Knee injuries for a dog, no matter when it happens, can be debilitating.Unlike humans, dogs cannot do their own physical therapy, ice the injury, or purposefully mitigate activity, so they're completely reliant on their owner to help them recover. Whether you're opting for surgery and need some ideas for recovery afterward, or you want to forego surgery in hopes that physical therapy and natural methods will help, read on to discover how you can help your best fur friend get back on their (four) feet.
Restrict Movement...In the first four to six weeks after your dog’s injury, you will want to consult with your vet to determine exactly what part of the leg or knee was injured. A very common injury for active dogs and older dogs, tearing the CCL (Cranial Cruciate Ligament) will typically cause your dog to limp and you may notice a “frog-leg” posture when they sit where they injured leg sits out to the side of their body instead of underneath. After your vet rules out other possibilities such as hip dysplasia or paw injuries, they're sure to give you several non-surgical as well as surgical options. If you're opting for the non-surgical option, the best thing to do for your animal is force them to rest. Suggestions for resting:
- Use a crate
- Utilize a dog gate for stairs
- Do not allow them to jump up or down from furniture
- Take them into the backyard on a leash so that their movement is restricted
- If you have hardwood or tiled floors, lay down rugs or yoga mats to keep them from sliding
...Encourage MovementNow, it’s time to encourage. After a few months, scar tissue will start to form in the knee and it will have gained stability. With weakened muscle, however, your dog may be reluctant to use the injured leg. Here are a few things to do to encourage using the leg post-rest period to rebuild muscle:
- Short 5-10 minutes walks
- Walking your dog up and down curbs to encourage the use of all four limbs
- Gently playing tug with your dog so that they're encouraged to use their hindquarters
- Asking your vet for anti-inflammatories such as Rimadyl to dull inflammation and pain. The less pain your dog is in, the more he or she will want to use their injured leg.
Let’s Talk FoodYour vet will probably suggest you feed your dog less while they're recovering to control weight gain. This may seem cruel but it’s medically necessary, as any extra weight will put more strain on the injury. Make sure you're feeding your dog high-quality, nutrient-dense products. Foods that are fish-based, such as salmon, are excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids which support immune health. They also have anti-inflammatory properties which is exactly what your dog needs during recovery. You’ll also want to consider supplements and broths for your animal during this time. Bone broths can assist with inflammation, bone, and tendon support. Talk with your vet about what might benefit your animal during this time.