Post ACL Surgery

One of the most important post ACL surgery rehabilitative treatments that people need to be aware of is how crucial it is to confine their dog. As hard as it may be, your dog needs to be confined to an X-pen and not be allowed to jump up or play and run loose in the house.

Your beloved pet will be uncomfortable and not the happiest camper. Some of the things you can do to help them is entertain their mind instead of their body. There are games you can play with them that teaches them to use their muscles in their brains and not their muscles in their bodies.

You can play soft relaxing music to ease their anxiety. Their is all sorts of music designed with dogs in mind. You will need to use a cone on their head if they tend to lick the incision constantly. They hate it, we hate it, it is only temporary and in their best interest. Rubbing Traumeel Gel on their leg will help with healing and any pain. Be careful to avoid the incision area itself.

Your dog will need assistance in going outside to defecate or urinate. A towel sling under their belly will help greatly since they will not be able to squat very well. You will become a very important caregiver to your dog. They will look to you for comfort and company and the bond between you will only grow.

It does not matter whether it is a TPLO surgery or regular dog ACL surgery, canine cruciate surgery is a serious operation requiring the utmost in post surgical care. All it takes is one jump up to undo everything that was just done in the operating room. As difficult as it may be, your dog needs to be totally confined and always on a leash. Soft bedding and non-slip flooring and lots of TLC!

It is a very good practice to keep a record of all the days activities:

  • this includes the feeding schedule
  • potty breaks 
  • the time you take them out and for how long 
  • did they defecate or just urinate and were they straining
  • were there any difficulties with relieving themselvesDownload the Ultimate Rehabilitation & Physiotherapy Guide for Dogs

All of this helps should anything ever come up and you need to make a visit back to the vet for some unknown reason. In Chapter four of my ebook I go into great detail about all the do’s and don’ts when it comes to a canine cruciate operation. Having been through it so many times myself, I know what works, what doesn’t work and how to save money on the rehabilitation end of it all!

How did your ACL surgery go? Share your comments below!

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70 Responses to Post ACL Surgery

  • helga says:

    Hi Ryan,
    Yes, many different dogs have had success with braces rather than surgery. It does depend on the extent of the damage in the knee and the condition a dog is in. It does require equal amounts of due diligence and a very committed guardian. When faced with surgery for a torn CCL, we need to ask the treating vet and/or specialist whether or not a brace would work. Sometimes the answer may not be what we wanted to hear, but that is when we need to listen to our inner voice and be guided to do the best for our companion. Not all vets will agree with a brace so seek out another opinion if needed. Thanks for sharing that information and I wish all the best for you and Artie! Please keep me posted on his recovery…

  • helga says:

    Hi Kim,
    I am very sorry to hear of Murphy’s setback. I have a few questions to do with all of this. You mentioned he had surgery on Oct 12 and then 10 days later he had his sutures removed on Oct 22. During that time he was toe touching, partial weight bearing on the limb and on pain medication. You mentioned that only 6 days ago he stopped using the leg, which would have been only 3 days after the sutures were removed. What I am concerned with is what kind of “slips” did he have on the stairs? Was he “dragging” the leg after that? I am not sure if he fell on his leg, or what happened to possibly have influenced this non-weight bearing now. Also, you mention doing PROM which is fine as long as it is done correctly, in a straight plane motion, so to not injure surrounding ligaments. You also mention walking him 3x a day. I don’t know how much you are walking him by way of distance, time and type of ground.

    Initially post surgery a dog should only be taken outside to go potty and then confined to a room with non-slip flooring. Stairs should be avoided and a ramp needs to be used. If stairs cannot be avoided, they need to be assisted with a sling under their rear to help support them up and down the stairs and prevent falls and further injuries. It is great that you have him ALWAYS on a leash! Critically important! Some possibilities are that he cannot walk the amount he is being taken out 3x a day. This is very taxing on his other knee and believe me, you don’t want that one going right now! I can’t imagine why a vet would tell you he is in no pain when he would not be on pain medication if he wasn’t. The medication would mask discomfort to some degree while he is being examined. If the PROM is causing him more discomfort, I would not do it anymore until you see the next vet. What did the vet say to do? The bobing up and down sounds like a sore forelimb or shoulder. Have the vet check that. He may need a chiropractic adjustment. Please check the stifle where the sutures were, to make sure the incision has not re-opened. Is there any swelling? If there is any weeping from that area, get him in before Monday if you can. You don’t want to risk a potential staph infection happening.

