This personal journey on CCL (Cranial Cruciate Ligament) tears/ruptures in dogs part one, is going to be a LONG post. It dates back to November 2015 and features our very special “little man” King, our American Bully. The CCL is an important ligament in the stifle joint (knee) of the dog, so when it tears or ruptures that results in partial or complete joint instability, pain, and lameness. Unfortunately it is happening to approximately 1 million dogs per year (see the stats on the dog knee brace site when you get to that point in this post). This makes for a very lucrative business in surgical repairs I can tell you when you learn the costs associated! That may be common but it sure isn’t normal. Far from normal. Let’s venture my own journey into this and see what I have learned and hopefully that will help you as well.
First as a precursor let me state that I worked as a vet tech back in the 1980s – you know the stone age. However even WAY back then we were doing regular CCL repair surgeries on dogs, although not to the degree it is happening now. Fast forward to 2015 when our own journey into the receiving end of this began…
The Initial Rupture – November 2015
We’d always noticed that King would run (FAST as that’s all he knows how to do lol) with his right rear leg swinging out as he did so. I knew it wasn’t a sound movement but then again his breed has structural challenges at best so I didn’t think much of it. That is something I’ll bring up more later in this and subsequent follow up posts. At any rate I did keep an eye on the leg but never saw him favor it during the almost three years we’d had him at this time. He turned four in January of 2016 and we got him at the end of February 2013 (here is his story: Meet King). One morning after taking one of his usual fast steps he simply hollered out and started limping. He was very distressed of course and in pain – dogs are normally very good at masking pain by necessity (most animals are as it’s survival instinct for them). So I knew it had to be bad for him to be showing it so obviously. We weren’t entirely sure if it was the CCL at first since he would walk lightly on that leg.
We (my husband and I) began full support of his body with supplements and essential oils (the latter to ease discomfort and raise vibrational frequencies). I don’t remember all we did as I didn’t document it at the time, but we sort of went very gangbuster on it all. Keep in mind that because of the bulldog so prevalent in this breed, he also has their genetic shortcomings as well as epigenetic ones from the conventional rearing line of dogs he came from.
The Initial Regimen
So his initial regimen consisted of several things. I’ll link to some of the things I still use and you can decide if those are something you want to use for your own dog.
*Essential oils – I use a certain brand, contact me if you want to know which one I trust with my dogs. I used a variety oils. Don’t ask me about dosages, etc., since that is considered prescribing which I don’t/can’t do and it is also not the mindset I share from. I believe that all modalities (like this) are there to support the body so the body can heal itself. I don’t think of this any other way. I used/use them topically for him.
*Supplements – organic sulfur (MSM), Mycoformulas (mushroom product) and fulvic-humic acid. I also created a blend from organic herbs I purchase from Mountain Rose Herbs to support his bones and ligaments. The reason I’m not getting too in depth on specifics here is because when you see the “fast forward to 2018 regimen” you’ll know that my stance is MUCH more focused on his FOOD…and you’ll know WHY as well. So be patient and stay with me to the end okay? I am only sharing what I initially did. What I do now is a lot simpler.
*King is raw fed meaning CARNIVORE fed – no veggies or fruits sort of thing (regardless of what “professional” says otherwise). SARF (species appropriate raw food) diet. He was raised conventionally meaning weaned to kibble, vaccinated, from conventionally reared parents. In fact a line of conventionally reared. I’ll get into the “epigenetic and genetic” stuff later minimally although sprinkled into subsequent follow up posts. Those are very detailed subjects all by themselves but they play the most major role in all of this. Why? Because King has been naturally reared since coming to us at age 13 months. However the damage was done before he was even born – THAT is epigenetic aka LIFESTYLE and it DOES matter! So why bother with all this natural rearing stuff then? Because we MUST start now and honor THEIR needs not our convenience to preserve and restore our canines!
*No initial exercise. We kept him restricted to our yard and home. That was a sad, sad day as he was my running partner. Schatzie took over that role until last summer (June 2017) – story for another time.
*Multiple daily massages and manipulation of the injured leg, as well as regular weekly massages of his entire body. This helps move the lymph so his body can detox itself. Also it helps improve blood flow which helps the body to heal itself.
