Rehab for Pet Surgery – 3 Steps


Spaniel dog with plastic Elizabethan collar on her

Jicky the Spaniel in the E-Collar after FHO

A quick bit of info for you after your pet has had surgery.

I do work on lots of cats and a variety of other animals. If you want to know more about cat specifics now, please search for cat in the search box. I’m still working on developing the cat information pages.

For more specific info on a particular condition, please refer to the menus at the top of the page. If you do not see what you are looking for, please use the search box on any  page.

If the injury is a torn knee ligament, then please click here to read more info about that condition. After that, please go to the instructions on this page!

“My pet just had surgery…
…and now that I’ve gotten them home, I realize I’m not really sure what to do!!”

First and foremost:  pay attention to the discharge instructions your veterinarian has given you if your pet just had surgery or you have received instruction about an injury.  Please pay special attention to the part about no running, jumping, or playing. You and your pet will be doing good work for recovery if you exactly follow my booklet instructions.

If your veterinarian did not say so, please note there should not be any flying over couches, no galloping on stairs, no jumping into or out of cars and trucks,  no jumping onto couches or your bed, no jumping off of couches or beds, no twisting very fast in tight circles, no sliding on ice or slippery floors, and no freedom in and out of doggie doors.  No owner jumping out from behind things to scare the dog into running crazy funny around the house like you sometimes like to do.

No running really means no running…

…to the door when the doorbell rings, no running away from Halloween costumes, no running from one end of the house to the kitchen every time the fridge or a plastic bag is opened, no running to you when you yell to ask the dog if it wants to go outside, no kitty running from anything right after surgery, and no running inside after the ball, which is very similar to no running outside after the ball. No, no swimming until at least eight weeks after surgery and then only if no lameness is present at a slow walk.

DO work on the protocol below and the info contained in the instruction booklet.

1) Here are guidelines to follow for the first four weeks after surgery:

I currently have published one book to help your pet through four progressive weeks of recovery after any surgery.

Guidelines for Home Rehabilitation of Your Dog: After Surgery for Torn Knee Ligament: The First Four Weeks, Basic Edition

This book is specifically addressing surgery after a torn knee ligament. Until I am able to publish the books I am working on that deal with soft tissue surgeries, hip issues, other knee issues, elbows, spinal issues and more, this book will be very helpful to you for the first four weeks of recovery if your dog has had one of these other surgeries.

This book has the information, restrictions and advice I would give after almost any surgery. If you follow the restrictions and the practical applications in the booklet, your pet should do well and recover progressively if there are no additional issues.  These restrictions will match a lot of what your vet surgeon gave you to follow after surgery.

My recommendations are based on decades of information we have in human sports medicine recovery. These methods matches up very well how your pet thinks and moves and behaves. This program matches up scientifically with how the body recovers.

These instructions incorporate steps  for functional recovery, so there is a LOT more structured and guided info in the book. The links to the book I made for this page will take you to Amazon. You may order the book from any bookstore using the ISBN.

I also have info elsewhere on this site about cats and surgery. Cats aren’t small dogs. Unless your cat will walk on a leash, which some do very well, I recommend looking at this page for now.

So, the following book will help you calmly and methodically approach recovery from your pet’s surgery. The book will guide you to establish a functional base of activity.  You have to build a good base to help recovery and to of avoid additional injury. This is only the base. I have more strengthening programs and other drills for you to do to return your pet to a rambunctious lifestyle.

A good recovery plan helps guard against future or further injury, especially in the opposite limb! I am very happy to report that people and dogs that follow both this and the non-surgical program for 12 weeks do not end up with the other knee ligament tearing. It’s all a matter of balancing the work. I design programs based on decades of experience with exercise physiology recovery principles.  My programs also help encourage people being connected to their pets!


Books are also available on Barnes and Noble and you should be able to order them from any bookseller, especially if you use the ISBN.

Instructions for first four weeks for dogs after FHO (hip surgery where the ball of the femur is cut off):

Instructions for first four weeks after surgery for luxating patellas (flopping kneecaps):

Find a few more homework info pages by following the links in the menu at the top of the page.  Also use the search feature.

2) In addition to thoroughly reading any of that info (some of which now includes exercises available in book form), please watch > this video < twice, and begin to do this massage daily for a month:

Please watch the video to see my recommendations on method of use for massager unit AND so you will hopefully have success introducing the massager.

There are written instructions under the video on the linked page.
Here is what the massager looks like, and if you click on the picture, you may buy it on Amazon if you choose:

3) If your pet is still limping 5-7 days or more after surgery, please read this > pain post < all the way through!

There is more on the topic of pain within the books-

Check out other resources under the “Rehab Resources & Tools” link in the menu under the website title at the top or by clicking here

If you would like advanced or personalized exercises, then please contact me for a consult. There is a contact form at the bottom of this page <<Click on link . Use this form if you would like to schedule a paid phone or in-person consult with me for rehabilitation for your pet.


(Original Post March 17, 2015. Updated July 29, 2019)

6 Replies to “Rehab for Pet Surgery – 3 Steps”

  1. Hi, My 4 month old kitty has a femur fracture and the Vet put a pin that is actually sticking out of the skin not sure that is ok, he gave no collars and we put a blue spray over the skin with antibiotic injection and pain killer for 5 days, since the release from the clinc 24 hrs after surgery, brought her home and she started running around jumping on couches, as I did not have a proper place to put her, the 2nd day I kept her every 4 hrs in the carrier let her out but she plays and tries to jump on couches which I try to prevent…in general this no jumping, running or playing was not properly followed by me and its the 5th day after surgery and when she walks she limps! so if I keep her confined do you think she will do alright and stop the limping in weeks? or I the damage is done?

    1. Hi, Eileen-
      Quick answers = no, the pin should not be sticking out of the skin. Yes to carrier, no to running/jumping/playing (as you already know), and confinement plus only restricted movement is needed, especially for the bone to heal. Only an xray now can tell if the jumping has displaced the bone from where the surgery was performed. I recommend you get her a small harness (or make one) and put that on her throughout her recovery. She will likely fight it to some extent, but also cats usually become very docile when they are in a harness or coat. Keeping that on her when you have her out of the crate should keep her activity to a minimum. With additional patience, you can train her to accept the harness and even walk with you in it, eventually. Regardless, she has to be kept restrained and restricted for the bone to heal.
      Rehabdeb Deborah

  2. Hello Deb!
    My dog Petunia recently had the following diagnosis and surgery:
    Traumatic fracture to the left distal femur at the level of the growth plate
    Surgery: Surgical stabilization of the broken bone with two pins.
    This took place on May 9th, 2020.
    Her surgeon has released her from restrictions and her walk has improved, she is still limping but less so and seems to be improving. However, she still does not put weight on her leg when she is standing. She will touch her foot to the floor, but 99% of the time will not put weight on it WHILE STANDING. We were told she could benefit from physical therapy. Any suggestions welcome!

  3. Hello! I have a blue heeler that just had a Pancarpal Arthrodesis because of carpal hyperextension after a fall. The surgery was 2 weeks ago but he has been limping since then. He does not want to use his leg at all and I have started to worry because I see that a lot of dogs start using their legs right away after surgery. I have read your blog about pain and it makes a lot of sense to me that he is not using it because it hurts. He is already in antibiotics (Amoxicillin), tramadol and gabapentina so I guess the vet is in the right direction. But I still worry. I wonder if maybe excercises would help. The things in your book apply for this kind of procedure too? Thank you so much! I am writing from Mexico and I couldnt find any useful information in Spanish and I felt very good after finding your website 🙂

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