    The only thing I would suggest is very gently rubbing Traumeel gel on the thigh and knee area, staying away from the incision site. Sometimes a cold pak placed on the limb will help with pain. It is only 3 weeks post surgery so he will be guarding that limb. Get another opinion from a vet, and only take him out to go potty, 10 min and that’s it. If he doesn’t go, take him out in a few hours again. Use a sling to help him up and down the stairs. He may have strained his forelimb utilizing the stairs as most of a dogs body weight is on the front. Please be careful with him, and good luck at the vet. Please keep me posted and I hope he just strained a muscle. If the vet suggests physical therapy, hydrotherapy is one of the best methods for that. There is a reason he is suddenly not using that rear leg and that needs to be addressed as well as the forelimb and shoulder checked. In the meantime, breathe…I am so glad you are going to another vet.

  • cheryl broughton says:

    Broughtie had the acl surgery one week ago should his knee be sticking out to the left

  • helga says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    By now Broughtie should be 2 weeks post surgery. I am not sure what you mean by his knee sticking out to the left. If he is toe touching now, or gently placing weight on that stifle, he is possibly doing fine. if his leg is being held out to the left it is possibly from pain and avoidance of placing weight on it. Monitor him closely and help him with a towel sling under his belly for going to the bathroom and walking. He is probably on some form of medication for pain and antibiotics, but will still need your assistance. If he is refusing to place weight on the limb in 3 or 4 weeks time, get him looked at by a vet. Given that I do not know anything about your dog, the age, other possible ailments such as a hip problem, I apologize for possibly not being able to help you. Please keep him always on a short lead, no playing, no running, no jumping, and remember to keep his weight in check. If you can get to a pool for rehab that is the best thing you can do for him once the sutures have healed. Good luck and I wish you all the best!

  • Tami says:

    Help, I have a 5 year old chow chow. He hurt his leg in nov of 2012. He been to the vet, who at that point said wait and see if he improves. He does not put much weight on his hurt leg, he limps every once in a while, but still wants to play and go for walks. My problem, I scheduled him for surgery and read some info on the acl. I canceled his surgery due to putting him thru a lot of pain, and not being reassured this would help him. If I just let him be, could he heal by himself? Am I doing the right thing?

  • helga says:

    Hi Tami
    You need to know if it was his ACL that he injured and your vet or specialist will be able to do a drawer test to determine that. Most dogs will still want to play and walk and do the things they should not be doing despite having an injured stifle. It is inherent in their nature to not show pain. Any surgery comes with some degree of pain and that is unavoidable. Some dogs can recover through a conservative approach and not require surgery. The dog needs to be in shape, not overweight, kept on a leash always, no playing, no jumping and a whole bunch more. It requires the utmost in restraint over your dog getting better and a rehab program should be followed with hydrotherapy if at all possible. If there is a Holistic Vet in your area it would be worth seeing them for an opinion. Sometimes we need to perform the surgery due to the situation. I hope this helps you and you make the right decision. I wish you all the best with your Chow!

  • lindsay says:

    My 3 year old rottie had the extracap surgery for a torn ccl exactly one week ago. Her bet has her on vetprophen, tramadol, acepromizine, and antibiotics twice a day. She has been confined at all times and only leash walked with a sling twice a day. Suddenly starting yesterday her ankle started to swell and now its not as badbut as of this evening her whole leg is swollen. Is this normal. Her vet said it really isnt for her ankle to look like a baseball and to apply ice compresses and call nack in two days if the swelling isnt gone. Im worried there might be infectioninfection or something. Is there some thing else i can do to help with her pain. She hurts so much she is barely slepping and eating. She is a defensive biter so while she is hurting like this there is absolutely no way i can get her back to the vet. Please help i dont know what to do. And the surgeon is a 2 hour ride so i really dont know what to do.

