My lab 16 months after double bilateral TTA…

Posted by Dan on Jun 22, 2009 @ 6:45 PM

In February 2008, our black lab (then just 4 years old) was in pretty bad shape. Both of her rear knees had gotten so bad she basically could no longer walk. We decided to proceed with a bilateral TTA (tibial tuberosity advancement) in both her hind legs. It was a tough decision for us, because it's not a cheap procedure and we weren't sure how we'd manage to keep her constrained for the 11-12 week recoup time.

I've blogged several times about how successful the operation was. She's really done excellent and there are no real hints of her knees ever bothering her. She'll occasionally get up slowly, but I can't say that's because of the surgery. What I do know is the dog still loves to run and jump. The knee surgery has not slowed her pursuit of climbing trees one bit, so I know she's doing well.

The other night my wife was playing around w/our new iPhone 3GS that we're trying out and I thought it was a good idea to post a video of her running and playing fetch in our yard. Well the video is not terribly exciting, I thought it might be useful for someone debating on whether or not it's worth the investment of the bilateral TTA procedure. I know in our case w/out the surgery we would have had to put her down—because she was just in too much pain and it was only going to get worse. So, seeing her run around today still thrills me to no end.

I try to play ball w/my labs for at least 30 minutes every day (weather pending.) I've run Nikki (our black lab) pretty hard this year and she's held up great. She'll run for as long as I'm willing to throw the ball and I've seen no side effects from the surgery at all. So here's she is doing her favorite activity in the world—playing fetch:

Categories: Personal


  • Dan - I have a two year old lab that needs the TTA surgery. Can you tell me what you paid? Looks like a beautiful healthy pup. 

    Settled my heart a little.
  • It's not cheap. She needed the operation in both hind knees, so that makes it more expensive (however if you get them done at the same time it's cheaper than doing each knee individually.) I believe the price of one knee is around the $2300 mark. It was definitely enough to make me wish I'd gotten dog insurance.

    I know the Vet hospital we went through was able to give us good financing options. As a matter of fact, I should be writing the last check this month.
  • That's tough. My wife and I have a 4 year old Chocolate Lab named Duke. We found out he had diabetes earlier this year. Now we pay just over $150 a month in food and insulin. Being 4 and expecting to have a long and happy life (as long as we hold up our end of the deal with shots and exercise) we're in for a ton of cash over his lifetime. Labs are such great dogs that it makes it an easy decision. Kudos to you for going for it!
  • Yeah, dogs can get expensive in a hurry! However, Nikki is doing great and there's very little evidence she ever had any knee problems. Occasionally if there's a drastic change in the weather (like an big increase in humidity or a big change in temperature,) I'll catching her licking her knees, but other than that you'd have no idea anything is wrong. She still runs, jumps and climbs trees like she did when she was a puppy!

    And we're know closing in on 3 years since she had the surgery!
  • Hi Dan. Came across your blog entry. My Lab is at the hospital now recovering from double TTA that she had last evening. I'd love to hear how your first few days went - everything I found online is for 1 knee, not two.

  • @Jennifer:

    Our Nikki really handled the whole ordeal really way. We ended up having like 10" of snow when she first came home, so that made things even harder! However, I do think Nikki has a real high pain tolerance, so that helped out ton.

    The first few days may end up being harder on you then your dog. She'll probably be pretty doped up and fairly groggy. You may need to encourage her to go to the bathroom, but once she's outside she should do her business. I really think the first couple of days were harder on *us*, just because we were so worried.

    One thing you will want to stock up on is Benedryl. Keeping a lab couped up for 3 months is a tough task--especially when company comes over. We found the Benedryl helped keep her calm so she was trying to jump when company came over (she's a jumper--which is why her knees were shot.) It's safe to give 25mg per 25lbs. I normally don't like drugging dogs (or people) but keeping her from stressing the knees was important enough that we used it--and think it helped a ton.

    The good news is 3.5 years since the surgery and she's doing great. She's as active as ever and really shows *zero* signs of knee problems. I've never seen any sign of knee pain since the operation.

    The surgery's definitely not cheap, but it was well worth it to us.

    Good luck!
  • Hi Dan - So glad to hear Nikki is doing well. I have been a nervous wreck since Micah, my 3 yr old, 95 lb rotti/shep mix tore his ACL (Saturday AM). I immediately took him to the vet and he is scheduled to see the surgeon tomorrow, Monday @ 09:00. In speaking with the vet, they said that they would perform his surgery Monday afternoon. My head has been spinning. Should I proceed this quickly? Is it best to wait? I saw that you elected the TTA procedue. Research shows the other options include Tight Rope and TPLO. Do you have any advice? I love my boy so much and don't want anything to happen. I rescured him and he has already had such a rough start in life. And one more question, I work full-time and my husband travels. In your opinion, is it necessary to be with him 24 X 7? And if so, for how long? Thank you so much for any help.
  • @Sherry:

    If you've the results are positive for torn ligaments, there's not much you can do other than surgery (to my knowledge.) I don't recall hearing the terms "tight rope", but after consulting w/the the surgeon it was determined for us the bi-lateral TTA would give the best quality of life.

    What I can say is that Nikki is still doing great and rarely shows signs of the surgery. If there are dramatic changes in weather, it may take her a little longer to get moving after a nap, but she's also 8 year's old (and it's 4 years after the surgery.) She still runs and tries to climb tries like she's a puppy.

    I don't think you need to be home 24/7, but you'll want to make sure he's properly crated and you'll probably want to keep lots of Benadryl handy. Not a big fan of drugging dogs (or humans) but the Benadryl helped calm Nikki quite a bit. Keeping them from jumping is going to be crucial to success.

