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I am not a veterinarian. If you are seeking a diagnosis, please contact your veterinarian.
A few years ago, Sydney suffered a partial cruciate tear. We noticed that she wasn’t putting any weight on her rear, right leg and she was in a lot of pain. A trip to the veterinarian confirmed that it was a partial tear. She was given pain medication and told to rest for a few weeks and it would heal.
The veterinarian was wrong.
Looking back, we weren’t properly prepared for what a partial cruciate tear was or how long it would take to heal. There are so many things that I wish we would have been told and so many questions I wish we had thought to ask. So in this post, I’m going to share with you everything I’ve learned about the cruciate tear along with how we finally (after several years) healed our girl.
Please note that it shouldn’t take years to heal a partial cruciate tear. Sydney kept reinjuring it and her heavier weight slowed down the healing process.
What is a Partial Cruciate Tear?
“A ligament is a band of connective or fibrous tissue that connects two bones, or cartilage, at a joint; the cranial cruciate ligament is the ligament that connects the thigh bone with the lower leg bone – it helps to stabilize the stifle joint. Cranial cruciate ligament disease, also referred to as the anterior-cruciate ligament (ACL), is the sudden (acute) or progressive failure of the cranial cruciate ligament, which results in partial to complete instability of the stifle joint. Cranial cruciate rupture is the tearing of the cranial cruciate ligament; it is the most common cause of rear-leg lameness in dogs and a major cause of degenerative joint disease (progressive and permanent deterioration of joint cartilage) in the stifle joint; rupture may be partial or complete.” ~ Source: PetMD.com
I’ve been told by several holistic veterinarians that cruciate tears in dogs are more than likely due to an insufficient amount of manganese in the diet.
“Manganese, along with supplements containing glucosamine hydrochloride or chondroitin sulfate, makes it a recommended natural treatment for arthritis. Regularly eating foods high in manganese, plus possibly taking supplements, can help reduce inflammation in the joints and tissue, allowing arthritis sufferers to feel more comfortable and do more normal activities. Manganese has been shown to be especially helpful with reducing common pains in the knees and the lower back.” ~ Dr. Axe
There are many foods that are rich in manganese, including pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and turmeric (golden paste).
How Did Sydney Injure Her Leg?
There wasn’t a moment that we recall Sydney tearing her cruciate. However, we suspect that the tear was due to the habit of running zoomies and cutting swiftly around the yard combined with her weight.
Why Was Our Raw Fed Dog Overweight?
This is my personal shame. I’d love to blame the fact that Sydney was spayed at 6 or 7 months of age (many people believe that we should wait until our dogs are at least a year old), however, the real reason my dog was overweight is that…
- I didn’t feed her based on her activity level.
- I followed the raw feeding calculator instructions but failed to adjust based on Sydney’s individual needs.
- I was using base mixes which have potatoes, sweet potatoes, and grains and didn’t adjust my dogs’ meals based on their caloric intake.
- And I didn’t adjust Sydney’s diet after her injury when she wasn’t exercising at all.
Medical Care for a Partial Cruciate Tear
I chose not to have surgery for Sydney because the prognosis wasn’t great. The veterinarian confirmed what I had read about cruciate tears – many dogs end up needing surgery on both of their knees. As the dog is compensating for the injury, the healthy leg takes all the weight, weakening the ligaments, leading to a second tear.
The first thing we realized was that the veterinarian's prognosis that Sydney would be better in a few weeks was wrong. It took several months for her to start walking on her leg again. Within 6 months, she was back to taking walks (up to three miles), however, every now and then she'd reinjure her leg a small amount by overexerting herself.
Fortunately, Sydney isn't the type of dog to hide her pain. Unfortunately, Sydney loves zoomies and would reinjure her leg and we had to learn the signs of an impending zoom-attack so that we could stop her before she started racing around the yard.
A couple of years after the initial tear, Sydney wasn't doing so hot. One thing that our veterinarian didn't tell us was that the cruciate tear could lead to additional joint issues. Our vet also said that Sydney was at a healthy weight (she wasn't, she was overweight). After more than two years of compensating off and on, Sydney's back and hips were out of alignment and she had hip pain. There was a time when she couldn't walk on her back legs, the pain was so debilitating. So I had to act fast.
Alternative Medicine for Dogs
I was ready to try chiropractic care for dogs and the veterinarian we found was also certified in acupuncture for dogs and she was a short drive away!
Sydney's first appointment with her new veterinarian was hilarious. She wasn't a fan of going to the vet's office, she wasn't on board with the acupuncture, and she hated the alignments. We went once a month and by the third appointment, we learned that she needed to have an adjustment first and then acupuncture. The picture above was when Sydney first held Dr. Rennert's hand. In subsequent visits, she'd practically crawl into her lap when the needles were placed – she LOVED the acupuncture.
We saw improvements within a few appointments. Sydney had acupuncture monthly for three months, then every other month for the rest of the year when she switched to quarterly.
