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Week 1: Rehab Instructions: Mindset & Expectations

Here are your key points for the week.

  • Mindset
  • Timeline
  • Preparing Your Home
  • Rest
  • Icing
  • Walking Slow
  • Support

1. MINDSET

I know you will agree with me that up to this point, this entire experience has been extremely stressful for both you and your dog. With that being said, take a deep breath because you now have TopDog here to give you guidance on how to best help your dog through this process safely and successfully so that they can return to 100% normal functionality.

2. TIMELINE

You are probably wondering how long this recovery process is going to take. What I can tell you is this: First of all, don’t be shocked or alarmed if you experience minor set backs during the recovery process. It happens all the time and 95% of the time, everything turns out to be alright in the end. Secondly, right off the bat you need to understand what I mean by the concept of FULL RECOVERY. From my years of experience I can tell you that 100% recovery (i.e. full function & full muscle development) will take up to 6 months. Now this does not mean at the end of the 12 weeks your dog is still going to have a limp. To the untrained eye your dog is going to appear 100% normal and yes they are going to feel much better as well, but at the end of the day, it takes a long time for all of the muscle mass and other soft tissue strength in that leg to return to its optimal condition. Remember you are trying to protect the other hind leg from injury. You will hear me time and time again talk about how my veterinary colleagues confidently state the statistic that anywhere for 30-60% of dogs who tear one ACL, will tear that other ACL within one year. What they are saying is true. What they are not telling you is that if you rehab your dog effectively, this statistic is reduced dramatically. We are going to make sure that your dog does not turn into a statistic.

3. PREPARING YOUR HOME

I am not going to go too in depth on this topic because within the Home Rehabilitation Guide we have thoroughly detailed this. Just make sure that you do your best to secure your home for your dog to the best of your ability.

4. REST

During the first week you really need to focus on allowing your dog the time to rest and relax. Again, the entire experience was very stressful for your dog. The first week is also the time in which they are experiencing the greatest discomfort. 99% of the time they should be resting, relaxing and being nurtured by you. If they won’t let you perform one of the therapies then don’t push them, let them rest.

5. ICING:

  • Cold therapy is incredibly effective in so many ways. It is nature’s best anti-inflammatory and it also relieves pain.
  • Rule of Thumb: Ice for the first 72 hours and then use moist heat after, but icing after exercise and therapy is always a good idea.
  • Some dogs are not crazy about the cold on their skin, so I have found that it is best to place a towel or face cloth in between the ice and skin.

6. SLOW WALKING AND SUPPORT:

For the little bit of time that you will be allowing them to walk around (i.e. for elimination purposes)… I BEG OF YOU… Make sure that they are on a very short leash and are walking at a very slow pace. If you find that your dog needs some extra support or that you need greater control, I encourage you to check out the TopDog Support Rx Total Body Harness System. This harness was developed here at TopDog and is a very affordable and effective solution. Click Here for the SupportRx Total Body Harness Video Good luck this week and make sure you come over and check out our incredible Facebook support community. Feel free to share your dog’s story or ask questions. There are hundreds of dog owners just like you who have already been through the surgery and recovery process and are very willing to offer their guidance.

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197 thoughts on “Week 1: Rehab Instructions: Mindset & Expectations
  1. Victoria Leitner says:

    In order to avoid stairs, is it okay for a dog to use a ramp immediately after ACL surgery? My ramp is one side of an agility A Frame. I cannot lift a 40# dog to get in and out for pottying, etc. Also, do you advise cold laser treatments? If so, how many and for how long?

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Victoria our T.U.S.H harness would be a great option for your dog. It makes supporting the helping them in and out of cars or up and down stairs much easier and safer. I have no problem with the A frame as long as it is slow and in full control. As for the cold laser, of course I am a big fan. Typically for my patients I will do this 2-3 times a week.

  2. Beverley says:

    Hi
    My 17mth boxer had her TTA op on 17/11/14 she is going stir crazy been crated 24hrs a day!!is she ok to walk around small room for short periods at a time? There’s no furniture in there so she cannot climb onto anything! My other worry is we have another boxer who is 7 mths old and at the moment they are completely seperate so that’s not helping her stress levels!! When can we introduce them I’m just worried about them getting giddy!! Thank you look forward to your reply. Beverley

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Beverley, there is no doubt that the first few weeks of recovery are stressful, especially when you have a playmate in the house. Here is what you need to remember though. #1 This painful period for both of you is temporary in the grand scheme of things. #2 It takes a good 6-8 weeks to form good scar tissue and callus formation where the bone was cut and plated. That being said you have to use your best judgement. The best thing to do is have your dog on a short leash even when you are in the house and our want them to be together, this way you have some form of control. To help with the stir crazy you need to simply spend more time with her playing mental games (with good treats of course) and doing your short control leash walking. Again you know your dogs best so just be careful.