    It's definitely a scary thing to put your dog through surgery, but I'm so glad we did it.
  • Was happy to stumble upon this. My one-year-old Chow just had bilateral TTA, and we are two weeks into recovery. She's doing great, but now the challenge is keeping her activity low for another 10 weeks or so. How did you manage it?

    Happy to see your Lab doing so well!
  • @Ron:

    Nikki, is an extremely active dog (and still is, even at almost 10, she acts like a puppy.) We just kept her kenneled and we used Benadryl if we were having company over or in situations where we knew she'd get excited. After a few weeks, we relaxed our kennel rule a bit in the evening when we could keep an eye on her. We just gave her lots of TLC during that time as well. She loves human contact, so as long as we gave her attention, she stays pretty calm. (We used a portable kennel, where the top could unzip, that way we could pet her, w/out opening the door.)

    Perhaps because she had a both knees done at the same time, that helped, because I think she realized she couldn't just go running around.

    The good news is it's been 5 years since the surgery (seems longer) and she shows no sign of slowing down and is doing much better than she did before the surgery. Even the dog aggression issues we had are gone (which we think was because she was always in pain.)
  • Thanks, Dan. I appreciate the info. Best, Ron
  • Alexandra Hamilton's Gravatar
    Alexandra Hamilton
    Hi Dan,

    Your blog has been so helpful! My 3 1/2 year old Chocolate Lab just had a double TTA surgery on her hind legs this Wednesday. Right now we are keeping her confined to our bedroom with a gate. Did you keep her in a crate even when you were at home? We were going to keep her confined to one small room, but am worried that may be too much space. Also, did you give Nikki children's benadryl or adult? I've never had to give a dog benadryl before.

    Seeing Nikki run around and play makes me feel so much better about doing this surgery!


  • @Alex,

    Yes, we kept her in a crate 24/7--at least for the first 2 weeks or so. After that, we'd let her in the room w/us under close supervision.

    The problem is you never know when someone might ring a doorbell or door something that will trigger a response from the dog. Keeping her kenneled kept her from trying to do anything sudden.

    You know you dog best though.

    (FYI - We actually kept her in a portable kennel we had, instead of her normal metal kennel. The reason is the portable kennel had a rough that unzipped, so we could give her attention and pet her through the opening.)

    As for the Benedryl, it's normal adult dosage. Basically 1mg per pound. Talk to your vet before doing anything though. (However, the Benedryl has always been what our vet has recommended in the past to us.)

    Lastly, Nikki's 10 now and still thinks she's a puppy. She's certainly calmed down a lot (especially since the passing of our other Lab last August) but she still runs and jumps with the best of them.
  • Our 3 year old german Wirehaired pointer underwent bilateral TTA 3 days ago at SASH in Sydney AU.
    The procedure apparently went accordingly and they suggested she may be discharged only 2 days after surgery.
    Our first visit 1 day after surgery she was clearly in pain and her wounds very tender with some bleeding.
    Day 2 visit she in better spirit but bleeding from the wound had increased.
    Day 3 visit she appeared to be on the mend, however after going home today we receive a call that recent X-rays show she has ruptured one of the knees where they had installed the screws.
    This now means she has two wait another 2 days until surgery to try and rectify the situation.
    I have so many questions and answers I want to know regarding how this could have been prevented and if they fix this this time how to we prevent it from happening again.
    But most of all I am just so sad for our poor girl who is suffering more than she was intended and will soon have to go through more procedures yet again.
    I can't sleep knowing she is in pain right now, without us.
    I also can't help but think about the cost of this setback financially as the initial surgery for both knees +++ was already due to be around AU$8000. We also don't have pet insurance. I just hope she comes through this ordeal with as little suffering as possible.
  • David,

    Sorry to hear that the she ruptured the repair. That's tough. Since she's under the care of the pet hospital, hard to say how it could have been prevented, but it's certainly their responsibility to be taking care of her.

    My lab was (and still is) very active. I had many of the same worries on how we would ever be able to get her stationary enough, but between the kennel, initial round of pain killers and Benadryl when we knew we'd have company, it worked.

    We didn't have pet insurance either, so our cost was all out of pocket as well. Definitely not cheap!

    I'm sure your pup will be running around in no time.
  • Thanks dan. Much appreciated
  • My lab is 4 years old, had his TTA surgery 2 weeks ago tomorrow. 4 days ago, he developed a sac of fluid on the knee he had surgery on. He also shook the Elizabeth Collar off. Worked all night trying to get the collar on, he wasn't having it. 3:30 am, he got upset with me and stood up, he had blood and stuff running out of his leg. His sutures were still in tact, but the pocket of fluid on his knee was draining. We took him to a 24 hour emergency vet. Vet said it was a good thing that the pocket released but his sutures would most likely stay in longer (got the collar back on him at the vets office). My dog does not like being cooped up. He growls at us and has been snapping. We are so concerned with his demeanor. He was not like this prior to surgery. 
    Took him to vet today for laser therapy, asked vet for medicine to keep him low key, vet prescribed an anxiety medicine that has him knocked out. The vet took a sample of his drainage and is sending it off to lab to see if it is just drainage, or if the pocket is a pocket of infection. How could he have an infection when he has been on antibiotics since surgery? It is a very trying experience. My husband did not want to do anything, no surgery, so his constant we should have put him to sleep is all I hear. I am falling apart, not knowing if his leg is healing, due to the drainage, etc. Why is my dog mean and not his normal happy self? I am so emotional about it all. Just need to talk to somone.

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