Rehab for Dogs after TPLO Surgery

Though physical rehabilitation protocols benefit recovery following a TPLO, no established or standardized rehabilitation protocol exists. Like much of medicine, it is important to tailor a rehabilitation protocol to a specific patient, considering the pet’s range of motion, strength, degree of healing, and ability to perform each exercise.

Just as returning an athlete to a game day situation too early can lead to re-injury, excessive rehabilitation can deter postoperative recovery from a TPLO procedure. Ideally, every pet would be able to follow up with a rehabilitation therapist following a TPLO so that their doctor can develop an individualized protocol. However, we know this is not always going to be possible.

If professional rehabilitation is not an option, we recommend several gentle at-home rehabilitation protocols to follow. Please check with your veterinary surgeon to ensure there are not any extenuating circumstances for your pet.

Frequent leash walking is an important part of the TPLO aftercare. Weight bearing is good for bone healing, maintaining range of motion in the joints of the affected limb, and maintaining muscle mass. We recommend taking your pet for short 5 minute leash walks multiple times a day, beginning within 24 hours after surgery. After a couple weeks the duration of these walks can gradually increase so that by 8 weeks after surgery your pet can have a 15-20 minute walk once or twice a day in conjunction with a couple other short leash walks. It is important to restrict your pet from high impact activities during this time (running, jumping, playing).

We advise using ice therapy directly to the incision site for the first 3-5 days following surgery. Icing helps to reduce inflammation and pain at surgery sites. Passive range of motion exercises are also a cornerstone of at home rehabilitation. Here are videos demonstrating passive range of motion exercises and icing therapy.

Once your pet is consistently bearing weight on the surgical limb (typically around 3-4 weeks after surgery), there are other activities you can do with your pet to help build balance and strength. These should be performed on a non-slip surface, such as a yoga mat or rug.

  • While your pet is standing, gently nudge your pet’s hind end from side to side. This helps your pet shift weight from one leg to the other.
  • With your pet in a standing position, lift one leg (non-surgical limb) off the ground for 10-15 seconds. Alternate with each leg except for the surgical limb. Similar to the above exercise, this helps your pet shift weight.
  • Have your pet sit down, then stand up. This action helps with range of motion in the joints of the hindlimbs.

It is important to remember that if your pet is performing additional activities (weight shifting exercises, sit-to-stands, S-shaped walking, etc) and is regressing in limb function, we strongly recommend you stop the exercises and consult with your veterinary surgeon or a canine rehabilitation therapist for further guidance. For more information on additional rehabilitation exercises, click here.

Here is a link to find a rehabilitation therapist in your area: http://rehabvets.org/directory.lasso.

Have questions about TPLO recovery that was not answered?

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