We also tried laser therapy, which was more affordable than acupuncture and although we did see improvements, they weren't nearly as drastic as the acupuncture and adjustments.
Today, Sydney still goes to see Dr. Rennert but instead of acupuncture she gets Bowen adjustments and the difference is amazing. Check out the below video – it doesn't look like more than petting or maybe massaging a dog, but it's more than that and I SWEAR THAT IT WORKS!!!! I switched out of pure curiosity. This procedure is faster so it's a shorter appointment, and, as I said, the benefits are amazing.
To find a veterinarian who practices alternative medicine, you can get a referral from local pet businesses, other veterinarians, or search for a holistic veterinarian in your area. We found Dr. Rennert by asking the vet who originally diagnosed Sydney.
What I Do for Sydney
From the beginning, under the tutelage of Sydney's veterinarian, I would massage Sydney's hips and the muscles around her rear right leg, the injured leg. This is a gentle massage that resembles T-Touch. I do the massage until Sydney sighs and then starts licking her lips, a sign that she's experiencing relief. Today, I do the massage on days when she gets too much exercise (she's running now) and has pain in her hips and either of her rear legs.
Please don't massage your dog based on my brief description. Have a veterinarian or an animal massage therapist show you some techniques. There is a great book out there on massage therapy for animals by Susan Davis that I'd recommend as well: All Hands on Pet.
Dog Supplements for Joint Health
I tried a ton of different supplements for dogs, including diatomaceous earth, which I read supported joint health. It seemed like everything worked for a time and then it didn't work. There were times that I would get excited because Sydney would go from bedridden and crying in pain, to running with her siblings 48 hours later.
I finally developed a set of supplements that help Sydney. But first, if you're coming across this blog post because your dog has a cruciate tear or partial cruciate tear, I want to share that feeding Sydney a species appropriate diet of raw dog food has been paramount for her recovery because a raw diet lacks the inflammatories inherent in a kibble diet. My dogs' diet also includes fermented vegetables which are great for the gut and promote the body's natural anti-inflammatory response.
If you're new to the concept of raw feeding, check out my page on the raw food diet for dogs.
I give the following supplements to Sydney:
Canine System Saver – this is an all-natural supplement that has been a life saver for both Sydney and her brother Rodrigo. I give Sydney four pills a day at least five days per week. If I give her less than four pills a day or if I give her CSS less than 5 days a week, I'll notice a decline in her mobility in less than seven days.
Sydney weighs 80 pounds. Update, Sydney now weighs 75 pounds.
Golden Paste – I add about 1/2 to a full teaspoon to all of Sydney's meals at least five days a week. I was worried that she wouldn't like the taste but she doesn't have a problem. She won't lick it off the spoon, but she'll eat it when I mix it into her meal or mix it with kefir. GOLDEN PASTE RECIPE
Cosequin DS Plus with MSM – Sydney's holistic veterinarian suggested Cosequin DS Plus and she now takes two tablets daily at least five days a week. She thinks that they're treats and knows to come to me after she eats breakfast for her “treat.”
Update: In September 2018, I began giving Sydney WINPRO MOBILITY. We received two bags in exchange for our honest thoughts and, honestly, it worked. While other supplements stopped working after a few weeks, WINPRO MOBILITY worked consistently well for two months. So I ordered a case!
The Cosequin DS Plus with MSM worked for Sydney, but not as well as WINPRO MOBILITY.
Natural Pain Supplements for Dogs
For pain, I alternate between DGP for Pets and CBD oil.
CBD Oil – on days when Sydney overdoes it, I give her CBD oil. She's not a fan of the oil, so I either put it on a treat or add it to kefir. I also add a small amount to my hand and massage it into the tips of her ears (inside) and her paw pads before bed.
DGP for Pets – because CBD oil can be expensive to give on a regular basis when you have a dog with joint issues and two dogs with anxiety, I find that having a natural pain supplement on hand is helpful. I've tried many natural pain supplements and the one that our dogs love and think are yummy dog treats is DGP for Pets. We keep at least two bottles on hand at all times. I alternate DGP for Pets with an anti-inflammatory called Duralactin.
How Sydney is Today
It took a lot longer than necessary for Sydney's partial cruciate tear to heal because of her extra weight, the reinjuries of the knee, and my inability to support her joint health properly.
Below is a video of Sydney in
2016 2018. This video was taken after we added WINPRO MOBILITY to her diet. Today, she's a different dog. She's back to doing light zoomies, jumping on beds, playing with her siblings, and going on walks with me. And Sydney has lost more than 10 pounds and continues to slowly lose weight. I track her progress monthly with an at-home pet scale that I found on Amazon.com.
Sydney rarely has “bad days” when she's stiff or in pain and on the rare occasion when she overexerts herself, she usually recovers in a day. Sydney still goes receives Bowen treatment every three months.
As a reminder, I also included alternative treatments, a species appropriate diet, and other natural supplements to help her.