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Thread: Surgically Removing Biceps Tendon

  1. #1

    Unhappy Surgically Removing Biceps Tendon

    My 14 month old German Shepherd puppy has injured her right bicep tendon (an possibly her left, but no where near as bad).
    She injured it by racing around the yard, doing lots of twists and turns sharply, while me and my Dad chased her with a broom. It was quite fun at the time, but aver since then, she has limped on her right leg.
    The limping is much worse after a great deal of exercise, or long, curled up rest.
    The limping isn't as bad as it could be: she is not holding her leg off the ground completely, but rather her right stride is staggerred and to me, shorter and she moves her foot outside her body and sometimes inside under her body more than her other leg. Or so it seems.

    The injury occurred at 6 months of age, and until she was 10 months, it was misdiagnosed as a bones problem. 2 lots of xrays were performed (one lot at 6 months, another at 10 months) as the vets initially thought it was something to do with elbow displaysia.

    Despite their treatment for "elbow displaysia" not working or making any progress for 4 months, they still did not examine Vyvyan for an swelling in her legs, apart from the first initial time when I took her to them, at 6 months, and they felt nothing then, although Vyv was pretty tense. They still thought it was a bone problem.

    At 10 months, she hadn't improved, and she had actually injured her left leg by then, by playing with one of her dog friends. I gave her anti inflammatories immediately, for about 2 weeks, and her left leg has seemed fine since then.
    As soon as I could, (she hurt her left leg on a sunday, I rang on a monday) I got her into see the Vet Specialist in Norwood, in Adelaide, and 2 weeks later we were there, having that 2nd lot of xrays done and a very informative and thorough consultation done.
    The vet spec was excellent, especially since Vyv is a bit of a "drama queen".

    This is the first time it has been suggested that Vyv's problem is not to do with her bones, but with her right shoulder muscles, probably her bicep tendon. Her bones show no sign of elbow displaysia, although there is some reaction in her cartlige in her lower joints in her legs.

    The vet spec suggested 6-8 weeks rest, STRICT CAGE STYLE REST. SHOCK! But despite the fact Vyvyan is a very energetic, intelligent girl, we made it through 7 weeks of strict resting. Not once did she escape off the lead and bolt after a cat, not once was she able to antagonise that sore bicep tendon. After 7 weeks, we spent probably another week after that doing gentle yard walks, to reintroduce her into exercise, very gracefully .
    Anyway, by the time we got to the stage of taking her for walks outside the yard (she pulls on the lead, we did a 1 block walk) she was limping again. So severely, that when she was resting on the floor (she had the option of lying on her comfy bed), she went to get up, couldn't use her right leg, then laid back down again. She looked miserable.

    I've spoken with the Vet Spec again. She has suggested what I have thought also: the second option to treating the bicep tendon problem, is the steroids, which also requires the dog to be rested whilst on them - however, we both don't feel that that will work. It will be a waste of time, considering rest hasn't worked by itself, and steroids being 2-300 dollars (which could be put towards the next option if this option fails), will not really give that much of a boost to her recovery. She has also spent too much time resting and in cages and indoors, when she should be out exploring the new world of puppyhood.
    Surgery is the last option that both of us feel will do any good to Vyvyan. I'm not concerned about the price ($2800 arthiscopically). I'd gladly spend that money on Vyvyan, if I KNEW for sure that it would help Vyvyan.
    The reason I'm writing here is to ask any of you, have you had this surgery done for your dog, and has your dog been able to recover 100%?

    The surgery involves cutting and removing the bicep tendon from her right shoulder. She would then be rested for another 2-3 months afterwards, slowly regaining her strenght in her other shoulder muscles which would take over the bicep tendon's job.
    The bicep tendon needs to be removed as it can no longer be repaired. Unlike bones, which can regrow and heal a lot of the time, and be as strong as they were before, the tendon is like elastic and can only be worked so many times. It's too inflammed, and has not been treated correctly for too long, to be repaired (remember that 4 months where the vets thought it was something competely different).

