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Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tear: Izy the Golden’s Story

By Christy True
July 27, 2022 • 3 min. read
Cute golden retriever

Key Takeaways

  • Izy is a five-year-old English cream golden retriever who, true to her breed, loves other dogs and people.
  • She was playing with some other dogs when she started limping. It turned out she had torn her cranial cruciate ligaments (similar to an ACL tear in humans) in both legs.
  • Izy underwent surgery on both legs – five months apart. After a recovery period, Izy is back to long walks where she insists on greeting everyone.

Diagnosis: Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) tear – both legs
Claims Covered: $7,720 | Healthy Paws paid: $6,699
Coverage options: $250 deductible | Reimbursement: 90%

Izy is a five-year-old English cream golden retriever who, true to her breed, loves other dogs and people. She and her pet parent Sharon have been registered as an animal therapy team since she was a year old.

In this role, she has visited patients, visitors, and staff at a hospital in the Seattle, Wash. area until Covid-19 curtailed all volunteer activities. Sharon has since moved to Omaha, Nebraska where they plan to resume her volunteer work.  

She also participated in agility classes and earned a novice agility title. However, Izy is usually more interested in people than being active.

“Izy is not too keen on activity, absolutely refuses to swim like most goldens love to do, but shows great attention when you talk to her cocking her head and looking straight at you. She loves her hind end scratched,” Sharon said.

Last fall, Sharon found a local dog play group with some other dogs involving rough and tumble play. After one of these outings, Izy suddenly started to limp.

Hoping it was just a sprain, Sharon tried a conservative approach initially of rest and anti-inflammatory drugs, but it didn’t seem to help. Izy already had some arthritis, and radiographs indicated her quality of life would be negatively impacted without surgery.

She had torn her cranial cruciate ligaments (similar to an ACL tear in humans) in both legs. These ruptures of an essential ligament cause pain and lameness in the knee and usually require expensive surgery to repair. It was the sixth most common injury among dogs reported by Healthy Paws pet parents in 2021.

Izy goes into surgery for dog ligament tear

The vet performed tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for the limb that was more seriously injured. This surgery changes the angle and relationship of the femur and tibia and reduces the amount the tibia shifts forward during a stride.

The vet then performed an arthroscopy – a minimally invasive surgery that allows the vet to see inside the joint – on the other leg, hoping to avert or delay a second surgery.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t work, and she had her second TPLO surgery within five months of the first,” Sharon said.

Golden retriever shaved for surgery

Recovering from TPLO surgery in dogs

For both TPLO surgeries, Izy had to be limited to going outside for bathroom breaks for the first two weeks.

“I was her physical therapist, performing range of motion two to three times a day and ice or heat to the area. After that, for the next six weeks, activity was resumed gradually,” Sharon said. “One of the hardest things was seeing her beautiful coat shaved, and while her fur is growing back, it’s still a little shorter on the last surgery side.”

It took several weeks after each surgery, but Izy could slowly go on walks and greet all the people and dogs she met.

Within a few months, Izy had fully recovered from surgery, except she struggled with going up and down a long flight of stairs. She is working on regaining the skill.

“On our walks, she stops and lays down or sits if she sees someone who might be interested in petting her – as a result, our walks tend to be a bit long,” Sharon said.

Recently, Sharon went to the vet for a check-up and learned that Izy had gained eight pounds since her surgery. The vet did some blood work to see if there could be a medical cause, and there wasn’t one.

“So now we are working on exercise and restricting her food a bit. I think the key point here is that after surgery, it takes a while for activity to resume to normal and if you have a food-motivated dog who wants treats all the time, you have to be careful about the potential for weight gain,” Sharon said.

Cute golden retriever puppy

How pet insurance helped

While Sharon has had three goldens before Izy, she had never carried dog insurance. Two of her dogs died of cancer at about 12, and the third died of old age at 16.

“I thought our luck was running out – and I was right, with Izy needing bilateral TPLO surgery. To determine which insurer I would engage, I asked my vet and other dog owners and researched various online articles for comparisons and ratings. I am happy with my decision. And, Healthy Paws paid the costs within a couple of days after submission,” Sharon said.   

Does pet insurance cover cruciate ligament injuries?

After the initial 15-day waiting period, the Healthy Paws plan covers cruciate ligament issues that were not pre-existing, with one exception.

If the cruciate ligament on one leg is injured before enrollment or during the 15-day waiting period, the other leg will be excluded from future treatment. This is the only condition with the exclusion. Since both of Izy’s injuries occurred after she was enrolled, Healthy Paws covered both.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 21 dog years. She previously worked in journalism, hence her penchant for writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and right now, Tomas, a Mexican street dog rescue, is staring at her because he wants a walk. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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