Helping Your Dog Recover From an ACL Surgery

Here at Doggy Brace, we’re always talking about how our braces are not alternatives to reconstructive surgery for a town ACL. But we also know that acl surgery recovery for a dog is long and stressful on both you and them. We’re here to help walk you through the recovery process and offer some tips on how to help your dog through it. 

Before ACL Surgery

Before you take your dog home, make sure your house is ready for them. You should clear out a small space in your house to contain your dog for the first 24-48 hours of them being home. The area should be comfortable for them, with nonslip padding on the floor, and no furniture for them to jump on. It should also be indoors without any access outside. 

Make sure it is clean, has their food and water bowl, and an area where they can sleep comfortably. If you need to, line it with puppy training pads, because accidents do happen. 

What to Expect After an ACL Surgery

It is completely normal for your dog to seem lethargic for a while after they’ve undergone medical care. They may not eat for 24 hours after the surgery either. Don’t force your dog to eat, and make sure they have clean water at all times.

Phase One of Dog ACL Surgery Recovery

Phase one is known as the first 1-3 days post surgery. Your dog will not seem like themselves at first, but we promise you that they’ll recover in time. You’re going to have to help them with a lot of things in the first three days, including walking. 

What to Expect For Their Wound

Bruising and swelling is usually peak during the first 2-3 days post surgery. In some cases, a light pressure bandage is placed on a dog’s leg to help prevent swelling. 

If there is not a bandage on your dog’s leg and swelling is a problem, you can gently place a cold compress on the incision 3-4 times daily for 5-10 minutes at a time. Be sure to keep the wound dry!

Be sure to keep the wound clean and keep an eye on the stitches to make sure nothing comes undone. As always, don’t let your dog lick at the wound — it’s best to keep a cone on their head until your vet says it’s alright to take it off.

How to Help Your Dog Walk

Your dog may not want to move much at first, and that is okay. Be patient with them. Eventually, you will have to let them go outside, though, to do their business. Keep them on a leash or harness at all times to control their movements. 

To help them move, especially up and down stairs, take a soft bath towel or old blanket and sling it under their abdomen near their hind legs. Lift up on the sling gently to help take weight off the injured leg and keep your dog balanced as they walk. Please use the sling at all times when your pet is not on secure footing.

Phase Two: Rehabilitation

Your dog’s stitches/staples will be removed 10-14 days after the surgery, but you should still take it easy for a while. Remember, rehabilitation should start after your dog is comfortable moving on its own, which can take up to 6 weeks after the surgery!

1-6 Weeks Post Surgery

During the first six weeks, we highly recommend avoiding long play times that involve running and pulling, and sticking to short walks around the house or yard. This will help keep your dog’s leg strong without overdoing it. 

This is when your dog is at their most vulnerable. Not only are they in pain from their surgery, they’re compensating by shifting most of their weight to their other leg. This actually increases their chance of injuring their other hind leg! It’s important for you to monitor your dog and keep them doing low-energy activities to avoid further injury. 

7-8 Weeks Post Surgery

Now you should be safely able to take your dog on progressively longer walks (with a leash/harness!). Begin with walks of two blocks in length and continue that length for a few days. If they respond well to it, you can add in an extra ½ block every few days. You can also take them on walks 2-3 times per day. 

Soon, your dog will be strong enough to go on their regular walks again. Just pay attention to them and don’t push them if they stop for a breather. 

In the fifth and sixth week of rehabilitation (weeks 11 and 12 after surgery), your dog is allowed to have mild off-leash activity. Remember though, no jumping, ball-playing or playing with other dogs yet! 

At the end of the sixth week of rehabilitation (12 weeks after surgery) your vet normally should check him/her again before full activity is allowed.

How Can I Help My Dog Recovery From an ACL Surgery?

The two biggest things you can do to help your dog is give them time and a whole lot of patience. They’re your fur baby, and we know it’s hard to see them in pain or to deny them their usual lifestyle, but this is crucial for their recovery. 

If you want to do more, you can. After their stitches are removed, you can talk with your vet and see if swimming or hydrotherapy will benefit your dog. It will help them strengthen their leg without putting weight on it. 

You can also invest in a Doggy Brace for either their uninjured leg — to help prevent that leg from getting hurt while your dog is shifting its weight more to the side — or, once the wound is healed, to help support your dog’s injured leg.

Never use the brace over the open wound! Remember, if you have any questions about your dog’s health, always talk with your vet. If you have any questions on how a Dog ACL Brace can help your dog while they recover from ACL surgery, we’re here to help.

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