    I'll gladly do the surgery, especially since the Vet Spec is fantastic and very knowlegdable. Within a few hours she had diagnosed what the other vets couldn't diagnose in 4 months.
    She says Vyv should make a full recovery, provided the 2-3 months afterwards are spent the way they should (which they will be). But I am worried that because Vyvyan is such an incredible hyperactive dog sometimes, and she does use her shoulder muscles a lot (swimming, hiking etc), perhaps the vet spec doesn't realise just how active Vyv is and would be after the 3 months after surgery?
    I do know the vet spec is telling the truth about other dogs she has operated on and how they do recover, but perhaps she doesn't realise how silly Vyv is?!
    Also, I have that worrying little doubt, that says "How can something, like a dog's leg, be able to operate fully, if something like it's massive bicep tendon, is removed, when the leg has had this tendon it's entire life and it is meant to be there? The tendon is part of the leg. Sure the other muscles might be able to pick up the slack and do what the bicep tendon used to do, but surely it's not as strong and robust?"

    I asked the vet spec these questions, and she said basically, in the long term, the dog can return to normal (provided there's no twisting sharply movements, like frisbee games - we'll gladly get rid of them, since she used to crunch up the frisbees with her teeth on the way back over to me when she brought them back - which can reinjure them). Strength wise, she would be more prone to dislocation if she was hit by a car or something.

    Anyway, I know that's a lot of info, but I really want to get as much info, especially other's stories, so I can make the best decision for Vyv. If there's a possibility she could be the same or worse off after surgery and that 2-3 month recovery time, then I won't put Vyv through it. It's not the $, it's the trouble it will cause Vyv having surgery. She has been for a swim in the ocean 2 days ago, she is stiff on that leg but has still managed ok. I'm sure she is in pain, but not being able to excerise and burn of that energy will also be pain for her, if she can't do this after surgery and that 2-3 month recovery time.

    Thanks, and all replies are so very welcome,
    Holly And Vyvyan
    Last edited by Hollykate; 01-23-2011 at 01:43 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Rural Western Australia


    I had a young ACD who did the same thing as your dog. I took her straight to a specialist and they did an ultrasound which clearly showed the damaged bicep tendon.

    My dog also had elbow dysplsia which they diagnosed correctly by doing a CT scan.

    A friend of my sister is a vet, and she rehabbed her own dog with a bicep tendon injury but it took 12 weeks of fairly intesive rest and trigger point therapy which she did herself. I did try rest with my dog but things were complicated as to whether the limping was from the ED or the Bicep Tendon, A shot of steroids indicated that it was her bicep tendon mainly causing the pain.

    I decided on the surgery and even though my dog was very high drive was pretty confident she would lead a normal life once the muscles had rebuilt. My orthovet is a long term friend and I trusted his judgement. Tragically, my dog licked a poison seaslug on the beach and died before the surgery.

    But I would most certainly have done the surgery. Me and my dog were done with cage rest that may not work!

  3. #3


    Wow, that is so terrible about your dog and the poisonous seaslug. Never would have thought that a slug could be harmful.
    Better be careful of what Vyv puts in her mouth from now on. She's already bitten on a bee, which stung her on her tongue. It annoyed her so much, but she was back chasing bees again a day later!

    Thanks for your post. You also mentioned CT scans to detect the ED, and an ultrasound to detect the swollen tendon. None of those things have been mentioned to me before. I'll ask the vet spec about them, as using the ultrasound to help confirm whether it is definitely the tendon is better than putting Vyv under, then opening her up and discovering it's not that.

    Thanks, much apprectiated response.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    Default How is Vyvyan doing?

    Hi, was wondering whether you ended up having the surgery for Vyvyan? How did it go? And how is she doing now?
    I have a four yr old boxer, Jet, who has suffered the exact same injury for which the same surgery as Vyvyan has been suggested. Any case related info you could give me? Whether it was the right choice? Would be greatly appreciated as the arthroscopy would serve as a diagnostic tool also with X-rays not showing exact damage.

    Thanks in advance.

