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Nissa’s Story: Torn ACL Surgery

By Christy True
September 30, 2019 • 3 min. read
black fluffy dog lying in grass

black scruffy dog lying in grass

Diagnosis: Torn ACL and leg infection

Reimbursed: $6,387 | Bills: $9,023

Coverage: 80% reimbursement and $750 annual deductible

Carol’s dog Nissa had a rough start in life. She started off as a stray, bounced around to four homes before she was six months old, and eventually landed in a shelter. Fortunately, Carol saw Nissa on Petfinder, fell in love immediately and adopted her soon after.

Despite her bumpy start, Nissa is a happy and friendly mixed-breed dog who is full of energy. She went on two long walks a day and still had energy to chase soap bubbles, fetch balls and race up and down a big backyard with her Jolly Ball, Carol said. She didn’t slow down much in nine years.

Because of her friendly nature, Carol had her registered as a therapy dog, and they visit people in rehab, hospice, nursing homes, senior communities, grade schools and a Brownie troop.

“Everywhere we went, she spread joy,” she said.

A slip leads to injury

Then at the age of nine, Nissa slipped one day while jumping in the car, resulting in a diagnosis of a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).

In August 2018, she underwent extracapsular surgery on her knee. For Carol, having to spend a night at home without her pup while she recovered at the vet was traumatic.

“I cried when I left her, again when I got home, and again when I went to sleep.  The house just wasn’t right without her,” Carol wrote.  “When I picked her up the next day, she was elated to see me.”

A challenging recovery – for both Nissa and Carol

black dog with shaved back legNissa began on a long road to recovery – Carol had to rearrange her house and build ramps to accommodate Nissa’s difficulty with walking on slippery floors and going up stairs.

Besides the physical recovery, Carol and Nissa had a rough eight weeks when Nissa couldn’t get out much, and Carol didn’t want to leave her alone. Soon, they were both bored and missed all the socializing they did when Nissa made her therapy dog visits. Fortunately, Carol had friends who visited with food and helped watch Nissa so she could go out.

The recovery itself was not smooth either. As Nissa tried to hop around on three legs, the muscles on her bad leg were atrophying. Carol wondered if she would ever get back to normal.

“I cancelled the vacation that I had been planning for months because I couldn’t leave a half-lame dog.  While I was very discouraged, Nissa still had her sunny outlook and licked my face to say that everything would be OK.  Finally, at almost the six-week period, she began to walk with most of her paw on the ground,” Carol said.

Nissa started rehab with laser, massage, and ultrasound treatments, and then progressed to hydrotherapy.  For two months, she would improve a little but then sadly, regress.

A devastating prognosis

Finally, a different vet surgeon said it appeared the first surgery had failed and recommended a TPLO (tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy), a more extensive surgery with an even longer recovery.

Carol decided to have the second surgery but then was met with more bad news — the surgeon discovered that Nissa had a staph infection in her leg, which was probably what had caused the failed first surgery.

So, Nissa was on really nasty antibiotics for six weeks, plus she had the same activity restrictions.  “Again, friends rescued us from our second lonely exile,” Carol said.three senior women visiting with black dog

Yet another setback

Eight weeks into the recovery, they were still not out of the woods. At a check-up, the vet discovered she had a loose kneecap, probably also from the infection.

Nissa then had a third surgery followed by another eight-week recovery and more antibiotics, along with another round of physical therapy.

This time Nissa emerged problem-free. She has resumed her active, healthy life and Carol has her freedom back.

Besides the support of friends, Carol is grateful that Healthy Paws has been there for her.

“I submitted one claim after the other, and Healthy Paws paid within a week.  Unlike my health insurance, Healthy Paws paid what it said it would without any hesitation, so I never had to worry about how to pay for the procedures or medications. Healthy Paws rocks!” she wrote.

The claim scenarios described here are intended to show the types of situations that may result in claims. These scenarios should not be compared to any other claim. Whether or to what extent a particular loss is covered depends on the facts and circumstances of the loss, the terms and conditions of the policy as issued and applicable law.

Insured persons providing testimonials in this report have not received compensation for their statements.

If you are a Healthy Paws pet parent with a recovery story to tell, we’d love to hear it! Send your pet’s story along with photos of your four-legged family member to

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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