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Bruno's ACL and Mast Cell Tumor Ordeal: Corrective TPLO Right Knee—7 weeks to 21 weeks

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) rupture/tear in dogs
Mast (Mastocytoma) cell tumor in dogs

Bruno the Boxer sitting in a kitchen

7 to 10 weeks

Bruno continues to go for daily walks to build up his muscles and other soft tissues that have to compensate for his missing ACL. He heels on a leash; therefore there is no extra strain on his leg from changing directions suddenly or pulling. It's a slow, controlled, relaxing walk. He will walk anywhere from a half mile to a mile and a half at one shot. I watch him as we walk and at the first sign of strain or tiredness coming from his leg we turn back and call it quits for the day. If he gets a short walk or the walk is skipped he and Spencer go into an all-out play session and need to be separated. Even on days when Spencer the Pitbull gets a super-long walk and is tired out, Bruno will get him playing if Bruno did not get walked long enough. I try not to give him the Acepromazine sedative, saving it for time when he is just not calming down and he is going to hurt himself. Bruno was used to going for walks up to 7 miles in one shot before the surgery. Right now 1 mile seems about right for him. I see him improving and getting stronger every week. We do not let Bruno run, jump or play with other dogs yet. We still have his x-pen set up for nights and when we leave to keep him from playing with his Pit Bull brother.

Week 11

Bruno's average walk that he can easily do is now about 1 and a half miles in one shot. He has done up to 2 miles, but 1 and a half seems about right for him. Still no running or jumping and he is never allowed to pull. I started letting him play with Spencer inside the house if he does it lying down. With all of Bruno's knee problems he has gotten good at playing while lying down. If he stands up I break up the play, which is rather sad. The two of them love to play; soon Bruno, soon.

The Cancer

Bruno the Boxer laying on the floor of an oncologist office

Bruno, do you realize you are blocking people's path through the waiting room?! Every time someone steps over you, you just wag your nub of a tail. Maybe you should slide out of the way, buddy.

Bruno had an appointment with his oncology doctor. All checked out well. Apparently the doctor can tell if the cancer has come back by feeling his lymph nodes and physically looking for lumps on his body.

Bruno's oncology report reads as follows:

Age: 5 years & 1 month, Gender: male neutered

Bruno presented for a recheck post initial evaluation for two cutaneous mast cell tumors. There is no evidence of recurrence on the right caudal rib cage or right perineum. No enlarged lymph nodes where palpated. The abdomen palpates normally. Because of the close surgical margins, we will keep Bruno on a "mast cell watch". We will recheck him in 6 weeks. He is a great dog!!

Close Up - Bruno the Boxer's face with a cyst on it

The cancer doctor looked at the lump on Bruno's face again and confirmed that it is indeed some type of cyst and not a tumor. The lump has turned a darker brown than it was when it first appeared.

The doctor recommended that he stay on the Benadryl, stating that some believe it keeps the cancer from coming back by blocking the histamine that mast cell tumors produce. I got the impression it was neither proven nor unproven, but it was very possibly so. If there is the slightest chance that giving him Benadryl will keep the cancer from coming back, it is sure worth it. I am able to buy 100 pills of the generic version for half the price of 25 name-brand Benadryl pills. The ingredient and dosage are exactly the same.

Bruno the Boxer and Spencer the Pit Bull Terrier walking together in the woods with leaves on the ground

Even though Bruno cannot walk very far per day I try to keep his mind exercised as best I can. This is him and his kid brother Spencer the Pitbull helping mommy find a geocache.

Week 15

Bruno the Boxer laying on a floor inside of an office

Bruno had his 15-week checkup with the surgeon who performed the TPLO and removed the mast cell tumors. Bruno's bone is 100% healed and things are looking good. Bruno still needs to be held back for the next 2 months or longer. He is not allowed to run and play outside, but he can go up steps and go for walks. We allow him free roam of the house, his x-pen has been put away. He does play inside with Spencer, which usually consists of him being lazy and lying down to play. He is not allowed to be outside off leash at the same time as his brother Spencer the Pitbull unless someone is there to tell him to not run.