*Cold laser – we bought our own. We actually purchased a small one for our previous dog, Meshach as he had strained his foreleg. I ultimately ended up using this more for me when I broke my ankle shortly after we got Schatzie in the summer of 2013 – she was the reason I fell in fact lol. So we just took it out and began using it on King daily. There is another one you can check out although it is quite pricey. One woman helped her dog using just this – it isn’t something I’ve used so I can’t give you any facts or attest to its efficacy although it sure is intriguing to me: https://youtu.be/jujsKDJm4uI
*Magnetic mats for all four dog beds (we knew Schatzie would benefit also). Just do a Google search and you’ll find information on those. I’ve always used magnet therapy for my own sports injuries over the years as I found it to be very beneficial. So I figured why not give it a go for my dogs. Guess what? My dogs will peel back the blankets on their beds to lie directly on the magnet pads. Hmmmm. Here is a link to one site I got at least one of the mats from (we got the collars too but honestly I didn’t like them and my dogs could take them off easily) https://magnamat.com. I also use grounding mats but they both seem to prefer the magnet mats. They both lay outside in the sun and on the ground also – following the laws of health instinctively so they naturally get their grounding. I have a category on this blog on the laws of health and more on grounding is in there: https://www.aspenbloompetcare.com/category/laws-of-health/. We follow them ALL!
Additional Challenges & Diagnosis
Within a few days of the initial injury King was also exhibiting trouble trying to urinate. IF I am uncertain on something with my dogs I will go obtain a diagnosis before I embark on my own protocol. I was pretty certain it was a UTI (urinary tract infection) but I wanted to make certain that was all considering he had this issue with his leg. I was wondering if he was having other issues I wasn’t seeing. Also I will opt for conventional care always/only as a LAST resort.
We took King to a local holistic veterinarian who was close to where we live. He did some acupuncture on him, a little cold laser (which we didn’t need but I wasn’t there my husband was and he didn’t say anything to the vet), and prescribed some Chinese medicine herbs for the UTI diagnosis which he confirmed. He did say he suspected a CCL rupture in King and that he would most likely need surgery. Everything the vet did helped King, but we didn’t go back. Let’s just say we are more comfortable with the woman vet we used for Schatzie when she had her crisis (read about it here: Schatzie Girl Is Teaching Me) so we’ve stayed with her when we need a veterinarian (which isn’t very often).
So maybe a month or so later we went to see Schatzie’s vet since she does chiropractic and we wanted to rule out any spinal issues which the first vet didn’t do. Schatzie’s vet is the one who gave the CCL rupture diagnosis. Then she prescribed a mushroom product to reduce inflammation (I was already using one as I said lol), and she adjusted him (not the knee yo okay? Just the spine). She manipulated the knee to get her diagnosis. She was insisting King would need the surgery and also that his other knee would eventually need surgery. As you’ll learn from the knee brace website that is often what happens BECAUSE of the initial surgery. It’s because you have to restrict the dog for 6-8 weeks some vets say, others say up to 90 days with NO use of the leg. So that means BOTH legs lose muscle tone. Then the “good leg” has to then bear the burden as the recovery progresses. So guess what then often happens? Yes, the wear and tear on that leg leads to a CCL rupture there. How can that be good? The simple answer is, it CAN’T! There are even more reasons why as you’ll find out soon enough…keep reading.
I had done my homework so surgery was the LAST thing on my mind. In fact, several of my friends/colleagues/animal professionals had said that 75% upwards heal on their own, especially if properly supported which I knew, but it helps to have others support you when your own dog is the one in crisis. Also remember I am a former vet tech. I’ve assisted in many of these CCL surgeries. I’ve seen the dogs come back with the other leg needing surgery and the first one not always working out either. It causes so much stress/duress for both the dog and owner. Plus the dog often gets very depressed which can lead to other health problems…such a downward spiral and so unnecessary. In fact in my research for King I learned that only about 20% of the dogs actually benefit from the surgery. That is not a good percentage. That means only 2 out of 10 dogs have any lasting benefit (I suspect in part since most dogs aren’t properly nourished). The surgery is expensive as well! Then double that if you end up having bilateral surgery (both knees)!!! Then guess what? The original leg that was injured now has to bear the weight for the other leg while it rehabilitates. What a vicious cycle and in my opinion, what a racket! Sadly for some breeds even the brace isn’t an option due to their structure. Breeds like…the bulldog. They just can’t make the brace to fit correctly because of the structure of the dog.
