When Daisy showed lameness in her right hind leg, her owner Sandy Bierman thought the four-year-old yellow Labrador's hunting days may be in jeopardy.

“We just noticed her hurting with her leg, she was in a ton of pain,” Sandy says of an after-Thanksgiving hunt in 2020.

X-rays showed Daisy’s calcaneal (Achilles) tendon was torn. Sandy’s friend recommended she bring Daisy to VCA Veterinary Specialists of Northern Colorado (VSNC), where she was treated by a team of experts who worked together to develop a personalized treatment and recovery plan. Daisy’s team included Dr. Mike Green, veterinary orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Caroline Adrian, director of rehabilitation services, as well as a physical therapist with a PhD in canine biomechanics.

Advanced Care with a Personalized Touch

Sandy brought Daisy to the right place. VCA VSNC offers specialty consultations, diagnostics, therapeutic and surgical services in areas such as neurology, physical therapy, internal medicine and surgery, as well as emergency and critical care. The hospital offers the most advanced veterinary medical equipment and techniques, performed by caring and compassionate veterinary specialists and technicians.

There were multiple options for Daisy’s care, including doing nothing more than managing her discomfort medically, wearing an orthotic brace indefinitely to provide stability during activity, invasive surgery to attempt to repair the calcaneal tendon, or using the latest medical advances to treat the tear at the site and follow-up with physical therapy and bracing.

Daisy’s type of injury is not easy to fix, says Dr. Green.

“Tendons, in general, have a poor blood supply and don’t heal well. Once the flexor tendons are injured, they will not go back into a normal position, since dogs walk on their toes and strengthening is also not an answer. This type of injury requires external support and healing via surgery or regenerative medicine plus stabilization via an orthotic,” he says.

After speaking with Dr. Green, Sandy and her husband Mark decided to go a less invasive route with a protocol delivering autologous conditioned plasma (ACP) via injection directly to the area of concern.

Leading Veterinary Medicine Forward

Focusing on the latest procedures and medicines allows VCA teams to help patients receive the best care possible for their circumstance. 

ACP treatment is a new form of therapy that uses a dog or cat’s own blood, accelerating the healing response in damaged tissue. The body’s natural healing response is stimulated and enhanced by the concentrated solution of platelets and proteins which may lead to a faster and more thorough healing of the injured tissue.

After this procedure, Daisy was fitted with a hard cast for two weeks, then fitted with an orthotic. This orthotic was used for 8 weeks in extension, then cut to a normal standing angle while activity was increased.

At 12 weeks, Daisy was able to walk without the orthotic and gradually return to training and field activity.

Dr. Adrian saw Daisy weekly for physical therapy in the beginning, gradually reducing the frequency of appointments as her activity increased.

“She was so amazing,” Sandy says of Dr. Adrian. “Her knowledge and expertise helped Mark and I to understand the importance of rehab. She just loves dogs and loves people.” 

At the end of 16 weeks, Daisy returned to hunting with a successful season. Sandy says her second season since her procedure was the best yet.

“We had to work her back slowly,” Sandy says, adding that they only hunted half of the usual time and monitored her to make sure she was not overexerting herself.

Dr. Green says he was thrilled with the results of Daisy’s treatment.

“Surgery was avoided, and a solution was found via regenerative medicine and physical therapy,” he says. “We are grateful to Daisy’s parents for entrusting us with her care and for taking a leap of faith on a new treatment protocol. This case opened the door to a new treatment option for other patients with this same condition. And through trial and error, we can continue to build upon this process, gaining insight and knowledge to perfect this treatment plan.”

If your pet needs a surgical consultation, consider our veterinary orthopedic surgeons. Our specialists have access to the latest technology and medical advances to help your pet get the care they need. Learn more about the VCA advanced surgery services or search for a location near you.