Once again Bruno earned his nickname "wiggle-butt." Everyone calls him that, strangers on the street, other dog parents in the office and all of the vets. When Bruno sees a person his whole body wiggles at them. Another owner who was sitting on the bench waiting for her dog commented that Bruno was the happiest dog she ever saw at a vet's office. After three knee surgeries and three different mast cell tumors removed (including his foot years back) he still loves the vet's office. The ladies from the office were standing up to get a better look at him, commenting that he was a wiggle-butt. He must have had ten people comment about it. People to the left, people to the right! Oh boy! Everyone is his friend.

When the vet tech came to take him back for his x-rays I had asked her to please ask him to heel on the leash or he might be hard to handle. She said okay, took a deep breath, straightened her posture, as if to gather her inner-energy and said calmly and assertively, "Let’s go Bruno, heel!" and she gave him a gentle but firm pop of the leash to get his attention. I poked Bruno's side with my finger and gave the command Bruno knew "Back, Bruno" (which means heel) to help snap him out of his wiggly, excited body so she would have an easier time. It worked; he snapped out of his excitement. Bruno looked up at her as if to say, okay, got it! And off they went, Bruno prancing beside her, careful to mind his manners. When they returned she reported that Bruno didn't even try and pull and he was a very good boy. She seemed proud and so did Bruno. I love it when we get a vet or vet tech who understands how to handle a dog.

Close Up - x-ray of Bruno's joint

Bruno has a little bit of arthritis, but the surgeon says it is not that bad. Bruno is still on his joint supplement and omega - fish oil daily.

Close Up - x-ray of the plate and screws in Brunos leg

The plate and screws in Bruno's right leg

Week 17

The Knee—Bruno is recovering nicely from the TPLO surgery on his right knee. We continue to work his muscles with daily no-pull, relaxing walks. Bruno was able to walk 3 and a half miles with no problem. We do not walk that much every day. I think that would be too much. After we go on a longer walk we make the next few shorter to allow him to heal and build his muscle. We try not to skip a day however, because days that he skips a walk he goes Boxer crazy and tries to start an all-out play brawl with this kid brother Spencer the Pitbull. A big no- no for the knee at this point in the recovery. I do not recommend such a long walk for the average dog that had this type of surgery, as most dogs are not as disciplined on the leash. If Bruno decided to pull on the leash or yank around from side to side to smell things along the way there would be extra stress on the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Bruno's walks are consistent and controlled. I am constantly checking on him during the walk to make sure he is not showing any signs of stress on the joints. He is still not allowed to run or jump.

The Cancer—Bruno had another Oncology appointment today. His official report says,

Bruno presented for a recheck post initial evaluation for two cutaneous mast cell tumors. There is no evidence of recurrence on the right caudal rib cage or right perineum. No enlarged lymph nodes were palpated. The abdomen palpates normally. Because of the close surgical margins, we will keep Bruno on a "mast cell watch". We will recheck him in 6 weeks. He is a great dog!!

While Bruno is being checked he is wiggling and contemplating how he can possibly get a lick in. When he realized he could not reach her face he licked her hand, wiggling the entire time. Everyone in the office watches him with big smiles. Only Bruno would be loving a visit to a cancer doctor! Everything is a fun adventure to him. He does not know he was sick, he simply thinks he is there to visit everyone. The oncologist says he is doing very well.

Bruno's regular vet decided to skip Bruno's flu shot, stating that any stress on the body can cause a mast cell outbreak. Since stress can cause the cancer to come back it is even more important that Bruno remains in his balanced state with daily pack walks and consistent rules to follow. For a dog to be stable not only does its body have to be consistently exercised, but so does the mind. Dogs that lack this have stress from instability in their pack.

Week 21

The Knee—Bruno was able to go on a 6-mile walk with no knee issues. The next few days we took shorter walks to give him a rest. When I do notice him walk with a slight strain it seems like the trouble is coming from his left knee, the knee that had the first two surgeries. I have not noticed any issues with this right knee. Overall, he is doing very well considering. He is able to take normal walks daily.