Let’s detour for a minute to my own injury so you’ll know how and why I was already prepared for King’s injury….
My ankle break – ligament stretch
As I stated previously I broke my ankle and nearly tore the ligaments on the top of the same ankle (they were stretched pretty badly) during a run with my dogs in July 2013, shortly after Schatzie came to live with us. I fell OVER Schatzie – not fun. She darted in front of me while in full sprint and I couldn’t stop. I consequently somersaulted over her landing badly (um I forgot about tuck and roll lol) – I’m just glad I didn’t land on King. Chiropractic helped my back, neck and shoulders. I was convinced it was a sprain – until I wasn’t. Stubbornly I resisted going to the hospital for FIVE days. Then I went to see if the break (I knew it was a break by then) was clean or not. It was a clean break and still the darn hospital not only wanted to do surgery (which was ridiculous) but kept asking me about getting “needed” vaccines. I set the record straight on that one with hackles raised and snarling!
So long story short after x-rays and opting for a cast and NO surgery thank you very much? I had that darn cast removed within four days. It was sheer agony because they had put it on so tight right over my injured ligaments! Good thing I had it removed as the vein up my leg was no longer straight but zig zagging…not good. They told me I’d need to have a new cast put on. We left that hospital and never looked back. Nope I went straight home and got myself well on my own. I had already ordered and had in my possession a compression boot. One of my brother’s is a physical therapist so he taught me how to wrap my ankle to support it when I sleep and under the compression boot. He was in agreement with my choices and supported me in it as did my husband. I know how to support my body and my dogs bodies so they can heal themselves.
I did NOT want the drugs either – that would only hinder my healing not support it! Which means I didn’t take any pain or anti-inflammatory drugs. Nope I kept telling them all I wanted was a diagnosis not their drugs, vaccines or cutting. I’m sure they were glad when I left lol. I was polite but VERY firm. I am the same way when at a vet’s office. They are MY dogs. This is MY body. I am an animal naturopath and whole health, wellness, and restoration IS the way I roll. So there.
Okay so what did I do? Exactly what I did for King except my nutrition was/is for HUMANS. I also removed processed sugar from my diet and have never taken it back up. My own nutrition improved greatly from that point forward even though it was good already. I followed/follow the laws of health. Daily. I soaked in epsom salts. And the rest of what I mentioned for King? I did for me. So I was even more prepared to support King in his rehab than if I hadn’t been through something similar myself. I think the CCL rupture is even worse though than a clean bone break. Bones can heal fast, ligaments and nerves usually heal slower. I was healed and walking again in 3 months. I only took one week off of exercise during my rehab. I did modified exercise at home during that 3 month period. I was running again in 6 months but not with any dogs for a while lol.
Okay back to King…
He slowly began improving daily. He got mini walks within about two weeks. My husband would take him for very short walks on level ground. We live on dirt roads so he just walked him there. I was off and running with Schatzie on our old route. This has been our routine since except now we also both just walk (I would still run but Schatzie needs to wolf trot/walk more than a full on run these days as she ages). It was taking a long time actually for King to rehab and I didn’t understand why (I do now though). King didn’t wholly recover apparently. His former huge hind leg muscles were both smaller and less bulky. But he began going for longer and longer walks with my husband. They eventually returned to the path we take without going up the hills any longer. King would sometimes run at home in our lower yard – we live on a half acre. That area is all natural desert habitat which means lots of rabbits, birds including quail and roadrunners, etc. King likes to chase those. We just rarely let him be unattended until his leg eventually grew stronger. He even began running his crazy, funny zoomies again! We still limited him though as we could see the knee wasn’t what it ought to be.
We kept him on the regimen for a long time. I really don’t remember how long. We eventually quit all of it with the exception of him still receiving the fulvic humid acid we have used all along for both dogs and the MSM. I’ll share more in the nutrition section below.
