There should be no unsupervised exercise; and running and jumping should be avoided during the twelve-week post-operative period.
First four weeks post-op
Patients must have enforced rest for the first four to six weeks following surgery. This means that they should be confined to a small room or cage for the duration of this period. The only exercise allowed is controlled, short duration (ten minutes maximum), slow walks on a lead, two to three times daily, for toileting purposes. Walking up and down flights of stairs, playing with other pets, jumping up, or any uncontrolled activity must be avoided! Care must be taken when walking on slippery surfaces. An old towel can be used as a hindquarter sling to provide support and security during the early post- operative period.
Four - six weeks post-op
Patients are reassessed again at this time because there is generally a more obvious and rapid improvement in the degree of lameness observed by the owners between four and six weeks. Most patients are usually showing only mild lameness at this stage. Possible follow-up radiographs are also taken at this time to confirm adequate bone healing and implant stability (if implants were involved) prior to the start of controlled exercise. Once the wound is healed and stitches are removed, we may also recommend hydrotherapy and/or physiotherapy as part of the rehabilitation program if needed.
Six - eight weeks post-op
Sit/stand exercises should begin around six weeks post-op. While walking on a lead, the dog is commanded to “sit” and just before s/he fully assumes the sitting position s/he is commanded to “walk- on”. This routine is repeated ten or more times during every walk and has the effect of building the quadriceps muscle mass, which is very important in rehabilitation following cruciate repair.
Eight - ten weeks post-op
All going well, controlled exercise on a lead may begin at this time. Lead walks should be minimal at first (15 to 20 minutes once daily). Slight incline walking (slowly up and down small hills) can begin.
Ten to twelve weeks post-op
Between ten and twelve weeks, the duration of lead walking exercise can be increased slowly by ten to fifteen minutes per week. The emphasis is now placed on more inclined work and figure-of-eight manoeuvre during the exercise period. Deep-water swimming for ten to fifteen minutes several times a week, if possible, is excellent therapy at this stage.
Twelve to sixteen weeks post-op
By this time, most dogs should have returned to near normal activity. However, there is a large variate in how quickly individuals return to full function following orthopaedic surgery. Patients undergoing bilateral surgeries will take longer to recover. No off lead or playing with other dogs until six months post-op.