Did you know that cruciate ligament tears or injuries are one of the most common injuries to the knee (or stifle) of the dog as well as humans? Called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), these injuries are quite similar to those from which we humans suffer, called ACL injuries. If your dog has suffered this injury, walking and normal gait will be difficult, painful and even impossible. Surgical repair is recommended to be done as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage to the joint which may not be irreversible. After surgery, your precious pup’s activities will be restricted at least for the period of time while the knee is healing. For some dogs, certain activities may be prohibited for the rest of your pet’s life. So, since this is such an important topic, let’s talk a bit about some of those acceptable activities for dogs after cruciate ligament surgery.
Your cuddly canine will require a great deal of attention from you while the healing and recovery process takes place after cruciate ligament surgery. Expect that your pet will be uncomfortable and, perhaps, a bit uncooperative to manipulation and exercise due to the pain. The passive motion exercises will simply require that you gently manipulate the limb to help encourage cartilage and joint health, prevent muscular contraction and stimulation of vascular and lymphatic flow. Because the joint will be sensitive to manipulation, you should expect to need to muzzle your precious pet to protect both of you during this activity. The passive range of motion exercises will be easy and should be done gently, beginning with 10 reps and gradually increasing over the next few weeks. Do not attempt any type of manipulation with your pet until you have consulted the veterinarian and have been given the okay, as well as detailed instructions on how to proceed.
Massage is an important part of any issue which involves the muscles, whether it’s on man or beast. While massaging doesn’t cost much, it is a priceless activity for the eventual success of the cruciate ligament surgery which has been done on your pet. The massaging action involves the quadriceps and the hamstring groups of large muscles which run along the front and the back of the thigh. Massaging these muscles will improve blood flow and lymphatic flow as well as work to help break down any scar tissue which has developed inside the muscles. Just like the passive range of motion exercises, your precious pooch won’t be very happy as you manipulate these tender places, making that muzzle a very important safety item for both of you. Be sure to put it on and leave it in place every time until the entire process has been completed. Your veterinarian will instruct you on the massage technique; follow the advice of your veterinary professional to the letter.
The short-leashed walks won’t begin until about 10 days after your pet’s surgery. They will begin with a duration of 5 to 10 minutes and will gradually be increased in duration to 15 to 20 minutes by day 28. These walks are important for the eventual return to regular activities for your pet as well as for their emotional health. You can, of course, take your pet outside briefly on the leash to urinate and defecate as needed immediately after surgery. These particular walks are different than those needed to relieve themselves. At all times, your pet should be controlled, on a short length leash and never allowed to run, jump, strain or play for the first 20 weeks after the cruciate ligament surgery. You should never push your pet beyond their limits of duration and strength. Towel walking may be an option in the early stages of your pet’s therapy. This involves slinging a bath towel under your pet to help to support them on wet or slippery surfaces. You won’t really be carrying their weight, rather only providing some support on those more dangerous surfaces.
This activity involves slowly ascending and descending stair steps but doing so on no more than 10 steps. This activity will not likely be one in which you’ll need to engage early in therapy but you may need to address 2 or 3 at a time if steps are involved in going outside to urinate or defecate.
Increasing walk time will come as your pet recovers from the surgery but it will have to be done in gradual increments to prevent injury or healing setbacks.
This activity involves holding your dog’s front paws in your hands so that their hind legs are supporting all of their weight. Encourage your pet to take steps while in this position. This activity won’t likely be an option until about 2 months after surgery.
To help with neuro re-education, walk your dog in figure eights, going to the left and to the right. As they get more strength, you can make your figure eight smaller to allow for more mobility practice. Avoid sharp turns at all costs.
Just as when a human being has a knee surgery of any type or a hip surgery, there is a period of time in which healing must take place. Our pets will experience similar healing periods and these periods will be painful for them and will require our help to assure they are able to attain the best range of motion possible. Patience and tender loving care applied in copious amounts will go a long way toward making your precious pooch whole again!