  • helga says:

    Hi Lindsay,
    If your Rotti has edema on her whole hind leg and she never did a few days ago, I would get her checked. It is normal to get some fluid build up in this area post op but the swelling should subside within a week. Cold compresses placed on the leg will help with reducing the swelling and with managing pain. Keep the compress away from the incision as you do not want to risk getting an infection. Only when the incision site has healed closed is it okay. Traumeel gel or cream gently rubbed on the rest of the leg will help with the pain. If she is on pain meds from the vet, she should be in only minimal discomfort. Give her easy to digest food and keep it to small portions. Add more water to it to help fill her up. You can put cooked squash in it and that is helpful and nutritious and has a high water content.

    She will be wakeful in the night from discomfort. The first few weeks are the most difficult and just being there with her, laying with her, and remaining calm will soothe her. If you feel the swelling needs to be looked at right away, take her to the vet now. If you need to put a muzzle on her to prevent an injury from someone potentially getting bit then do so. If you don’t have a muzzle, most vet clinics do have one or you can make one with a wrap (cloth). They do this in a first aid situation. Remember, the more stressed you are the more stressed she will become. It is very important to be calm and reassure her.

    It is better sometimes to be safe than sorry. If she has gotten an infection, the sooner it is dealt with the better. If you have any Rescue Remedy give her that. Put 4 drops in the side of her cheek every half hour for a few times and she will calm down and not be anxious. That is a great stand by for stressed out dogs. If you can’t put the dropper in her cheek, put the drops on your fingers and rub it in there. Only you know the degree of swelling that she has, and if it does not go down with rest and cold compresses throughout the day, get her checked. i wish you the best of luck and please let me know how it goes!

  • maria says:

    I have a 8 year old pit/lab mix that has had TTA surgeries on both knees about 4 to 5 years ago. About 1 month ago she started, off and on, holding up and favoring her right knee. I took my dog to the vet and he said looked and felt normal. Today, after I left the room for 20 minutes I came back and she was hold her right knee up. She does not put pressure on it and seems to be in a lot of pain. My question is can TTA surgeries come “undone” after so many years? My dog was not jumping or running when this happened. I am aware that she has arthritis in her knees, but could she become so painful that fast?

  • helga says:

    Hi Maria,
    So sorry to hear of your girl having pain issues in her knee. Firstly, to address your question about whether the operation is undone, any operation can be undone with an accident. It being this many years later, I doubt that is the reason. More than likely it is the arthritic changes which we can only manage to a degree. You will find that in the spring and fall a dog will more than likely show its lameness at this time. Coming from a Chinese perspective, that is when the cold and dampness and wind enters the body. Even with people, they will feel the changes much more at those times of the year. Being 8 years old, she has done remarkable well to not have had lameness until now. If she is seriously lame constantly, the vet needs to look into possible damage somewhere in her stifle or hip? Possibly she needs a chiropractic adjustment if her back is out. There are a few possibilities here.

    If she is not using the hind limb at all, she needs something for her pain an discomfort during the seasons that affect her the most. Ensuring she gets moderate exercise will help her, especially if you can do any hydrotherapy in a heated pool. This all helps to keep the arthritis from progressing further and keeps her stretched, strong and mobile. There are natural remedies that can help like Traumeel tabs, Glucosamine and Omega oils. Weight management is also very important and limiting jumping up into vehicles or onto beds and couches. Ramps are excellent for this purpose.

    Sometimes it is just given her age, time of year and wear and tear after this many years that causes them to now develop issues with discomfort. Dogs are smart, whenever they go to the vet they know something is up and they suddenly are okay! My girl does that but we know better. Maria, don’t panic and just watch your girl for signs of discomfort and give her something for it when it is needed. With inflammation even a cold pak on her leg can help. Home modifications may be necessary. Sometimes these things can appear overnight! Hang in there, and find something to give her that will alleviate the pain, preferably something natural. I wish you all the best with your girl!

