t be more pleased.”
Go, Zoe! According to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, cold laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular in treating both acute and chronic issues in canines.
Want to learn more about non-surgical treatment options for dog ACL injuries? Check out our recent blog post.
Thank you to Dr. Rick Williams and his family for sharing updates on Zoe. We are so glad she can get back to playing with her siblings without limping!