My dog has had a leg operation. Is it safe for her to walk on the operated leg?
In most cases, it is safe for a dog to walk calmly on an operated leg as soon as they feel able to do so, even just after surgery. This includes most dogs who have had cruciate ligament surgery or patellar luxation surgery. These dogs are also safe to stand with all four paws on the ground.
However, it is generally too risky for these dogs to bounce up and down on the operated leg, to run or jump on it, or to use stairs.
There are a few cases in which the leg is best not used at all for a certain period after the operation, but this is fairly unusual. Do ask the surgeon if you are not sure whether or not your dog is allowed to put their paw to the ground.
Is it okay for my recovering dog to rest either on the sofa or on my bed?
Your recovering dog must not be left unattended on the sofa or bed. This is because they might jump off (a big risk, e.g. in response to the doorbell) or, if very unsteady on their feet, they might even fall off.
If you want to sit together with your recovering dog on the sofa, then you’ll need to be sure that you can prevent them from jumping down. For safety, it is strongly recommended that you first put a well-fitting harness onto the dog. You’ll need to lift your dog onto the sofa, and then lift them off again afterwards. Keep a hold of the harness while you sit together, as it is absolutely essential that your dog does not jump off. If you need to pop out of the room for a few moments, then put the dog back into their recovery crate or room until you return.
Above: It is too risky for your recovering dog to use the sofa unaccompanied
How can I stop my dog from running out past me when I open the door of their recovery crate?
It is easy for accidents to happen just as you open the crate door. It’s a good idea to leave a well-fitting harness on your dog when they are in the crate. As you open the crate door, you can put your hand on the top strap of the harness. This will stop your dog from slipping out past you. This then gives you time to attach a dog lead or to lift and carry your dog.
Can I let my dog out of their recovery crate to wander about the room for a while?
Generally not. Your crate-rested dog would only be allowed to move about off-lead on the advice of their surgeon. Even then, it is sensible to make sure that the flooring has some grip to it. Carpet is generally fine. Linoleum, tiles or laminate flooring are too slick for safety. Put down plenty of rubber-backed matting if needed.
It is essential that your dog does not run and does not jump onto the furniture. In many cases, the risk of running and jumping is too high, and the dog is therefore not allowed to wander about the room off-lead.
Is it okay for me let my recovering dog out into the garden for a toilet-break off the lead?
No, it is generally not okay to allow a recovering dog go off-lead in the garden. If you have been told to put your dog on “crate rest“, or to do “lead exercise only”, then this almost always means that he or she should not be allowed to roam free in the garden. Moving around off-lead in the garden may well cause your dog either to put too much weight on their affected leg, or to rush around on the other three legs, both of which can cause problems. There is also a chance that your dog may run or jump, e.g. if they see a bird, squirrel or cat, and this could be disastrous. Do therefore go outside with your dog on the lead, even for toilet breaks.
Above: It is not a good idea to let your recovering dog go off-lead in the garden.
I’ve been told that my dog is not allowed to use stairs. We have steps down from our front door. How can my dog get outside?
First consider whether there is any way to avoid the steps. Is there another more level route out of the house, or perhaps your dog is small enough to be lifted over the steps each time?
If steps are completely unavoidable, then your best option may be to walk your dog very, very slowly over them. You must confirm in advance with the surgeon that this is acceptable. The safest way to walk your recovering dog over steps is to have your dog on a well-fitting walking harness, and either to have a hand on the top strap of the harness or to attach a short lead to the top of the harness. It is also a good idea to place a large rubber-backed mat at the top of the steps to ensure good footing.
In some cases, a shallow slope is safer than steps, especially for very short-legged dogs such as dachshunds. If considering getting a slope put in for your recovering dog, bear in mind that, in order to be safe, the slope must be fixed in place and its surface must be non-slip. A long, shallow slope is much easier and safer than a short, steep one. A piece of board placed over a set of steps does not make a safe ramp. A long purpose-built car ramp can however offer a safer alternative to stairs, so long as it hooks securely into place. Or consider a ramp either made for wheelchair-users or built by a carpenter to fit the space available. Any wood or metal should be covered (e.g. with durable rubber or artificial turf) to provide a surface with good grip for your dog’s feet.
My dog leaps about when on the lead, and I am worried that this will cause him an injury during recovery
Above: It is generally safest to keep your recovering dog on a lead, even if he or she does not always walk neatly to heel.
Following surgery, most problems happen when the dog is off the lead, e.g. if they chase another dog or jump off a sofa. The risk of your dog injuring him or herself when on the lead is much lower. It is therefore important that you continue to use the lead, even if your dog doesn’t walk very calmly on it.
In general, the safest way to restrain the recovering dog is to use a lead attached to a well-fitting harness rather than to a collar. The harness fits around your dog’s centre of gravity, so you won’t spin your dog off-balance or damage their neck if you need to check back on the lead.
A double-ended lead may give you more control if your dog tends to leap about. Have a trainer or rehabilitation practitioner show you how to use this if you are not familiar with the double-ended lead system. The main lead clip goes on the top of the harness. It is generally best to attach the second lead clip to the front of the harness. If this leaves you at risk of being pulled over, then it may instead be necessary to attach the second lead clip to a neck collar or head collar for extra security.