Name:  Dexter Bryant

Owner Name: Carol Bryant

I have my own blog at:





Breed: American Cocker Spaniel (age: 5 years young)

How was your dog injured?

After a fun play session at the park in early March, Dexter developed a lameness and bit of a hobble gait at night and after rising from a resting position. Despite rest (ha, tell that to a Cocker) and not allowing him to jump off furniture nor walk up or down stairs, a significant difference was not noticed. Off to the vet we went.

What was your daily exercise before routine before the injury?

Daily walks, several play sessions (2-3) in house per day (ball, toys), and going to the park at least daily, weather permitting, to play ball – fetch.

How have you adapted your routine to accommodate the injury?

When Dexter was recovering from surgery, I knew if I didn’t keep his mind stimulated and in some way, shape, and/or form knowing that life is off kilter but not in pause mode, he would become depressed. I also wanted to keep his body moving in the best way I could without causing issues to the affected leg.

These are some things we did and recommend:

I am a strong advocate for teaching a dog a variety of skills so that when some of them are needed in a crunch time (like postop period), dog moms and dads can call upon them. Case in point: The Nina Ottosson Collection of games is designed to exercise the brain

My dog gets cabin fever when stuck inside too long, so imagine him being under doctor’s orders not to walk. I would put a treat in one hand or under a cup and see if Dex could find it from his seated position. Since sedentary dogs tend to gain weight, I advise keeping the type of treats to a low-cal or healthy minimum.

Massaging a dog is therapeutic, so no matter what level of recovery a dog is in, a proper massage done by a loving pet parent relieves stress, calms the nervous system, reduces pain perception, helps eliminate toxins and reduce swelling/edema, and triggers the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Just use caution in how you massage, where you massage, and pay attention to your dog’s body signals: Stop if he or she is not enjoying the massage. Never apply too much pressure and seek professional guidance on how to massage a dog.

One of the books that helped me learn a lot is that of Sue Davis, a physical therapist whom I have had the pleasure of forming a friendship. Sue has a terrific book on physical therapy in animals. As I was privy to an initial manuscript, I learned of the many therapeutic modalities available for dogs undergoing body injury or surgery. I learned that physical rehab can include acupuncture, underwater treadmill, water therapy, class IV cold laser therapy (we did this and will again), massage and stretching, balance board, hot/cold therapy and more. These activities not only strengthen a body back to its norm but stimulate the mind and prevent boredom.

“Hide the balls now.” I was told this over and over by those in the know and those who know Dexter. Spaniels love their squeaky balls. I say nope. We just modify how we play what we play and when and where we do it. So while the box of balls is out of the way, it isn’t put away. We lay on the bed and gently play tug of war with the squishy ball. I reward Dexter with a soft treat every minute or so for letting the ball go and giving it to me. He knows letting the ball go gets him a treat. He knows we aren’t rough housing. This should only be done if you are certain the dog is able to move his or her neck and has doctor’s orders to do so.

Depending on the size of your dog, consider a pet stroller. I picked one up from the Pet Gear line that is called a Jogger Stroller, with great wheels and able to accommodate a dog up to 70 pounds. I wanted Dexter to feel like I was not neglecting the outside world and his presence in it. So we would pack up the stroller and take short but much-needed walks in it. He loved it. If a stroller isn’t for you, like for a Great Dane or a dog that is wiggly or girthy, then just get outside and sit somewhere together. Let the dog feel the blades of grass between his paw pads and just get some fresh air in his lungs. Decide if you can get Fido into a car. Find a favorite spot and just sit there. It’s a change of scenery. I know when I had my surgery last year, it felt good to get out of the house. Let passersby know that your dog is not be disturbed. Remember, even a super friendly dog, like my Dexter, will react and snap if in pain.

I am not endorsing any products, nor am I being paid to say this, but what saved me was a onesie for dogs from Tulane’s Closet. The cone of shame need not bring a dog’s spirits down. I knew Dexter would be more upset and depressed in wearing an Elizabethan collar aka “cone of shame” than the actual surgical recovery itself. So I looked into other options, and low and behold: I discovered viable lick preventative measures that are available for pet parents who want an E-collar alternative. Granted, some dogs will figure out how to get through garments and bandages, so I wanted something easy to use, safe for my dog, and that would not dampen his spirits. Enter the onesie from Tulane’s Closet. There are pet parents who guffaw at dogs who wears clothes or who turn their nose up at the idea of dogs in couture, but get this: My dog is totally okay with a onesie because, after all, it’s just clothes to him. If clothes aren’t your thing, consider a soft cone at the very least or the BiteNotCollar.

 What types of therapy are you performing and is it helping?

This is Dexter’s timeline:

March of 2013: ACL partial tear diagnosis from doing a jump for the ball at the park

April of 2013: Cold laser therapy sessions at the local pet rehab center

May of 2013: Custom orthotic ACL stifle brace to wear for 4-6 months with modified activity (read: no jumping)

Early August of 2013: 90 days the brace and all seemed well

August 2, 2013: A 90-day update of the ACL saga (on my blog)

Mid August of 2013: Limp – pop – stagger.  My dog injured the same leg but worse. Surgery is required. A partial tear became a full tear.

September 3, 2013: Two-week postoperative assessment and update of ACL surgery on my blog.

To answer your therapy question:

Dexter’s board-certified surgeon gave us the clearance to allow Dexter to play off leash, consider a physical therapy program: At home and/or a PT center for pets, and that the surgery is what he deemed a “complete success.”

So we decided to do in-home therapy and gradually increase the walks and off-leash time.

Dexter is fully weight-bearing and no longer shows signs of a limp.

We are doing in-home range of motion and muscle building exercises provided by the therapist who helped Dexter during his treatments early in 2013.

There is some weakening of the postop leg, since the muscle was weak for so long due to injury. We are slowly but surely building up his muscle mass and keeping the strength built up in the other leg. Mobility is key: We do longer walks, off leash ball sessions, and range of motion exercises (which Dexter thinks is all a big game).

We continue with several-times-a-week dosing of Traumeel, a homeopathic supplement designed to ease any joint concerns. I first found out about this supplement from our very caring, committed veterinarian, Dr. Steven Gloates of Vetcetera.

The hair on his shaved leg still is sparse but showing signs of growing in. The front paw where Dexter was shaved to insert the IV needle still looks like “Poodle Paw,” but we look forward to that hair growing in as well.

Overall, from March to October, we’ve had quite the journey but once again, dogs teach me they are stronger, braver, and more tenacious than humans much of the time. While I was a barrel of nerves and a mess as to our little guy’s leg issues, he was and remains a valiant trooper. Dogs truly are a representation of all I strive to be on a daily basis: Live in the moment, face it as it comes, and when in doubt, wag.

For anyone considering with a dog whose ACL (also called CCL) is injured, do what you need to do based on:

  • Your dog’s age
  • Your dog’s overall health
  • Severity of your dog’s injury
  • If you decide on surgery, talk to the surgeon before any decisions are made. Be armed with questions as they pertain to your dog. Be sure the surgeon is board certified: This means extra training in that specialty has been achieved.

There is no one right answer that applies to every dog. If you want to try a more conservative approach first, by all means do so.