  3. Lisa says:

    Hi and Thanks for the great website! Just got my 71lb Golden home from TPLO so how soon should I start the Glycandaid-HA I’m about to order? Also, really stupid question, but what side of the leg do I ice? I assume the outside part where there are no sutures. 11-7-14

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Lisa first of all good luck with your dogs recovery. I totally understand how stressful it is especially in the early days after surgery. Second you can start GlycanAid HA right away. Third as for where to ice, this is not at all a stupid question. In the case of the TPLO I would have a tendency to provide cold therapy on both the front and the inside of the knee where the surgery was. That being said make sure you have a cloth in-between the ice and the leg. Hope this helps. Dr.J

  4. Gladys says:

    I rescue a female lab mix and was hit by a car, vet perform a femur surgery to cut bone head since then she does not put the leg down, he told us that this will take up to 6 weeks. Time is almost up and nothing is seen. The muscle is very thin in the area. Help!

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Gladys my best advice would be #1 your dog should have a hip X-ray to make sure there is not a bone spur that formed and #2 get your dog back on pain meds ASAP. I truly feel as if we do not give these FHO dogs the benefit of the doubt and continue with pain meds long enough, at least until they are using the leg 100% consistently. In my mind if a dog is not using the leg, then I always make sure first that pain is not a part of the equation. You need to discuss this with your veterinarian.

  5. June Goritz says:

    Surgery was last Saturday. When will she be able to at least walk without the Lift Me Up Harness. It is starting to leave her contact areas a bit raw. The medications indicate that a side affect is not being able to control bladder. After doing a full load of soiled urine bedding, There isn’t ANY DOUBT this is true. Her fur wreaks of urine and am not sure of the best method to protect her from being saturated, then cleaned/dried – without fussing with her too much. She loves her massages, as she is a Cushings and Thyroid dog.

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      June unfortunately they are really all different in there recovery speed so it is impossible for me to say when she will not need the assistance. If possible it would be great to get her into a professional rehab program to accelerate her healing process.

  6. Wendy says:

    Bailey my 33lbs 10yr old shepard/terrier mix just had surgery last Tuesday cruciate and luxating patella so week one is almost behind us. Your Web site is great thanks for all of the great info and I just ordered the Glycanaid-HA. She is also a cushings dog and I understand that because of the steroids she is on that it could slow down recovery but she does seem to be doing well. She seems to have her same energy but hates the crate so the vet gave me acepromezine to keep her calm and sleeping during the day when I’m at work. Anything you can share about her recovery as a cushings dog would be great. I’m hoping she doesn’t injure the other leg.

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Wendy it is true that her recovery may be slowed due to this disease but my biggest advice would be to understand that full recovery no matter cushiness or not, takes a FULL 6 months. This is the amount of time that I have seen that it takes to get everything balanced again. That said I strongly strongly encourage pet owners to not allow their dogs to be off leash until they are 100% positive that both hind legs are the same size and the dog is walking 100%, jogging 100% and running 100% while on leash before ever allowing them to be off-leash. Make sure you get used to feeling the comparing the muscle size and strength of both hind legs. I have a video on this at http://www.topdoghealth.com/rehabcenter. Best of luck, Dr.J

  7. Theresa says:

    Another question. How much pain meds should my dog have. The vet only prescribed Meticam and I actually made her give me some tramadol. She gave me only 5 pills 50 mg each and said I can only give her 1/6 of a pill twice a day. I don’t think that is enough. I do have some liquid tramadol that one of my dogs had to take at a different time. It says to give 1/2 ml every 8 hours. It is 25mg. I don’t have a ml applicator only one by lbs. would I give that I her by weight? She is 15lbs. I really don’t want her to be in pain.

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Theresa the typical dose of tramadol is 1mg/lb body weight 3-4 times a day. You can check with your veterinarian about this. The Metacam is only an anti-inflammatory and not a true pain medication. It controls the discomfort related to inflammation. I am a fan of long term pain management so check with your vet about this. All the best, Dr.J

  8. Theresa says:

    Angelica had surgery on Tuesday and its two days later. When I take her out to potty she won’t use her leg at all to walk. She will use it to potty though and if she is standing still she will toe tap. Should she be using that hind leg to walk already?

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Theresa they truly are all different in the initial post operative phase. First off I would just want to make sure that her pain management drugs are correct and she is being covered pain wise. If she is then I would just focus on the guidelines of the 1st week of post op care outlines in our Free Home Rehab Guide. Recover is a slow progression and as long as you are seeing small improvements on a daily basis then I would be happy. All the best, Dr.J

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