Nursing The Knee: What You Need To Know About Your Dog's Recovery After A Cruciate Ligament Repair


If your dog is scheduled for surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, postoperative rest and rehabilitation are the key elements to ensuring a complete recovery. When your pet is discharged from the hospital, you will be provided with specific instructions for his care. Be prepared by familiarizing yourself with some of the general recommendations that will be expected from you and your furry patient so that you know what to expect and can plan accordingly.

Surgery Is Not Pretty

When you and your dog are reunited upon his postoperative discharge from the hospital, you will immediately notice that his leg has been shaved far beyond the knee. The reason that shaving to that extent is necessary is to help maintain a sterile field once the surgical drape is placed and the leg is rested on the drape. A small area on your dog's front leg is also shaved where an intravenous catheter was placed for fluid therapy during surgery and recovery. The leg that was operated on will have a line of surgical staples or sutures, and you may also notice some bruising and mild swelling on the leg. Follow these guidelines when caring for your dog's incision at home:

  • Do not bathe your dog until after the staples have been removed.
  • Your veterinarian will advise you when to schedule an appointment for the staples to be removed, which is typically 10 to 14 days.
  • Apply cold compresses to the incision area to reduce swelling and bruising.
  • If the swelling worsens and becomes puffy, bring your dog to the hospital for an evaluation.

It is important to prevent your dog from licking or chewing at the incision. If your dog was discharged with an Elizabethan collar, be sure that he wears it whenever someone is not present to supervise him and prevent him from licking the area.

Rest Means Strict Restriction

Your dog will need strict rest for several weeks. This means that you need to curb his physical activities to prevent running, jumping, and playing with the kids or other pets. If your dog typically gets excited and makes a mad dash to the door when company calls, you will need to banish this behavior during his recovery period. The last thing you want is for him to sustain an anterior cruciate ligament tear in the other knee because he was frantically scrambling at the patio door when a squirrel or bird came into his sights. Carry out the following tips to keep your canine calm and resting:

  • If you or a responsible adult family member are not present for focused supervision of your dog's activity, he should be confined to a crate.
  • When your dog needs to go outdoors to eliminate, he must be walked in a short leash so that you can control his movements and keep him from running.
  • When your dog is not in the crate, try to confine him to areas that have carpeted floors to prevent slips and falls that may occur on smooth floor surfaces.

To prevent boredom in your dog while he recovers in his crate, offer him a puzzle toy, such as a Kong that has been filled with peanut butter and frozen, to keep his mind occupied.

Rehabilitation Therapy Works Wonders

As your dog progresses through the first months of recovery, your veterinarian will guide you as to what physical activity is appropriate for your dog's phase of recovery to restore strength, mobility and range of motion. It will be a few months before your dog can run free and jump around normally. In the meantime, you may be advised to take your furry friend for short walks on a leash, gradually increasing the distance of the walks over time. Your veterinarian may also demonstrate some simple leg manipulations for you to perform on your dog. If your surgeon recommends hydrotherapy for your recovering pooch, take advantage of this service. Hydrotherapy utilizes the buoyancy and resistance of water to provide patients with a low impact workout that increases blood circulation, strengthens muscle and improves mobility and physical endurance. Hydrotherapy may be administered in the form of supervised and controlled swimming, walking on an underwater treadmill or soaking in a whirlpool.

Prepare and Plan for Your Dog's Care

Surgery to repair your dog's torn anterior cruciate ligament can seem overwhelming when owners are faced with the lengthy duration of recovery. The following tips can reduce some of your anxiety and make the road to your dog's recovery easier:

  • If at all possible, plan to take some time off from work for the first week of postoperative recovery so that your dog can be monitored and any potential problems can be addressed promptly.
  • Take a family member or close friend along when you pick up your dog from the hospital. An extra pair of ears may pick up something in your veterinarian's instructions that you might miss, and that extra person can sit with your dog in the back of your vehicle to ensure that he does not jump around or try to climb the seats.
  • If your dog is large and heavy, purchase a sling from a local pet supply retailer to help you lift him up to his feet before walking him along on the leash. The sling can also provide an extra bit of support while walking if he should become tired before you make it back into the house.

To help preserve the health of your dog's joints for the remainder of his lifespan, do not allow your canine companion to become overweight or obese, and ask your veterinarian about nutritional joint supplements.

Surgical repair of torn anterior cruciate ligaments significantly improves mobility in 85 to 90 percent of dogs that undergo the procedure. However, you should also know that 40 to 60 percent of dogs that sustain a torn ligament in one knee will likely incur the same injury in the other knee at some point in their future, and this can easily happen if your dog becomes too active too soon during his first surgical recovery. Follow your surgeon's recovery guidelines to the letter to ensure the best outcome for your dog.

For more information, contact companies like Animal Clinic Of Billings.


28 December 2016

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