I received a lot of comments on the story I posted about Knife’s shoulder injuries back in July. Clearly there are a lot of competitors struggling with how to keep their canine athletes healthy and safe during sports and work. Knife’s path to recovery has been slow, but steady. The care he has received at Oregon State University Veterinary School’s Ortho/Rehab Department represent the most advanced treatments and technology available to athletes, canine or human. Lucky for Knife and us, we only live 20 minutes from OSU!
Knife’s bilateral supraspinatus tendonopathy was initially treated with platelet-rich plasma injections and activity restriction. Although not enough activity restriction evidently. A follow up exam and ultrasound showed some improvement in the supraspinatus tendons, but also a serious tear in a biceps tendon. It was very disheartening. Nevertheless, Dr. Baltzer remained optimistic. She had just gotten started on Knife. In early October, Knife had another round of ultra-PRP injections and an omental transplant. Omentum is the fatty tissue in the abdomen. It has cells that produce cell growth factors and specialized lipids with restorative functions. In human medicine, omental transplants are being used to treat brain injuries and and improve outcomes in plastic surgery. Dr. Baltzer has been using omentum tissue to repair bone fractures for a couple years. Knife is one of her first patients to receive such treatment for a tendon and muscle injury. The procedure involved the extraction of omentum from Knife’s abdomen and packing the tissue around the lesions in his shoulders. The tissue will become vascularized on its own without the surgeon connecting it to blood vessels. There it sits pumping out growth factors to aid healing in Knife’s tendons.
Two weeks after Knife’s surgery, we still noticed swelling around Knife’s shoulders and we got worried about post-op complications. When we told Dr. Balzer about the swelling she laughed. It was the pads of omental tissue! They are now a permanent part of Knife’s shoulder anatomy. Theoretically, they should be able to help repair any future injury to Knife’s biceps or supraspinatus tendons!
During the transplant procedure, another small amount of omentum was harvested to grow stem cells at OSU Vet School’s new stem cell lab. These cells were given to Knife two weeks later in ultrasound guided injections. After these treatments, Knife was locked down in an ex-pen for 8 weeks. He wore a shoulder stabilization vest that limited his range of motion during his brief periods of exercise.
Yesterday was Knife’s follow-up exam. We had been waiting for this day for two months. On her physical examination, Dr. B found just some slight impairment to the range of motion in his right shoulder. However, the ultrasound imagery showed a lot of new tendon fibers! It’s great news. Now the goal is to strengthen all the new fibers as well as all the other structures that stabilize shoulders. Six- to eight more weeks of conditioning exercises and back to ring sport and agility competition by the end of February.
Has it been worth it? So far this vet care has cost about what we spent for oneyear of training and competing with Knife. If all goes well, he will have just turned 4 years old when he is ready to trial again. Hopefully, Knife will have another 5 years of attacking decoys and agility courses. He is an amazing dog. Yep, it’s worth it.
We’d like to thank Dr. Wendy Baltzer, Sara, Dave, and Kristina the rehab therapists, and all the other faculty and staff that have provided such great care to Knife, Rocky, and Heart!