  • maria says:

    Thank you Helga so much for your response. I took her to the vet had xrays done and she does have arthritis/sciatica pain in her lower lumbar. I started her on rimadyl , glucosamine, and omega 3. I have her on strict confinement, I don’t know when or if it will get better with non surgery treatment. Besides cold packs is there anything else I should try?

  • helga says:

    Hi Maria,
    If she has sciatica pain, a nerve is being pinched in her back. A chiropractic adjustment is needed to correct her alignment and / or swimming in a warm pool will stretch out he muscles which could be causing her tension. It has a ripple effect when the muscles tighten and then pull the back out of position if there is pain. She will then compensate in her gait and could have pain in her knees and on it goes. Traumeel gel is good to rub on and help alleviate pain. With arthritic pain sometimes a warming pad works better than a cold pack. You will have to try and see which is better for her situation. Stretch her gently to keep her limber and not tight. I wish you all the best for you and your darling girl!

  • Angela says:

    Hi, my Rhodesian Ridgeback is on day 6 after a TPLO op. She has just been out to go to toilet & her leg gave way. She quickly recovered & finished her business but is now limping on her TPLO more than previously, should I be concerned?

  • helga says:

    HI Angela,
    Gosh, I am sorry to hear this has happened. When her leg gave way did she fall on it? Did she just cave in a bit? She may have just strained her muscles a bit. I am sure she is on some pain meds at the present time, so she should recover in about 2 or 3 days. If she is not recovering, get her in to be looked at. In the meantime, she should be confined to a small X-pen, room or small space and not allowed to roam around. Only potti her for 10 min at a time, non slip ground, flooring, no jumping, no off leash, no playing, and I am sure you know all the ropes! I do know of a dog that blew their TPLO within the first week from a jump so it is not impossible. Monitor her and if you feel in your gut something more is going on please get her in to be on the safe side. If she blew it, she will have to be re-opened and repaired. I pray that this is not the case and that it is just a sore muscle of some sort. Don’t wait longer than a couple of days and please get her looked at. Keep me posted and I wish you all the best!

  • Robbin says:

    Hi, Gunner is 7.5 years old, Golden Retrienver. Had Tplo done on March 5th. Had to have a pin removed because it was moving week three.
    Vet even told husband that it was a crap shoot to leave itin or not, guess Gunner lost. Went in for xrays last Wednesday, week 7 post tplo. Vet said that clinically , he is doing well. Walking well. But she said that the bone, where it was cut is not as healed as she would like it to be at this point. Need follow up xrays in 4 weeks. Said that bone is either being reabsorbed or there may be a slight infection. Said not to worry about infection unless Gunner starts to lick his knee or becomes extremely lame. She said if it were her dog, she would not worry. BUT, it is my dog, and I AM worried now. Could the pin have caused this?

    We are going on vacation in couple of weeks and Gunner is staying with MIL, and yes, I am already wondeirng if things will be okay. Can you say worry wart?

    Gunner is going on 5-10 minute walks about 4 times a day, a little bit of a limp. He is way over weight and we are addressing this. He currently weighs 100#, down from 111#pre-surgery. He is a larger Golden, but non the less, we know he needs to lose weight. Vet wants him down to 80#.

    My quesiton to you is this, how concerned should I, can I be aobut the infection? Is the vet correct not to put Gunner on Antibiotics now and use the wiat and see approach?

    She did mention “if” down the line it is an infection, there are ways to make it go away and she would loike to remove the plate and screws. What kind of a recovery woould that be, and how long? Also how much$ We really don’t have an unlimited stream of $$ right now with two small boys and a questionable economy.

    If you can please put my mind at ease, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you kindly.

    Gunners Mom

  • helga says:

    Hi Robbin,
    Well, so sorry to hear of Gunner! if he has and infection in the knee, he will get very swollen, possibly red at eh incision site, hot to the touch on knee, and it may start to weep. He will not use his leg as it will be painful. Watch for any of these signs. Antibiotics are nasty to give as they usually cause a secondary yeast infection. if it is a staph infection, it is crucial to get him on antibiotics asap. if it is a staph infection you will see the site open up and weeping and extreme swelling and pain. With a TPLO it is best to remove the metal if that is the case. You do not want the infection going into the bone. If he is just a slow healer by his system being compromised, then give good nutrition and supplements to help speed his recovery. It is all very costly…been there…done that!

