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My dog Cali, border collie mix, is 6 years old and has been competing in agility and flyball. However, her back leg started limping on and off for about a week, so we decided to take her to our general vet. The vet believes she has a torn CCL and suggested we take her to an orthopedic specialist, which we are doing in a week. If she does end up having a torn CCL, we would have to choose between surgery if we wanted her to compete or participate in other strenuous activities. The good news is she doesn't seem to be in any pain - the vet tried to elicit a pain response but was unable to do so. The bad news is that I might have to chose between putting her through surgery or retiring her. In your opinion, is 6 years old too old to expect her to get back into shape after a surgery or would you suggest retiring her? The last thing I want to do is put her through surgery just so she has a little more time to participate in sports if it's going to be painful for her with the recovery process.

Of course, I will be asking my own vet and agility trainer about this if she does have a torn CCL, but I just wanted to see if anyone else has been in a similar situation. My main priority is that Cali stays as healthy and happy as possible!
 

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I would have no concerns, at 6, with doing the surgery. That's basically the prime of a small or medium sized dog's life - and while you should expect a year before full return, that could easily leave you with 3-4 years of very good competition performance with your partner.

That said, I don't know many dogs who truly MISS active competition either. Like it! But are happy enough doing other stuff.
 

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I agree, for a medium sized dog like I'm assuming yours is, 6 is still fairly young. If you don't have the surgery done, she wouldn't be able to return to competition - but what would life look like? Just regular leash walks? Maybe some flat trail walks? Is that enough for her/you? If the answer is yes, then maybe don't go with the surgery. If no, then I wouldn't have a problem doing the surgery. I've heard really good things about doing physical therapy before AND after surgery decreasing both time of healing and risk of blowing out the other leg (which is pretty common) so if that's an option for you financially and you choose surgery, I'd ask the vet about it.

As long as your dog's pain is managed in her every day life, the choice is up to you. Whether that means managed by forgoing surgery and limiting activities or by doing the surgery and returning to sports is mostly personal preference - you know your dog best - as long as the dog is comfortable.
 

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A fully torn CCL is generally a painful thing although dogs are good at hiding pain. Regardless of sports, I would almost definitely do surgery on a healthy 6 year old dog. Very small breeds can sometimes heal ok on their own with a build up of scar tissue to stabilize the joint but dogs over maybe 20-25 lbs pretty much require surgery to regain normal movement, stability in the leg, and reduce or eliminate the pain.

For context, my late male tore his CCL at about 9 years of age and a large breed at about 75 lbs. I decided on a modified "traditional" fishline surgery even though he was right on the edge of recommended weight as the vet I picked had success with dogs up to 100 lbs. For a younger dog, I might have picked the newer surgeries that implant metal framework basically. Glad I did not though as he had a reaction to the small amount of metal used to secure the fishline.
It was about 4 months of recovery, first month nearly immobile, but even with the induced scar tissue in the knee he regained good mobility and seemed nearly pain free once healed. He ran around the yard at full speed right up to the day he died.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for your response - I was worried about how her quality of life would be without surgery, even if I retired her from strenuous exercises. I wasn't sure how comfortable she would be doing everyday activities. She loves to run in the yard and I would feel really bad if she couldn't even do that. I have mostly been leaning toward surgery if a torn CCL ends up being the case, but I've seen some braces advertised as well, even they can't actually fix the tear. I'm so glad your dogs made good recoveries!

Even though Cali is my dog, I am also a college student and she has to stay at my parent's house while I'm at school and they are ultimately making financial decisions. Luckily they also want what's best for Cali, but are more conservative when it comes to surgeries. Ultimately, we will probably do what our vets recommend, but it's always nice to hear about the experiences of other dog owners.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I have been thinking about this and she might be too high-energy to be limited to leash walks. She tends to have bursts of energy where she sprints around and I'd probably be worried about her being in pain after doing that. From what I've researched, surgery seems like the best option, and I'm obviously going to get advice from the vet once she has an appointment. I just want her to have the best possible quality of life
 

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If cost is a concern, start calling around to vets. Ask about how many CCL surgeries they have done, what size dogs and what outcomes. Remember that a huge part of the success of a surgery is the after care. You MUST be very diligent about use of the knee and slowly increasing activity. Even the best vet surgeon cannot prevent a re-injury if a dog is let run too soon and since there seems a genetic component to CCL tears, it is not uncommon for the other knee to tear at some point in the dog's life.

It is not an emergency surgery so you can do some shopping around for both price and type of surgery options.

I am in a medium sized midwestern city and (about 3 years ago) prices ranged from about $1500 in the urban area for a fishline repair to about $3000-3500 for the TTA (i think that is the name of the bigger implant where they reset the joint basically) at a board certified specialist hospital.
I ended up at a rural vet with a good reputation and low overhead about an hour away for around $1000 including take home meds and two nights stay with free follow up visits. Pain to drive out there and a little hard to transport a big dog that couldn't jump in/out of car but the care was top notch.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
That's a good point! My dad has been doing a lot of shopping around and the orthopedic vet we're going to for a consultation/examination has a pretty good reputation but is on the lower-cost side. We actually had some friends of our family take two of their German Shepherds there for CCL surgery. Those are good questions to keep in mind though, and I'll make sure to ask the vet! I'm hoping we can schedule a surgery during my school's spring break if she ends up needing it, but my dad works from home and is definitely capable of making sure she recovers ok.
 
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