Dog Knee Surgery Recovery From an Insider’s Perspective
by Cindy Dunston Quirk
Scout, my German Shorthaired Pointer, is only four years old but has already endured two ACL surgeries (both knees) and a meniscus tear surgery. I am well acquainted with each surgery and its recovery time. The weeks following any knee surgery are difficult for the dog as well as his guardian. I felt so bad for Scout. He looked so sad sitting in his kennel with his leg all bandaged up.
“There are many procedures that have as their goal the stability and comfort of the stifle joint,” says Dr. G. Timothy Lee, DVM of VCA Northwood in Anderson, Indiana. Dr. Lee’s practice is limited to referral surgery and was Scout’s surgeon for all three knee surgeries. “The most common procedures done by orthopedic specialists include the TPLO, TTA (Scout’s surgery), Tightrope, Lateral Imbrication Sutures, and the Fibular Head Transposition. The procedure used will vary with the animal involved and the experience of the surgeon.”
Scout and I are no strangers to compression bandages, staples, the dreaded e-collar, and lengthy rehab. Each dog will have its own rehab schedule, so what I’ll do here is give you five tips to assist your beloved doggy with recovery from knee surgery.
Tip #1: Follow post op instructions
While this is going to seem like a no-brainer, but first and foremost, follow your surgeon’s rehab schedule to a T. The more you pay attention to instructions sent home with your pooch following surgery, the more quickly your pup and you can fall into a regular rehab schedule and get well. “Under the best of circumstances you must allow six to eight weeks before your pet is allowed to do everything it wants to do. For the first couple of weeks a passive range of motion exercise regimen is helpful,” Dr. Lee said.
It is really important to heed the good doctor’s advice.
Read carefully, you will learn from my shortcomings and brain-fades!
Tip #2: Two people should pick your pup up from the hospital
Each time Scout was released from the hospital, I made the mistake of picking him up all by myself. (Apparently, I have a very short memory!) He was ready to leave and go home and wanted out of there! As such, he was difficult to confine in the car. If someone had accompanied me to the vet, I could have sat in the back seat with Scout and kept him calm, still, and quiet during the ride home.
Tip #3: When out of the kennel, always have him on a leash
Seems pretty obvious, but you don’t want your recovering pup tearing out of the door after a squirrel or the neighbor’s cat. Keeping Scout on a leash, even when he was in the house, kept him under control, out of harm’s way and from jumping on the furniture! “Most surgeons recommend leash-only exercise when outside for the first four to five weeks,” Dr. Lee adds.
Tip # 4: Confine your pooch in a crate, kennel or small room
During rehab and recovery, your pup will need to be confined in a crate, kennel or small room to limit his activity and movement. A well-ventilated crate or kennel will limit any unnecessary activity. Keep in mind, your dog will need some room to adjust its position so he can be comfortable in several positions. Those little joints can get a little stiff being in one position all day.
Tip #5: Support his hind quarters to lift weight off the healing joint
When talking with Dr. Lee following Scout’s surgeries, he reminded me, “No stairs unless supported with a sling and increase the length of walks incrementally over the six week period.”
Our house has tons of stairs–everywhere! Outside, inside. From a recovery standpoint, this was a nightmare. In order to support Scout’s hind quarters so he wouldn’t put any weight on the recently repaired knee, I used a towel that was rolled up and placed under his tummy. I held the ends in one hand and while he was leashed, lifted his hind end as we traversed any stairs. This was effective but very awkward. There are many products on the market that will accomplish this lifting in a better, more controlled way than a towel. After three of these surgeries, I strongly suggest researching the options and purchasing one prior to picking your pup up from the hospital. Unfortunately for me and Scout, each time Scout had surgery, I forgot how important and cumbersome lifting his hind quarters was until I was in the throws of rehab.
Watch for part 2 of our journey next month!
Cindy Dunston Quirk is the Chief Dog Lover at Scout & Zoe’s Natural Antler Dog Chews. Scout & Zoe’s chews are allergy-free and a green, organic, renewable resource created only from 100% naturally shed elk antlers.