Recovering dogs: Advice for owners

After injury or surgery, the first few weeks of recovery can feel like a challenge to many dog owners. Perhaps you have been told to put your dog on “crate rest” or “room rest”, or perhaps you have not yet been given much guidance. 

Do read on for advice if your dog is recovering from a leg or spinal condition such as those listed here

Most recovering dogs need a combination of rest and very gentle walking. This can be tricky to get right, especially if your dog is lively.

Safe activities during recovery

In general, the following activities must be avoided during recovery: 

  • Running
  • Jumping (e.g. on and off the sofa)
  • Leaping about
  • Rough play (with children or other dogs)
  • Ball play
  • Stairs (going up or down)

Slick flooring should generally also be avoided during recovery.

Requirements are slightly different for each condition and for each dog. So if your own vet or surgeon has advised you regarding safe activities and exercise for your own particular dog, then do take care to follow their guidelines.

Above: running and leaping are not safe during recovery. Your dog must be on a lead when outdoors. 

A little slow walking is generally safe (unless specifically banned by the dog’s surgeon), as is standing calmly on all four paws. Chewing on toys is usually safe, though it is important that your dog doesn’t throw toys into the air and then chase them.

As recovery progresses, your dog may be allowed to walk for longer. Do follow any guidelines provided by your surgeon. For more information about do’s and don’ts during recovery, click here.

Crate-rest or room-rest

In some cases, the only way to ensure that your dog stays safe is to put him or her into a secure, comfortable recovery space. This could be a crate if you can get hold of one big enough for your dog. Or it could be an open-topped pen if your dog definitely won’t jump out. Or you might set up a room in your house to be a “recovery room” for your dog. If your surgeon has already advised “crate rest” or “room rest” for a certain number of weeks, then do your very best to follow their recommendation. Try the following links for more information:

Crate rest summary
Choosing a recovery crate
Where to put the recovery crate
Room rest summary
Choosing a recovery room

Above: Dogs must not jump onto furniture or race about during recovery. In some cases, the best option is to allocate a recovery room in which the dog can stay safe whenever he or she is off the lead.

 

A comfortable recovery space

For good recovery, your dog needs to be as comfortable as possible in their recovery space. For a start, the crate or pen must be large enough for your dog to lie fully stretched out, and to sit, stand and turn around easily, and it should offer enough space for your dog to eat and drink as well as to lie down.

It is a good idea to introduce your dog’s recovery area to them gradually if at all possible. It is also important to set the recovery space up as a pleasant area before your dog even sees it.

Remember to include soft bedding, food, water and something good to chew on.

You may find the following links useful:

Introducing your dog to the recovery crate or pen
Keeping your recovering dog calm and content
Crate rest: Bedding
Room rest: Bedding
Toys for recovering dogs

Outside the recovery crate or room

You will of course need to take your dog outside for regular “toilet breaks” (to pee and poo). It’s important to follow your vet’s guidelines regarding how often to take your dog outdoors and on how long these outdoor sessions can be. In the absence of any advice, a good starting point is typically 3-5 toilet breaks per day, with each outdoor session being no longer than 5 minutes. 

You’ll need to take special care to keep your recovering dog safe whenever they are outside their crate, pen or recovery room. A harness, fixed-length lead, and non-slip floor matting are all very useful. The following links offer more information on keeping your dog safe through the recovery period:

Keeping your dog safe outside the recovery crate
Keeping your dog safe outside the recovery room
Harness for recovering dogs
Choosing a lead for recovery
Walking with your recovering dog

Above: It is essential to keep your recovering dog on the lead whenever outdoors.

Recovery routine

A regular routine is important during recovery. Recovering dogs cope better once they learn when to expect meal times, toilet breaks, and any quality time spent with the owner. It is also helpful to set aside quiet times during which your dog should expect no interaction from you (especially during the night, of course). For details on the daily routine during recovery, try the following links:

Crate rest daily routine
Room rest daily routine

Problems during recovery

Some dogs need extra time to accept the new routine during recovery. If your dog won’t settle down in their crate, pen or recovery room, then try this link for advice: What to do if your dog won’t stop crying.

You might also find the following links useful:

Keeping your dog calm and content
Staying positive during your dog’s recovery.

Above: Staying cooped-up at home can be miserable during the recovery period. Bella the dachshund was only allowed to walk for brief periods, but she enjoyed getting out and about in a dog pushchair. (Photo courtesy of J. Austin)

 

Further information and getting in touch

For further information about caring for your dog during recovery, try the Frequently Asked Questions page by clicking here. If you have still not found the answer to your question, then do get in touch.

Questions or comments about recovery are best posted on the Recovery Space Facebook page by clicking here. You are welcome to include photos or a video clip of your dog along with your question.

Even if you prefer to avoid Facebook, then you can still share your question by posting it in any comments box on this website (e.g. the one at the foot of this page).

To book a physiotherapy session with The Rehab Vet (Herts, UK) or for other one-to-one support, please contact me here.

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