    Get him to lose some weight which will help with his recovery and knee mobility. Give him more water in his food, feed pumpkin, carrots, apples, less carbs and starches. Give raw carrots and peas as treats and feed raw marrow bones to keep his mind engaged and stomach satisfied. Get him to a hydrotherapy pool if you can. That will shed the pounds and help his mind and build up his muscle and stamina. he will be a happy camper after a swim session. Make sure it is in a controlled environment with a qualified hydrotherapist.

    If you are going away, make sure he is in good hands. I wish you all the best…

  • Teri says:

    My Bernese Mountain Dog, Butters, had TPLO surgery on his left leg on 2/27/13. He had an amazing immediate recovery-too good to be true. He then needed surgery on the right leg which was on 4/12/13. 2 weeks into recovery which was not as speedy as the first, he was still not putting a lot of weight on the leg. While outside on a potty break-he unexpectedly went to grab a ball from my other dog and when he turned, fell on the newly operated right leg :( This was a week ago yesterday. After taking him to doctor on Tuesday, she felt he probably sprained his leg as she felt no disturbance in the plates or the “drawer-pull” test. I was told to have him rest to the max-keeping him on his 100 mg Tramadol and 100 Rimadyl daily regimen and icing his leg 360 degree around as much as possible. His weight-bearing varies day to day.

    I am to call the doctor in 2 days with a report-what would you advise I do next? Am I on the right course?

  • helga says:

    Hi Teri
    Oh dear, I am so sorry to hear your Berner had to have double TPLO surgery. I am surprised that he had the two surgeries only 6 weeks apart from each other. If the vet checked the leg and felt no disturbance in the plates, that is good. I do know of dogs that fell and snapped the screws in half, ruining the entire surgery a few days after. Both legs will be compensating for each other, depending which one is the most sore. Check there is no abnormal swelling and watch how much he weight bears on it. Traumeel gel is good to gently massage on the knees to help with pain. (keep away from any open incision) Keep your dog on leash at all times and very short 10 minute walks to potti only. If at all possible, get into a hydrotherapy pool where the water is warm and get him moving his legs freely, without pain and non-weight bearing. Of course do this only after both incisions have closed completely. Never let your dogs play together right now. It is so crucial to his recovery to have him confined and restrained. TPLO surgery is not full proof from injury. I know of surgeries that have failed from owners thinking it is bullet proof and they let their dog run free or do stuff way too soon. Please monitor your Butter darling and watch for anything abnormal. Check for heat in the area, swelling, redness etc. and lack of using the leg. Your vet needs to follow him closely. Keep me posted and I wish you all the best!

  • Deborah Holmes says:


    My 9 year old Staffordhire Bull Terrier has had a cruciate ligament repaired on Monday 20th May, she is on Antibiotics twice daily and also pain meds Tramadol and metacam, and I have been told that it could take months for everything to heal properly and we have to to get her to start using her leg again when the stitches are out. She is back at the vets tomorrow for her post op check, however I have noticed her whole leg seem to be very swollen right down to her paw, is this normal or should I be worried.

  • helga says:

    Hi Deborah,
    I am so sorry to hear of your 9 year old tearing their CCL. When they have surgery they will get some initial swelling in the leg. This can be helped by applying a cool compress on the area, being careful to keep it from the incision site. He will need months of rehabilitation to recover fully and as soon as the incision is closed, hydrotherapy is the best form of physio for him. If you have access to a warm pool for canine hydrotherapy, he should be getting in a few times a week. In my e-book I give lots of information on rehabilitating a dog with a cruciate injury. If the swelling on your dog’s leg does not go down and he is reluctant to use it, have him looked at by the vet again. he should be using the leg slightly by now if he is on pain meds. Keep me posted on his recovery and status and I wish you all the best!

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