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How to Take Care of Your Pet After Torn ACL Surgery

Your dog has been limping for a few days now, and you know it could be something bad. You take your pet into the vet and he’s been diagnosed with an ACL tear. Being the good pet parents you are, you decide to go forward with surgery to help your pet best recover from a torn ACL.

Side note: Most veterinarians today prefer 1 of 4 methods for repair of a torn ACL. 1. TPLO 2. TTA. 3. MMP 4. Lateral Suture

Now it’s 1 day after the operation and you take your pet home. But what now? You’re veterinarian says to recheck in 2 weeks for suture removal, and then 2 months of limited activity, and a final x-ray recheck, but there’s a lot of time unaccounted for in between.

If you’re looking for some answers to these questions, and how to best care for your pet after a big surgery, such as an ACL tear, look no further! Our veterinarian Dr. Liao, has outlined his physical therapy and care regiment for his patients after an ACL repair surgery to help you out:

Weeks 1 & 2

  • NO running, jumping, playing or access to stairs. Treat pet like she is made of glass!
  • Use a playpen, oversized airline crate, or a small room to confine your pet when they are not under your direct supervision. Make sure they cannot jump on & off furniture. If the floor is slippery, cover it with non-skid rugs to keep your pet from slipping & falling. 
  • Take Her outside on a short leash for bathroom breaks. No walks longer than 5 minutes at a time. No visits to the dog park or dog beach. 
  • Use the sling we have provided when you are walking Her. You don’t need to lift her hind end off the ground, just provide support to keep her from slipping. Definitely use the sling when you bring Her back for rechecks – the floors can be slippery. 
  • If you are having any trouble restricting her activity level over the next 8 weeks, please call Dr. Liao to discuss prescription sedatives. 
  • Ice Pack If she is a willing participant - Wrap the icepack in a damp cloth to protect the skin while improving cold transfer to the tissues  – if not, skip this part:

- 1st 5 days: § Icepacks for 5-10 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a day to reduce pain & swelling

  • Only from  Day 6 on: Before walks: apply a warm compress for 5-10 minutes to increase blood flow & flexibility

- Pro Tip: fill a Ziploc baggie ½ full with uncooked rice or oatmeal. Warm it in the microwave, then test it on your inner wrist to be sure it is not too hot. Wrap it in a damp cloth to protect the skin while improving heat transfer to the tissues.

- After walks: apply an icepack for 5-10 minutes to decrease inflammation & provide post-exercise pain relief

  • Medication Regimen is important during this time to decrease pain and inflammation, help with recovery, and keep your pet calm and quiet during this period. Post operatively I always give:

- NSAID: either Rimadyl or Galliprant (depending on the pet’s age) for 10-14 days to decrease pain and inflammation after the surgery

- Gabapentin for 14-28 days to keep your pet pain free and calm during the recovery period

- Antibiotics for 7-10 days to prevent infection and decrease inflammation after surgery

- Joint supplements for life: important to keep the joint lubricated, help cartilage regrowth, and decrease inflammation after surgery as your pet now has an implant in and around it’s leg

    • We prefer Wellnergy Pets Hip & Joint Care joint supplement post-op for our ACL tear surgeries, as it includes New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel, a powerful natural anti-inflammatory, critical to decreasing inflammation in the joint after surgery

Week 3

  • Continue to treat Her like she is made of glass -- no high-impact activity. 
  • Continue warm compresses & icepacks as above, if she is willing. 
  • Increase exercise to 5-minute leash-walks, 2-3 times per day. A slower pace will encourage Her to use the leg sooner. 
  • To help the knee heal with good range of motion and flexibility, start "wall sits" once a day until Her can sit "squarely" once again. Have her stand next to a wall with the operated leg closest to the wall. Encourage her to sit, and the wall will keep her from "cheating" by sticking the operated leg out to the side. Don't force her or push her too hard -- we're looking for a gentle stretch. Slow & steady progress will increase her flexibility without harming the surgery site or causing her pain.

Weeks 4-8

  • Continue to treat Her like she is made of glass -- no high-impact activity.
  • Slowly increase either the frequency or the duration of walks, but make sure she is walking slowly enough that she is willing to use the leg. Also, make sure she remains mostly pain-free.
  • Signs of pain include limping or stiffness after periods of rest. If she is painful, decrease the amount of exercise for a few days, and continue to give joint supplements for pain relief. After a couple of days, you should be able to increase the length of walks again. o Expect good days and bad days, and adjust medication & exercise accordingly. There will be a trend of overall improvement, but it will take some time for Her’s body to heal.
  • Continue “wall sits” until she can sit squarely.
  • Supervised swimming for 5-10 minutes at a time will also help strengthen the leg (if Her is a willing participant – if not, then do not make her swim).

Follow-up Instructions:

    • 2 weeks for suture removal 
    • 8 weeks for orthopedic exam & x-rays 
    • Depending on her progress, further rechecks may be scheduled at that time. 
    • After TPLO surgery, you will see continued improvement over the next 5-6 months, even though the most critical phase of healing is the first 8 weeks.
    • Maintenance on joint supplements for life (with or without surgery) is key to providing comfort for your pet with a CCL injury. Joint supplements that include glucosamine, MSM, and chondroitin are key to providing increased joint lubrication and cartilage regrowth in these cases. I personally recommend Wellnergy Pets hip and joint products for pets suffering from these issues:

 


I hope this article helps you with you and your pet’s recovery from ACL tear and surgery. The better care your pet receives after an ACL tear surgery, the more likely it will be able to recover. The recovery rate is extremely high for dogs who receive early treatment and physical therapy, and most move on to regain over 95% usage of their knees.

If you suspect your dog may be prone to tearing their CCL or you think he or she may have injured it, make sure to make an appointment with your regular veterinarian. As always, feel free to reach out to our team on Facebook, Instagram, email, or in the comments section below if you have any further questions. Post your pictures and videos of your pet after recovering from an ACL injury and don’t forget to #wellnergypets! We love to see it! Have a wonderful day everyone!

 

About the Author:

Dr. Zonram Liao D.V.M.Dr. Zonram Liao D.V.M. is a Southern California native, and earned his undergraduate degree from University of California, San Diego before obtaining his veterinary degree from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. He is not only a firm believer in the use of supportive care supplements to improve the health and happiness of his patients, but also is a strong advocate of the benefits of preventive care medicine for his patients as well. During his free time, Dr. Liao enjoys spending his time outdoors fishing and hiking, playing basketball, watching movies, cooking, traveling, and trying new foods.

 

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