"I have just discovered that my mom's dog, Dodger, has a cranial cruciate tear, and possibly a meniscal tear as well. The vet recommends surgery ASAP, but it sounds costly and dangerous. Also, the pain medication makes him much more miserable than nothing at all. Is there an alternative treatment that can help Dodger? In the meanwhile, he's really mastering walking on three legs."
This month has seen three emails about dogs with cranial cruciate ligament injuries, so it seems a timely topic to cover. As with most things in disease, there's a deeper story that's often missed in the rush to "fix what's broken" that conventional medicine is so good at.
You know the surgeon's motto, right? "A chance to cut is a chance to cure."
It's a shame that they don't know what cure really looks like.
No, surgery does not cure patients, especially torn cruciate ligament patients.
Here's another example from my inbox this week:
"My 5 year old yellow lab Ginger, is as healthy as a dog can be - very energetic, happy, and just an overall joy; however, two years ago she tore her ACL (or cruciate) and we had the TPLO surgery done (as you know, a very expensive surgery). The surgery went well but she started developing some arthritis and would limp a little after a long walk. Just about a month ago, she leaped up the stairs, and the Vet told us that she has torn the other leg's cruciate. Considering I am getting married this year, the last thing I would like to do is spend $4,000 on the surgery and have to see her such a mess the weeks after surgery."
What's Wrong With This Picture?
We're talking about damage to connective tissue, ligaments holding bones together, in this case in the knee, aka stifle in our animals. Humans have anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) and animals have the very same ligaments, called cranial cruciate ligaments (CCL). When a football player "blows out his knee," that's usually a cruciate ligament injury, and its usually a result of extreme contact in the game.
How about dogs?
The rupture of knee ligaments in the dog is often not a result of strenuous contact, though a dog stepping in a hole while running can be part of the history in some cases. But we really need to look to those who study these cases carefully to find the deeper reality.
Fact: Knee inflammation usually precedes rupture.
Fact: Many dogs present with bilateral (both sides) rupture. Do you suppose they fell in two holes? No, of course not.
Fact: Just like Ginger, a rather large percentage go on to rupture the other side after the original one has been repaired at great expense and lots of awkward cage rest. This study of close to 400 dogs in three geographically different groups showed 54% rupturing the other side within two and a half years of the surgery. These figures were remarkably close to several other studies cited by the authors.
As you can imagine, cure has in no way taken place in those dogs who were operated on, right?
If more than half rupture the other side later on, it's not difficult to see the underlying disease was not cured.
And did you notice both writers above used the words "costly" or "expensive?" Yes, thousands of dollars to "fix" a lameness that's likely to come to haunt the other leg.
Not a great investment, is it?
Missed Understanding: Inflammation First, Rupture Later.
The researchers in the study linked above, and those in this one, and this author, all saw inflammatory markers in the joint fluid of animals presenting with cruciate ligament disease. The last one spelled out clearly that this is a disease of multiple joints.
Why the inflammation?
A common theory is autoimmune disease, the attack on one's own tissues by a confused immune system. The balanced immune system should be watchful for foreigners and leave "self" alone. When the difference between foreign invaders, cancer cells, and one's own tissues is blurred, we have the very large group of diseases known as autoimmune.
Autoimmune? Oh Oh.
Why would the immune system attack the individual it was designed to protect? There are reasons, all of them man made:
- Vaccinations. The biggest reason for immune confusion ever.
- Exposure to solvents. Ever notice the high percentage of ingredients in your topical flea treatments that are called "inert?" Yep: solvents. They'll take the color off your leather couch, if you're not careful.
- Heartworm preventatives. Jean Dodds' work showed this in DVM Magazine years ago.
Some truly scary autoimmune diseases include:
- IMHA--Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (attack on one's own red blood cells)
- IMTP--Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (attack on one's platelets, the cells that help blood to clot)
- Addison's Disease (adrenal gland attack by self)
- IBD--Inflammatory Bowel Disease (chronic inflammatory vomiting and/or diarrhea. Super common in cats..)
- pemphigus and lupus (skin deterioration from immune attack)
Prevention Causing Autoimmune Disease? Damn.
Well, if you're counting, you'll see the top three reasons for these illnesses come from the "prevention" promoted by Dr. WhiteCoat. Have you stepped out of that paradigm yet?
If you were to take just one step to safer ground, it would be to opt out of repeated vaccinations in adult animals, regardless of species. You know they don't work, right?
Treatment Options for Cruciate Ligament Disease.
So, to sum up, the underlying reason cruciate ligaments fail is likely man made multiple joint inflammation (ever see a wolf with a bum knee? Me neither.) That inflammation led to weakening of the ligaments of the knee which eventually ruptured, causing your dog to be lame.
Likely you've been offered a state of the art, multi-thousand dollar surgery called TPLO to "put things back together." Weeks of cage rest follow, so your expensive investment doesn't fall apart and the other knee blow from overuse.
Whoa there. Check this research first!
There's a study here, published in the AVMA Journal, showing dogs who got this TPLO surgery were 40X more likely to develop bone cancer.
Guess where it occurs?
Right in the "proximal tibia," i.e. the site of the bone cutting surgery!
Not only is this osteosarcoma a horribly painful cancer, it's pretty much uniformly fatal, even if they "take the leg" off that has the tumor.
How about drugs, instead?
Common drugs used for bum knees include the NSAIDs which damage joints while dampening the pain signals that would tell your dog to slow down, and take it easy. Likely Dodger's stomach was upset by these drugs.
So, who you gonna call?
I've treated a handful of these dogs over the years, and none have had to go to surgery. They've become sound to a large extent, with homeopathic treatment tailored to the "whole animal." They are treated as individuals, so there's no "one size fits all remedy" as is common in conventional medicine.
But I've also seen some simple acute remedies help in the short term, and I cover my cruciate protocol in the my acute homeopathy membership group, Vital Animal Alpha. Who knows? I may add this protocol as a bonus to signing up for my Vital Animal Pack (you'll see how at the bottom of this post). My pack members are the first to hear of all new courses, and they may receive an early bird discount.
To get to the depth of this cruciate disease though, view it as the chronic disease that it truly is. Hire a veterinary homeopath to help you steer a course to curing the dog who has the disease.
An acupuncturist who knows her stuff may be another good option. But emphasis needs to be placed on cure, not just pain relief.
Meanwhile, at home, get a well made knee brace. That's especially helpful in the bigger guys (over 50 lbs). My friend Jim Morrison offers professionally made braces. Click here to get in touch with him (and tell him Vital Animal sent you).
Ever had a dog who had this disease? We welcome your stories in the comments below.
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash