Talking ACL Tears with Dr. Shealy

An ACL tear used to be a debilitating injury for a dog, but with revolutionary surgery techniques and proper physical therapy, Dr. Paul Shealy is getting them back on their paws. Unlike humans, dogs tear their ACL over time.

“We tried many ways to stabilize dogs’ knees the same way we stabilize peoples’ knees after an ACL tear, and none of them worked,” says Shealy. They found that dogs with ACL tears have knees that are predisposed to tearing.

To figure out a solution, they looked to the most finely tuned athletes of the dog world — greyhounds. It turns out greyhounds almost never tear an ACL despite the rigors they are put through because of the angles of their bones. After that research, they threw out the human rulebook and tried completely redesigning the knee. “By leveling the bone so it doesn’t need the ACL, it stabilizes the knee,” Shealy says. “It has put dogs back into activity that we never expected would have mobility again.”

Healing after surgery is almost as important as the surgery itself. Shealy uses advanced technology during surgery to shorten recovery time. “We’re very big proponents of ortho-biologics,” he says. They inject the joint with platelet-rich plasma — a method they helped pioneer — to speed the healing process. Physical therapy is critical, Shealy explains, “If we do two treatments of shockwave therapy after surgery, the knee heals two weeks faster.”

With physical therapy being such a large part of the process, Shealy does everything he can to make sure owners can afford it. “We keep our costs down in surgery so the owner can pay for proper follow-up treatment,” he says. “We try to be outcome-minded, not income-minded.” The outcome means that more and more Fidos are out running around like greyhounds thanks to Dr. Shealy and his team.

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