  5. #5

    Default Hi! Surgery is a complicated option

    No is the answer. I haven't gotten Surgery for Vyv. I've done a bit of research and 2 people during the 6 months I've been trying to contact others who have had the same operation, have replied and said they've also put their dog through it. The first person, with a corgi, named Rosie, had the surgery done for the same injury and her corgi still limps. She then got stem cell treatment (how that is meant to help when the tendon has been cut, I don't know) and she apparantly is doing much better than after the surgery. The other person who I've managed to contact is a woman with a Chihuahua who had the same injury and same surgery. She contacted me a few weeks after the surgery and said it had made a MASSIVE difference to her dog, in regards to pain. She said he still limped, however she said she planned that that would go away over the usual expected recovery period of about 2-3 months after the surgery. Whether it has, I don't know. I'll try and get on to her soon to see how his recovery has been going. She also said, however, that he suffered a lot directly after the surgery; he was cold and shaking and miserable and in a lot of pain. However, she did see massive improvement within a few days after it, in regards to pain from that tendon.
    My opinion from all this is that the dog may still limp (perhaps due to a limited range of motion, and not pain??) but it is not in pain. I really need to get on to a specialist about this question: does cutting the tendon mean the range of motion in the shoulder is limited, and therefore produce a limp (but not a pain-induced limp, like that of the swollen tendon)? So far I haven't yet asked the specialist about this.
    If I were you, I'd ask your spec about it too.
    The reason why I am still unsure about the surgery is mainly because of our situation however, not really because of this above info (If my dog still limped, I'd be ok with that, provided she wasn't in pain anymore, however I am still concerned as to what this means for her other muscles and conformation of her body, whether other parts will be at a greater strain due to the limp, the unual movement). Our situation is this:
    Due to the fact we attempted strict rest for 2 months straight, Vyv has lost a lot of muscle mass around the shoulders, therefore if we got the surgery she may not have enough muscle in her 'stabaliser muscles' to support herself if the tendons are cut.
    Also, Vyv and I are going through intensive behavioural training, trying to overcome some of her aggression (she's not a horrible angry nasty dog, its just she has a fear of people, and the vets think that with an increase in the pain she is in, she may become worse with aggression, so therefore we need to get on top of the aggression, more so, fear, first).
    My advice to you is to bombard your spec with questions (if the surgery is the right way to go then there shouldn't be any problem with answering them all). This is what I plan to do (again!) in a few months time when we're ready to think about it again.
    In the mean time, I suggest you dont do too much strict rest, because Vyv and I have to build up more muscle (in sore shoulders, which is hard) in order to have it, now that we've tried resting her shoulders. Restricting exercise I think is ok, but going to far and saying none whatsoever isn't a good idea (but Im not a pro, either). Right now we are coping really well and Vyv rarely limps any more (if so, just after a long nap without moving much) and we are doing a lot of strength and endurance based exercise, she's always on the lead in public so there's no bolting around after galahs and other birds or cats etc, which I'm sure she misses. But the lack of twisting and running sort of exercises has helped. I also have managed to teach Vyv not to pull so much on the lead, which has helped the most. Also, removing her hard-plastic-curved bed (those basket style beds which you put a blanket and cushion into, which lock your dog into a certain position as they're sleeping) and instead encouraging her to sleep solely on her flat coushin bed has also helped tremendously. Also, I met a new friend online who has a BC with the same injury, and she has just tried rapigel (you can get it in pet stores, about $25 a tub) which you rub onto sore areas, and she says that has helped greatly. She also has noticed keeping her dog warmer with a coat has helped a lot too, during the night. My dog is always inside, I think warmth is a big factor too.
    Anyway, those are all little suggestions that won't fix the prob, but may help you in the mean time while you make your decision. Please let me know how you get on in the future. Thanks for contacting me, any other questions I'm happy to answer! It's so hard to make a decision about cutting a tendon which your dog has had all its life, when you're not sure whether it will make them better. I'm so happy to help, because I hope that if someone realised they could help me with advice, I'd like to think they would too.

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