Managing ACL injuries in large breeds with dog wheelchairs

Rocky got his cart to help rehab from double ACL surgery

Torn ACL injuries are common, and in large breed dogs often need to be dealt with surgically.  We usually see these dogs after repair has been done to one knee, and within weeks the strain borne by the other rear leg results in injury to the other leg... We wonder why it does not occur to veterinarians to suggest the use of a cart as a preventive and rehabilitation aid for these dogs.

Some orthopedic surgeons do - as was the case of Rocky, a 157 lb. Rottweiller who needed surgery on both his knees.  His surgeon sent him to us before surgery was scheduled to order a cart.   Rocky liked his wheels the day he picked them up - what a relief to take a little weight off his rear legs and let the cart hold him up.  His surgery and rehabilitation was a complete success, and within 3 months, Rocky's happy owner donated his cart back to us for other large breed pets to use.

We modified Rocky's cart for Spin, a growing lamb, and she used it as a rental cart for several months.  Today, we modified Rocky's cart again as a rental for Lily, a Giant Mastiff weighing 140 lbs. who has already had one surgery on her left knee.  In the meantime, her right knee has given out, and there is the possibility of lesions and possible amputation.  Lily is painful, and has difficulty walking on three legs, especially since her good leg is only a couple of weeks post-surgical.  It was great to have a cart on hand for her to use while her repaired leg gains strength, and her torn ACL on the right leg is not weight-bearing..

In this video, you can see that Lily is not weight-bearing on one side,  but the longer she stands and walks in the cart she realizes that the cart will support her.  Dogs use carts intuitively, and once they trust it, let the cart hold as much weight as they need it to in order to walk in comfort.    Instead of holding her injured leg up, she lets it fall and toe touch.  She relaxes and stops guarding against pain.  She's able to use her functional leg without overstressing it,  maintaining and building muscle mass again.   Had she had use  of a cart immediately after her first surgery, it is likely that the second knee surgery could have been avoided.