Years ago our Irie had surgery on her right rear leg. She had TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy) surgery to stabilize her stifle (knee) joint, all due to a tear in the ACL (or known as CCL or cranial cruciate ligament in dogs). Whew…that’s a mouthful!
Irie spent just one night at the specialty hospital but the recovery period is long–12 weeks in all. Her surgery was in late August and she didn’t resume regular activity until after Thanksgiving.
So, in the meantime, we learned how to keep Irie happy and healthy, making what seem like baby steps toward her recovery. She had to be on leash any time she’s outside and couldn’t jump or run at all. Our walks were super, super slow (think funeral march).
Here’s a look at nine tips we used as Irie recovered from ACL surgery:
Plan for very limited activity the first two weeks.
While Irie had surgical staples in place (and a cone around the clock), we did very little other than potty stops.
Brace yourself for the staples; I am a wimp about all things surgical so they were a bit of a shock at first.
Once I got over the initial jolt, though, the staples really proved to be no issue at all. Irie couldn’t access them due to the cone.
Consider a change in your sleeping arrangements.
If, like us, you sleep with your dog, you’ll need to make adjustments to your usual arrangements.
We moved our mattress directly onto the floor so Irie could get on the bed with us and rest comfortably.
Consider a change in sitting arrangements.
Typically Irie rested on the couch in the evenings. Since she could no longer get up on the couch, I removed all the cushions and sat them on the floor so we could sit there.
(No, we have not had any company during this recuperation period! And, yes, it looked about as good as you are imagining. But Irie was comfortable.)
Furniture that she could get on was been removed from the house.
Plan to watch or crate your dog.
Fortunately, we both work at home so we were here with Irie around the clock. I have a laptop so, instead of working from my upstairs office, I worked downstairs with Irie.
Block all stairs.
The stairs up to our offices were blocked with baby gates. The cats could still get upstairs but we don’t have to worry about Irie trying to go upstairs. This was one of the most important changes we made because accessing those stairs could have been very dangerous after ACL surgery.
Sleep on leash.
For the first month, Irie slept with a leash clipped to her collar. I wrapped the leash around my arm so that, if she tried to get up in the night, she would awaken me.
After about the first week, once the initial discomfort was gone, Irie grew bored.
When she was first released to begin activity again, Irie was only able to walk five minutes, twice a day. (We later worked up to two 25-minute slow walks.)
We used interactive toys to help distract her and stuffed a Kong with her meal, to help make her mealtime more challenging and longer lasting.
Walk dogs separately.
Since Irie had very, very limited activity in the first few weeks (and still walked extremely slowly), we walked Tiki separately. When Tiki came home from walks tired, it helped keep Irie calmer as well.
Irie loved to travel…but her overnight stay at the hospital meant that she was really reluctant the next time we headed to the car. She still had one more post-op appointment (for x-rays) but, the day after each vet visit, we try to schedule a fun day trip.
Since she was not able to ride for extended times in comfort, we planned mini day trips of just a couple of hours. We used an extended dog ramp for her to access the car safely.
We’ve learned a lot about post-surgical recovery and, most especially, the importance of patience (which has not always been a strong suit of mine!) The recovery is slow but it was exciting to see the progress she is making!
This post was first published in 2014. Irie passed away four years later of spleen cancer–but in the remainder of her life she never had another problem with her ACL! She remained active and happy–and enjoying car rides–right up until the end!