Whether your dog has undergone a TTA, TPLO, Tightrope, or traditional extracapsular imbrication repair, the steps following surgery are generally the same. Whether your dog stays the night at the vet’s after surgery, or head home with you the day of the procedure, the first few days following the CCL repair should be dedicated to making your dog feel as comfortable as possible. Be aware that your dog may have lost his appetite as a result of the surgery, so have stocks, rice, chicken, pumpkin and other whole foods readily available if he refuses his regular dog food. Oral pain medications should never be given on an empty stomach, and having a number of different foods at your disposal will help make medication administration much more pleasant for you and your pet.
Make sure to give prescribed medications that control pain and reduce swelling in the stifle joint. If at any time you do not feel your dog’s pain is being properly managed, contact your veterinarian for advice on manipulating the doses to make them the most comfortable. Just as each dog is different with their injury, each dog will reaction to medications in their own way. Some dogs may become anxious, while others may be so heavily sedated that they are unable to go outside to relieve themselves. You want to avoid these extremes, work with the dosing to obtain both proper pain control without complete sedation.
Check the incision for signs of infection daily which include swelling, pain, discharge and redness. This is obviously not possible if your dog came home with a modified Robert Jones (or similar) bandage, but the same rule applies – check the area around the cast each day, making sure to check for any swelling, discoloration or infection. When checking the surgical site, a cold compress can be applied to the stifle three times daily, 10 minutes per session for the first 2 days to help reduce the swelling. Starting on the third day after surgery, a warm compress can be applied to the stifle in order to soften the connective tissues. Your veterinarian will instruct you as to whether to also pursue range of motion exercises or physical therapy at this time – this will depend on which procedure your dog underwent.
Your dog should remain on a leash at all time for at least the first two months following surgery. They should also not go up and down steps, or be on uncarpeted floors. Exercise should be limited to to short leash walks for two months. During the third and fourth months after surgery, exercise should be gradually be increased to normal.
Running, jumping, and rough play are not allowed during the first four months after surgery.
Just remember to listen to your dog. They will make you aware of their comfort level, and let you know when they are ready to start using the injured limb more. No one is perfect, and we have all had those “oops” moments when our dog tried to do too much too soon, but just stay positive. Your dog has a keen sense of what you are thinking and feeling, and this ultimately will have an effect on their recovery.