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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


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.


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.


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.


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.


  • 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.


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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185 thoughts on “Week 1: Rehab Instructions: Mindset & Expectations
  1. 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

  2. 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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