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When Your Dog Has Knee Surgery: Lessons From the Trenches

July 16, 2016

When Cash had surgery I thought I’d use this blog to document his progress. I’ve failed miserably. It’s been over three weeks and I haven’t posted anything.

Bad little blogger!

Fortunately, this is a case where no news is good news. His recovery is going really well and has been mostly without hiccups. We’ve learned some things along the way and I thought I would share them with you in case anyone out there is facing down knee surgery with their dog. It is a daunting process – and I’m here to help!

Before I get started let me say that there was a last minute change of plans regarding Cash’s surgery. He was originally supposed to be having TPLO but when the specialist looked at his X-rays he realized they’d be doing the osteotomy right through one of his growth plates – which he really didn’t want to do. After much back and forth the decision was made to instead do the lateral suture procedure. The general consensus is that lateral suture isn’t as good as TPLO but in this case it was our best option. So far his suture seems to be holding well but only time will tell how he does in the long run!

One week post surgery and this guy may be getting a little bit too used to all this pampering. off to the mountains we go!

Anyway, back to the point of this post! It’s been three weeks and we’ve learned a few things along the way about how to get through this process. Here is some advice from the trenches:

  • Be prepared for a long haul. Whether your dog has TPLO or the suture surgery, the recovery is a long, slow process. Cash was crated almost constantly for the first few weeks. After his two week checkup we were given the go ahead to start taking him for a couple very short walks per day. We started with three 5-10 minute walks and just a few days ago I upped one of them to 15-ish minutes. That may sound like a decent amount of exercise but keep in mind that that is ALL he is getting all day. He spends the rest of his time crated or tied to something because running, jumping, playing, climbing up on furniture, or going up and down the stairs is not allowed for at least another five weeks. This is not a quick process.
  • Be prepared to sleep on the floor. Cash is one of the most cuddly dogs I have ever met. He sleeps UNDER the covers with us at night and is something like a human toddler in that he really wants someone to lay with him until he falls asleep. That was great when he could sleep in our bed with us but not so much now that he’s on injured reserve. I have spent many nights sleeping curled up with him on his big, comfy dog bed. And that’s another tip: if your dog doesn’t have a big, comfy dog bed you should probably get him one ASAP! It will be more comfortable for both of you.

  • Get your dog under control before surgery. We had only had Cash for a month before he started limping on his back leg. During that time we had signed him up for clicker training through the local shelter – which he then got kicked out of for being too rambunctious around the other dogs. This guy has SO MUCH ENERGY and we needed to get him under control FAST before he went under the knife. On the recommendation of several people we trust we signed him up for e-collar training with Sit Means Sit. I know people have strong feelings about using electronic collars on dogs but I have to say that it has been LIFE CHANGING for us, and for Cash. After just ONE class he was walking perfectly on a leash, something that was never possible before. This is awesome in general (and even without surgery I would have been happy we did it!) but the best part is that his little recovery walks are nice and SLOW. Pulling on the leash and lunging at rabbits would not be good for his recovery and now he does neither of those things. Before training I had a hard time walking him because he pulled so hard – now my three year old can walk him! Seriously, it’s maybe the best money we’ve spent on one of our dogs.
  • Do the damn exercises. Our vet sent us home with a bunch of instructions on what to do – and what not to do – while Cash was recovering. Top of the list was to do his range of motion exercises several times a day, everyday. We were doing them but maybe not with the dedication we should have been and his leg got TIGHT. A week out from surgery and he was hobbling around with his bad leg tucked waaaaaay up under his body. I started treating doing his rehab like it was my job and three or four days later he was walking on it. Hallelujah!
  • Pick up one of these leashes. I stumbled upon these leashes at our local dog food store. They’re made from paracord, have a clip one each end, and have rings spread out throughout the length of the leash. I can’t even tell you how much this thing has saved my sanity! Cash is not allowed to roam free in the house which means that if he’s not crated he constantly has to be clipped to something. This leash makes it so easy to clip him to furniture and because all those rings allow the leash to be any length, it means I can make his leash as long or short as I want. It’s the little things that make your life easier during this process!

So that’s where we are now – and what we’ve learned three weeks in. I’m so happy to almost be to the halfway point of his recovery and I can’t wait for the day that I can watch him run around again. Thank you all for your continued good thoughts on our guy!


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