Rehabilitation Steps After Pet Injury – 3 Steps

Pepper, a medium-sized black dog doing rehabilitation walks after rupturing her calcanean or Achilles tendon
Pepper Ruptured Calcanean Tendon

Three Steps After Pet Injury:

Here are short instructions for rehabilitation steps after pet injury and, hopefully you have already sought a diagnosis from your pet’s veterinarian for that injury. Please have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian if you have not done so already. When you do that, we may all have a working diagnosis and then hopefully be on the right track for your pets recovery.

I do also work on lots of cats, as well as a variety of other animals. For this reason, I often use the word “pets” instead of only using “dogs”. If you want to know more about cat or horse specifics right now (because I haven’t finished developing those info pages), please search the word cat or horse in the search box.

Where Does This Rehab Fit In?

These recommendations also work if your pet isn’t moving as well as they used to because of arthritis or advanced age, for instance, and you would like to help them become stronger.

It is very possible that your veterinarian does not know about this style of rehabilitation, and that’s not unusual or due to any error on their part. People ask me about this, so here is one of many possible answers:

I developed my rehab protocol based primarily on human exercise physiology, sports injury recovery, and principles of neuroscience, in collaboration with veterinary clinical and medical protocol. I also designed it to be performed by anyone in a small animal clinic or home-based, which was a completely new idea when I began my rehabilitation service.

For more specific info on a particular injury or diagnosis, please see the menu on this site or use the search box on this site. For more info on what pet rehabilitation is and what some of my qualifications are, please read this page or this page.

1) Get the right book with a successful plan for you to use at home or in the veterinary clinic.

Foundations:

The information in this booklet about torn ligament recovery without surgery also serves as a GREAT foundation-building, functional recovery base for older pets that have lost muscle mass & strength. The information is also what I use to build a base for pets that have lost proprioceptive abilities. This means they have lost the ability to maintain balance and know where they are physically in relation to their environment.

The four-week foundational program in this booklet is often what I use to help older dogs that are slipping on the floor of the house. They might also be having trouble rising from their bed or the floor, and/or are tripping over the doggie door threshold. This foundational program has helped many to improve their function at home.

You have to start with a specific foundation though, at the beginning, to make sure your pet has a solid base to improve upon and to help offset additional injury.

Right now I have published one book containing information about helping your pet build a foundational base through four progressive weeks of your work with them after injury. This is the book, then, to get you started and the one to order if your pet has lost any degree of function, especially in their hind end. Back end. Rear drive train.

This book is specifically addressing torn knee ligaments, yet until I am able to publish the books I am working on that deal with hip issues, other knee issues, elbows, old age/arthritis, and spinal issues, this book will help you help your pet with those issues, too. This book contains the restrictions and advice I would give to get you started after almost any orthopedic injury or diminished functional condition.

…And, Before All Else:

Please pay attention to the discharge instructions your veterinarian has given you if your pet just had surgery or you have received instruction regarding your pet’s injury. 

Please pay special attention to the part about no running, jumping, or playing.

If you follow my booklet instructions, you and your pet will be doing appropriate work toward recovery and should/will not be causing any harm. And, again, no running or jumping or playing!

You may use the directions I give to you on this site for allowable activity. And you should restrict any activity beyond my or your vet’s instructions for your injured or recovering pet. I repeat this forty dozen times because most of my clients, as well as I, have paid the price of cutting corners or eliminating information that is new to us. Because, information bias.

Injury Evaluation:

Your pet’s veterinarian really needs to evaluate most injuries sooner than later, even if you think you know exactly what the problem is.

I also recommend you do this as early in the week as possible, in the happy event that your pet injured themselves on a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday! It sure will be a lot easier on you and your pet if you don’t have to contend with a Saturday or Sunday emergency clinic visit!

Moving On:

If you are using my programs, please do not add on additional work you or your acquaintances come up with until you have at least passed the four-week foundation with gold stars!

Please follow all the instructions for the best outcome. And,  Please do not, don’t,add swimming (no swimming yet), stairs (no stairs yet), hill repeats (no hill repeats yet), poles (no poles yet), cavalettis (no cavalettis yet), or any other dynamic activity.

Your pet may seem to be doing great and may seem to you like she/he is healed, especially if they have good pain medication, but I can assure you that biologically the minimum amount of time for soft tissue recovery is on average 8-12 weeks.

Some injuries and conditions take up to, and even over, a year to heal well (nerve damage, torn muscles, etc…), so please don’t get ahead of your pet’s recovery by using programs that don’t relate to biological recovery science and that push dynamic exercises prior to laying a good foundation and seeing progressive healing. I’ve encountered complications from hundreds of cases where people skipped steps needed to lay a solid foundation of healing, stability, and strength.

After the base is built, then always there are additional strengthening and proprioceptive drills to be done in order to return your pet to a better quality of movement and lifestyle!

Conservative treatment after torn knee ligament, instead of surgery:

Booklet on Amazon, and you should be able to order from any bookseller by using the ISBN, 978-0615900476 .

Also, if the injury you are concerned about is a torn knee ligament in your dog, then please click here to read more info (then return to the instructions on this page!).

2) In addition to thoroughly reading any of the above info, 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 buzzy massager.

I recommend that you watch it 2x, mostly because there is a lot of dialogue and I give a lot of instructions. Often clients miss some important details because they are thinking about the information they just heard and are processing. Maybe watch it five times.

As of 2023 this massage video is not monetized. I recommend you watch it several times because I find that I often also miss important bits when I’m listening to or watching vids; at some point I realize I missed a big chunk of info while I was processing another chunk of info.

