Postoperative Care

After surgery is completed, the affected leg(s) may be bandaged for three to seven days. Passive physical therapy is begun immediately after bandage removal to work out the stiffness and reestablish a normal range of motion in the joint. During the next three to four weeks, light walking around the house or supervised short walks outside must be strictly controlled until a progressive building of muscular support and stamina leads to unrestricted normal function.

Your pet must be kept in a confined area such as a small room, dog run, or kennel for the first 4 weeks following knee surgery. This confinement is essential to prevent your pet from damaging the repair caused by excessive activity such as running through the house and slipping on the tile/linoleum, when your pet sees a squirrel outside or when the doorbell rings. After this period of time, your pet needs to be kept on restricted activity for the next two months.

During this period of restricted activity he/she should still be confined to a small area, however slow, controlled leash walks are permitted. This restriction will allow sufficient time for the surgical site to heal completely. Tranquilizers may be necessary to help keep your pet quiet. Your pet may develop a tolerance to these drugs, however, necessitating progressively higher doses to effect the desired level of tranquilization. Only enough tranquilization to “take the edge off” for your pet and make them happy to walk rather than run is necessary. These drugs are not harmful or addictive to your pet in any way. No off-leash activity should be allowed for at least 10 weeks following surgery.

If a bandage is placed on your pet’s leg, it should be kept clean and dry. If there is a chance that the bandage will come in contact with water or moisture, you should cover the bandage with a plastic bag. Do not leave the plastic bag on your pet’s leg for a prolonged period of time however, or it will cause moisture accumulation and skin infection underneath the bandage! If your pet’s toes are exposed at the bottom of the bandage, please check them daily for any signs of swelling. If they should become cool and/or puffy, the bandage may be impeding circulation and should be changed immediately. If this should occur, please contact us.

If your pet’s toes are not exposed, pinch them through the bandage until your pet reacts to let you know he still has feeling in them. Due to your pet’s normal activity, the top may loosen and the incision site may become exposed. This is okay as long as your pet does not lick or chew at the incision area, the bandage still offers support to the knee, and you are still able to check your pet’s toes. If the incision area looks as though it needs to be cleaned, please clean the incision with witch hazel, and apply an antibiotic ointment to it if you wish.

If you find that your pet is having difficulty in rising and/or walking with the bandage on, we suggest that you use a towel placed around the stomach to act as a sling for the hind quarters. Lift your pet gently and support the rear limbs while it walks. We would be happy to show you how this is done. You can also purchase a premade sling from a pet store or online if you prefer.

Your pet may require a lot of patience and attention during this recovery period. Your biggest chore will be to keep your pet confined and inactive for a three month period. If you have any questions or if you need help and/or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Overall, some pets recover very quickly with little need for owners’ assistance, but other animals need intensive physical therapy. Lean and fit animals tend to recover quicker than overweight and weaker pets.