Then more challenges:
Last year, 2017, we were convinced King was almost fully recovered. He seemed stronger and stronger. With a couple of exceptions: digestive and respiratory issues and all of it is connected. The interesting thing is now I can clearly see he had both of those challenges already as the 13 month old puppy we had – I just didn’t recognize them for what they were yet. These I believe are epigenetic as well as genetic in nature. If we keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome, Einstein said that is the definition of insanity. By feeding generations the same old kibble junk, injecting toxic junk, applying toxic junk and calling all of this HEALTHCARE we are ensuring the demise of the species. Slowly but surely; inevitably. I have learned also that more often than we may think, less IS more.
February 2018 – Re-Injury
And the knee brace. King re-injured his knee about four weeks ago. I’m sure others will say I ought to have done the surgery. Or I ought to have done x, y, or z. Sure, hindsight is always 20/20 but I STILL will NOT do the surgery. I’m even more emphatic about that now than before.
Because the other leg would then be at risk as I already stated. He never injured that leg as the vets said he would. They were determined he would in fact.
So where did we get this awesome custom created knee brace for King? From Posh Dog Knee Brace Company. The owners of the company did this for their own dog. Because they didn’t like the standard process of getting a brace, going through a veterinarian for all of it, (which of courses raises the price), they created their own company so they could better help other dogs as well. It gave their own dog back her quality of life and they wanted that for others dogs too. I understand that – it’s why I do what I do. It all started with my dog Shadrach.
There IS a process to getting the brace. They want to make sure the brace is a perfect fit for your dog. They weren’t sure they were going to be able to make a brace for King because of his breed and the structure of their legs. IF King had been a product of the current breeding there would’ve been NO way they could’ve made the brace. No company could’ve. I will mention more on this in the last section of this post.
This company is SO awesome!! They do offer rebates if you refer others to them but that isn’t why I’m sharing – I’d share anyway. I am sharing because after LOTS of research these were the people I wanted to work with based on their viewpoints on health as much as how much they want to help the dogs – especially to avoid the surgery if at all possible!
If you decide to go this route, please be sure to read their FAQ as well as all the information on their website – it is important to make the process go smoother. Watch the videos too. I know what it is like to have questions emailed when the answers are already on the website (happens with our school ALL THE TIME). I DID read everything on their website, followed their instructions and watched the videos. They share all of the stats and information on CCL injuries.
They were very patient and kind as we went through the process. You do have to take photos, videos and do live video calls with them to ensure your dog is getting the best fit.
By the time I discovered them I was ready to move forward as all of the other companies I researched required you to do the brace through a veterinarian, or they didn’t make braces for breeds with King’s stature, etc. It was challenging but I’m not the type to give up until I find a workable solution for my own dogs. So I’ve saved you all of that trouble and I’m sharing this with you in the hopes it helps your dog. There are a lot of videos on YouTube as well on how to heal your dog without surgery.
Just do your due diligence. I am happy with our choice. King has been SO happy to be out walking again. In almost four weeks he has gained muscle back on his leg. He is also using the leg to walk around our house and yard without the brace – it isn’t recommended to leave the brace on all the time. He has no issues when walking with the brace. As you can see in the video he wasn’t using the leg at ALL initially on re-injury. He was a tripod during the first week. The improvements have happened the last almost three weeks since we received and began using the brace!
King was really depressed and mostly sleeping after the re-injury. It was hard to see him that way but also the body needs to rest to heal. I was supporting that rest with calming herbs and essential oils to ease any stress which also helped a lot.
He is a very energetic, mobile type of dog so it is just good to have our little man back more to his normal self in such a short amount of time. We will continue using the brace for the length of time suggested by Posh Dog and following their physical therapy protocol as well.
The NEW Nutritional Regimen
Remember I said this new one was simpler? It is. At first we did go back to his herbal blend for two weeks. One week would’ve been sufficient and maybe not at all. Why? Because he began to have his digestive issues again which ended a couple of days after I ended the herbs.