Most of my clients report doing the same thing. I find this out when I show up for a recheck at the house and see that they have a rando, willy-nilly massage technique. The technique I recommend is a beneficial process with specificity of method :-).

I also wrote instructions on in the info under the video, if you want to know more.

Here is what the massager looks like,

and if you click on the picture or this link, you may buy it on Amazon if you choose.

I put additional information in the written instructions under the video about other places you might purchase this particular massager . I am often asked if this massager or that massager will work, and the answer is, “no, not as well”. There are “we love science” reasons for my choices.

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.

Blessings-
Rehabdeb

I may receive a small amount of USD from purchases you make using the links to Amazon on this site that I have provided. My receiving this small percentage does not increase your purchase price, as you probably already know 🙂

 

(Updated November 16, 2023. First posted on this site April, 2015)

Top 5 Tips For Successful Dog, Cat, and Other Pet Rehabilitation After Injury or Surgery

Here they are!

The top 5 tips to help you and your pet get back to doing more of the things you like to do together:

 

Crate with white plastic rails a client put in her bedroom for her Dachshunds after spinal surgery. Example number 1 of top 5 tips dog, cat rehabilitation
Small Dog Crate for Bedroom

1) Do only controlled exercise in a sequential and methodical manner and otherwise restrict your pet as much as possible.

The exercise programs I have developed and that I and others have applied to thousands of cases work extremely well. I consider them to be like Goldilocks’ porridge…not too much and not too little. Resist the urge to jump ahead into advanced drills or harder work if you haven’t put in the time to build a solid foundation. Please do not only keep your pet crated, and, more importantly, do not allow any loose activity outdoors or indoors during recovery! Crates are great, and I want them to be used. I also want you to use them or other tight restrictions along with a competent exercise recovery program!

 

Bag of freeze-dried duck hearts links to purchase on Amazon to help give medications2) Give all medications as your pet’s veterinarian has prescribed them, especially antibiotics…especially pain meds…especially all medications 🙂

My booklets and other posts on this site explain this in more detail. I have written a lot about pain in this post: Pain & Limping . I included info about pain and infection in that post. Pain is the top reason people contact me after a pet is injured or has had surgery. I know some medications are hard to dose, so I have posted some links to products that can help without using unhealthy options (unhealthy=Cheeze Whiz, marshmallows, most dairy, etc…you probably already know) on my Resources & Tools page. Pain=limping=pain. Surgery also = pain…so either way, surgery or no surgery, your pet most likely needs pain medications.

 

Spaniel dog wearing an Elizabethan collar to keep her from licking her hip where she had FHO surgery
Jicky E-Collar after FHO

3) Use the e-collar after surgery.  

The Elizabethan collar (e-collar) is the best and fastest way to allow healing and stop pets from licking their injury or surgery site. Based on my extensive experience fixing messed-up stuff after surgery, I can tell you there aren’t any other great options available that work as consistently well as the e-collar.

Some pets will pull it off if you don’t tighten it down to 2 fingers placed flat under the neck tie. If your pet pulls it off, that is usually due to operator error (yours or mine or vet clinic staff). The e-collar is very important.

I’ve dealt with the resulting problems when people don’t use the e-collar. There are many reasons people don’t use the collar. Maybe it’s because the pet crashes it into everything around the house, or the people say “he doesn’t like it”. The problems I deal with when the collar isn’t used are ruined surgeries, dogs licking an area on their bodies down to the bone, cats fussing with the staples or sutures and pulling them out, extensive infections that sometimes cause loss of life, etc.

I recommend people keep the e-collar on the pet until about 2 days after suture removal. Have you had stitches? Surgery? The sutures can cause itching when removed, as you may remember if you’ve had them. Often nerve reactivation to the surgery area can cause the area to “feel weird”.  Keep the collar on your pet. More often than not this move will save you and your pet a LOT of trouble!

 

Dog walking in a backyard in a harness, close to person, doing controlled cavaletti work
BJ Cavaletti Work in Harness with Short Leash

4) Use a good harness with a very short leash to control and protect your pet if you are walking them. 

I discuss this at length in my books and videos. Harness and leashes I recommend are here. Use a harness and not the collar when you are working on rehab with your pet. Use a super short leash, keeping your pet close by your side so they don’t hurt themselves.

 

 

 

Cat doing cavaletti work by walking and stepping over tv clickers lined up on a bar top
Casey Cat Doing Cavaletti Work

5) Don’t cut corners.

Unless you have extensive experience with physical recovery science applications in a variety of settings, don’t change the rehab plans I recommend. You and your veterinarian most likely won’t know when you can shorten a program without doing damage to your pet. If you cut corners, you also run the risk of not getting the same positive results following the plan brings. It’s easy for me to help clients to see where their omission or addition of parts of the plan turned the recovery plan the wrong direction. Since I don’t get to work one-on-one with most of you in person, I return to recommending that you find a well-described plan and follow the plan and not add to it and not cut corners 🙂

 

Parting thoughts…

My list of recommendations could go on and on, yet these are the top 5. I made this list based on problems from many cases over many years. Like so many things in life, pet rehab can be very easy, yet it’s our wrong thinking about solving the problems that often stands in the way of following a good program well. Feel free to write and email using the contact form if you have had a learning experience with any of the recommendations I listed above. If I think it’s helpful to others, I will publish it under this post!

Blessings-

Deborah

Updated Jan. 19, 2018

Thank you 🙂

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