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Week 1: Rehab Instructions: Mindset & Expectations

Here are your key points for the week.

  • Mindset
  • Timeline
  • Preparing Your Home
  • Rest
  • Icing
  • Walking Slow
  • Support


I know you will agree with me that up to this point, this entire experience has been extremely stressful for both you and your dog. With that being said, take a deep breath because you now have TopDog here to give you guidance on how to best help your dog through this process safely and successfully so that they can return to 100% normal functionality.


You are probably wondering how long this recovery process is going to take. What I can tell you is this: First of all, don’t be shocked or alarmed if you experience minor set backs during the recovery process. It happens all the time and 95% of the time, everything turns out to be alright in the end. Secondly, right off the bat you need to understand what I mean by the concept of FULL RECOVERY. From my years of experience I can tell you that 100% recovery (i.e. full function & full muscle development) will take up to 6 months. Now this does not mean at the end of the 12 weeks your dog is still going to have a limp. To the untrained eye your dog is going to appear 100% normal and yes they are going to feel much better as well, but at the end of the day, it takes a long time for all of the muscle mass and other soft tissue strength in that leg to return to its optimal condition. Remember you are trying to protect the other hind leg from injury. You will hear me time and time again talk about how my veterinary colleagues confidently state the statistic that anywhere for 30-60% of dogs who tear one ACL, will tear that other ACL within one year. What they are saying is true. What they are not telling you is that if you rehab your dog effectively, this statistic is reduced dramatically. We are going to make sure that your dog does not turn into a statistic.


I am not going to go too in depth on this topic because within the Home Rehabilitation Guide we have thoroughly detailed this. Just make sure that you do your best to secure your home for your dog to the best of your ability.


During the first week you really need to focus on allowing your dog the time to rest and relax. Again, the entire experience was very stressful for your dog. The first week is also the time in which they are experiencing the greatest discomfort. 99% of the time they should be resting, relaxing and being nurtured by you. If they won’t let you perform one of the therapies then don’t push them, let them rest.


  • Cold therapy is incredibly effective in so many ways. It is nature’s best anti-inflammatory and it also relieves pain.
  • Rule of Thumb: Ice for the first 72 hours and then use moist heat after, but icing after exercise and therapy is always a good idea.
  • Some dogs are not crazy about the cold on their skin, so I have found that it is best to place a towel or face cloth in between the ice and skin.


For the little bit of time that you will be allowing them to walk around (i.e. for elimination purposes)… I BEG OF YOU… Make sure that they are on a very short leash and are walking at a very slow pace. If you find that your dog needs some extra support or that you need greater control, I encourage you to check out the TopDog Support Rx Total Body Harness System. This harness was developed here at TopDog and is a very affordable and effective solution. Click Here for the SupportRx Total Body Harness Video Good luck this week and make sure you come over and check out our incredible Facebook support community. Feel free to share your dog’s story or ask questions. There are hundreds of dog owners just like you who have already been through the surgery and recovery process and are very willing to offer their guidance.

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264 thoughts on “Week 1: Rehab Instructions: Mindset & Expectations
  1. Terry says:

    Just started week 3 after TPLO for a 1.6 year old bull mastiff. What stage should she be at?

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Terry I am very sorry to say I have no way of commenting on this. 3 weeks post TPLO, most dogs are walking on the leg full time, if not almost full time. If you want to expand on your thoughts I will make sure I check back in and comment. All the best, Dr.J

  2. cynthia says:

    I just started getting the rehab instruction for week 1, but my 7 pound chihuahua is on 3 weeks recovery from a torn ligament so do I start with week 1 or do I need week 3? I’m doing the conservative management she’s still not putting all the weight on the leg yet.how long does it usually take before they start using the leg again all the way?

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Cynthia, to answer your question it really all depends on degree of the cruciate tear. With the small dogs many of them can eventually be fine with conservative management, though even with these dogs surgical stabilization of the joint is optimal. I try to get everyone to adopt the mindset that FULL recovery, no matter what is going to take a full 6 months for sure. Not only should you be focus on the recovery or stabilization of the injured leg, but you also need to focus on protecting the other hind leg. It is estimated that 30-50% of dogs will go on to tear the opposite leg. That said, if you are pushing forward with conservative management then make sure you are doing everything in your power to support the leg. From my perspective I would start at week one and slowly move forward. Make sure that a really good joint supplement is a part of your optimal joint health plan. Hope this helps, Dr.J

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