More and more veterinarians are starting to recommend post operative physical therapy for cranial cruciate ligament repair patients. While opinions differ from one veterinary surgeon to another, proponents of canine PT believe that physical therapy in the post-op CCL repair dog can help bring a dog back to full function in a shorter amount of time vs. traditional rest following surgery. Veterinarians are presently conducting studies to show the efficacy of PT in animals, and to prove that it has a similar restorative mechanism as PT in humans.
There are two parts to canine physical therapy, the first covering the period immediately following surgery, and the second is begun when inflammation has subsided and there is evidence of healing. The first part of PT in the dog patient consists of icing, passive ROM (range of motion), and early wound mobilization. The goal of PT during this time is to minimize inflammation and pain, preserve joint range of motion, and to prevent or further minimize muscle and soft tissue atrophy that has already taken place.
The second part of canine PT is begun as inflammation has started to resolve, and healing begins to be the predominate theme in the wound. During this time pro-PT veterinarians believe that enough stress should be applied to healing tissues to stimulate and optimize healing without threatening the stability of the joint. Ideally, phase two activities should parallel the gradual increase in tensile strength observed in the wound. If one is too aggressive with PT during this period, failure can occur; conversely, if one lags in PTH activities, the goal of early return to function is not accomplished.
Exercises included in canine PT:
1. Sit and stand.
2. Corner stands.
3. Figure-eight walks.
4. Wheel barreling.
5. Stretching of hamstrings, quads. (without stimulation).
6. Decline treadmill followed by incline treadmill.
7. Leg weights.
8. Unbalancing activities..
Right now PT is favored in dogs with working backgrounds such as agility or hunting, but it has begun to pop up amongst other owners as well. Not all veterinary offices offer PT services, and you should check with your vet prior to CCL repair as to whether or not it is something your doctor recommends. None of these exercises should be attempted on your dog by anyone other than a trained professional, and premature movement of the joint in a post-op CCL repair dog can compromise the stability of the joint and ultimately cause the repair to fail. Always follow the direction of your veterinarian when exercising your dog during the post-operative period.