Ultimate Guide to Treating Ruptured CCL’s Without Surgery - Part 2

I never set out to be an “against the grain” person, but researching and making “alternative” health decisions – for my dogs and myself — has been a recurring theme in my life.
— Holistic Dog Mom

In 2011, my old gal Kahlua tore her first CCL. Our local vet referred us to a specialist and the specialist offered surgery or “conservative management” as our only options. My husband and I did not think surgery was the best option for her.

Conservative management of Kahlua’s ruptured CCL was presented to us as: rest and medication. I knew there had to be more that we could do for our girl.

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So I researched and created my own treatment plan.

Medications: Carprofen (an NSAID similar to Rimadyl), Tramadol and Gabapentin were our regimen from 2011 until Kahlua passed in 2015. At the time, we thought we were helping to alleviate any suffering and our vets assured us that this regimen was appropriate, as long as quarterly blood work was monitored for liver values. In hindsight, I would not have jumped to the medications so quickly or for such a long a period of time.

Supplements: Upon the initiation of the medications, we also started with a milk thistle supplement to help Kahlua’s liver with processing the meds. (Herbsmith is one of my favorites as they making dosages for pets so easy to follow.)

We also looked for a quality glucosamine & chondroitin sulfate supplement. We tried several but our favorite is elk velvet antler, as we noticed a definite improvement in Kahlua when using this product. There are many other quality supplements on the market. When you are selecting one for your dog, beware of added fillers and artificial flavors.

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Knee Brace a/k/a
Canine Stifle Orthotic

For humans with a knee injury, a knee brace is usually the first treatment option. As with humans, a knee brace for a dog will stabilize the joint and help the body heal naturally itself by developing scar tissue.

The good news for you is that in 2019, more information and options are available for dogs now, than I had in 2011.


I discovered canine knee braces through my online research and contacted the first company I found. In order to ensure a customized fit for each dog, a cast is often needed of the dog’s affected leg. Neither my local vet nor the surgical specialist would agree to help us with the casting process for Kahlua.

Kahlua & I on one of our daily walks, while wearing her knee brace.

Kahlua & I on one of our daily walks, while wearing her knee brace.

Undeterred, my research led me to Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group (VOSM), about an hour’s drive from our house. Not only was VOSM supportive of knee braces, Kahlua was actually part of a published study about the effectiveness and improved weight bearing for dogs with CCL tears wearing knee braces!



List of current knee brace companies:


If you are interested in a knee brace for your dog, here are
10 Questions to Ask Before Selecting Your Dog’s Knee Brace.

Bodywork: I am huge proponent of therapeutic massage for humans. After I was in pain for 3 years following a seemingly minor car accident where I was rear-ended, it was through myofascial massage (also called neuromuscular therapy or trigger point massage) that I was healed. I recognized that massage could benefit Kahlua and help relieve the muscle tension in her body due to overcompensation.

I was lucky enough to cross paths with a student learning canine, feline and equine massage who needed practice hours for her certification. Kahlua was able to benefit from this arrangement and we learned basic techniques that we could do ourselves to help our girl.

I also found a one-day canine massage class at our local community college!

Kahlua always enjoyed her sessions with the Canine Light Therapy pad.

Kahlua always enjoyed her sessions with the Canine Light Therapy pad.

Our massage student also introduced us to light therapy using the Canine Light Therapy pad. This looks similar to a heating pad with LED lights that use near and far infrared to help the body heal. This worked so well that we bought one too. (Confession: I use this for my own aches & pains too!)


Rehabilitation Program: In 2014, the seemingly inevitable happened, Kahlua partially tore her other CCL. Having heard rave reviews from other Dog Moms, I enrolled Kahlua in a canine rehab program featuring use of the underwater treadmill, obstacle-style courses and at-home exercises. My husband even built cavalettis (small hurdles) for our backyard. We were very pleased with the rehab program and I only wish we would have done it sooner!


NEXt, what treatment options are available today?
There are exciting new alternatives!