It is hard to describe but since we’ve learned this, we don’t give him any supplements now except for the humic-fulvic acid (HFA) I mentioned previously and also soil-based probiotics. These two have been the best support for his digestion. He only gets these a few times per week not daily. He is raw fed as I said. We have added in things that support his joints/bones/ligaments such as chicken feet, beef trachea, etc. Raw. He no longer gets any kind of treats. I used to give him dehydrated meat only treats but he now only gets praise for his “training“. He just does better without anything other than his raw diet.
His respiratory issues happen simultaneously with the digestive issues. By only feeding him the raw diet, almost no supplements, and no treats, he is doing SO much better! Schatzie receives similar treatment.
I think their bodies are just clean now and only tolerant of their real diet. The probiotics and HFA ARE from the soil – something they’d get in nature if they were living in dens, digging more (they do dig and are allowed to in a section of our yard) burying partially eaten prey then eating it later, roaming/hunting, etc. I know that I can no longer go back to a lot of stuff I was eating before I got my body “clean” either. I think it is similar for them. So by honoring that, they are doing better. I think in Western culture we feel we have to give so much more than necessary, daily and maybe even forever because we think it is all like giving prescription medication – it isn’t. I believe we don’t let the diet do what it needs to do nearly enough. A veterinarian friend of mine who passed away a few years ago had gotten to the point where he told everyone – just feed a raw meaty bone diet! Yes, he was friends with Dr. Tom Lonsdale. I know we need to pay attention to the uniqueness of each dog but first and foremost we do need to honor THEIR species as the canine carnivore they are and we’d have a lot less issues if we did. Just my own viewpoints and obviously also my experience.
Breed Challenges – structure
I left this part for last. First of all I am not a breeder but I do support the natural rearing breeders who are working to improve their breeds. They work on temperament, structure, health, longevity and their well-being for their entire lives. To me that is a whole health and COMMITTED approach. I also think our dogs deserve it – ALL dogs. I am sure you agree or you wouldn’t have read this far.
So the genetic damage of King’s breed comes from being focused on literally creating “monsters“. You know a macho “image” more than anything. I’ve seen dogs in his breed with nares so tight I don’t even know how they can breathe! Legs so short and over muscled I don’t know how they even move. Chests and stomachs on the ground. I know the knee brace people thought King was going to be one of those because that is what they typically see in their area. When they saw him on video they were relieved as they really wanted to help me. They said King had enough leg and wasn’t so low to the ground as the ones they were used to seeing. It makes me so upset to know this about his breed (I didn’t even know it was a breed until King was given to us). I was told they often have digestive and respiratory issues – DUH. I mean King does and he isn’t even bred to this extreme and I can manage his! Imagine those poor dogs – especially since I’ve not run into one yet that does at the very least raw feed!
That is where the epigenetic issues enter. Lifestyle matters. These dogs have ALL strikes against them. Lifestyle AND breeding. That leaves room for only one thing: suffering.
Why are we doing this? For looks? What about the lives these animals must live??? I know it isn’t just this breed. But right now I’m focused on his breed with this post. When we manipulate those genes for looks only – that isn’t right. It just isn’t. Function needs to follow that form and in this breed many are just not. Doing the surgery on these dogs wouldn’t be a solution either. What does that leave? A dog that just suffers, maybe eventually loses the leg? Maybe just euthanasia? I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it to be honest. I just am hoping people will see that we have a responsibility to do right by them and not just make it about us. At the very least give them the right CARNIVORE nutritional support they need! That’s the foundation and beginning. Then consider the rest – because their lives are depending on it!
In updates I plan to get more into structure as that has been a passion of mine the majority of my adult life.
So until next time…
Have a pawsitively tail waggin’, NATUROPATHICALLY healthy day!
Kim Bloomer, V.N.D., N.D. is an animal naturopath as well as being certified in small animal nutrition, with years of experience in animal wellness. Dr. Kim is a published author, writer, blogger, host of the DOGgone Truth podcast. Copyright ©2005-2023 Aspenbloom Pet Care, Dr. Kim Bloomer, All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Author/Publisher. This article is intended to be educational. However, it is not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a qualified animal health professional. Dr. Kim Bloomer and Aspenbloom Pet Care, do not assume any legal responsibility for misuse of the products discussed in this article. The only essential oils referenced on this website are Young Living.