Welcome       Recovery Checklist       Rehab Videos       Rehab FAQ       Joint Health Information       Rehab Directory

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.


Have a Question or Comment about Week 1: Rehab Instructions: Mindset & Expectations?

To ask a question or leave a comment for TopDog veterinarian, Dr. James StClair, simply enter your name, email below. (Your email will never be shared or publised)


227 thoughts on “Week 1: Rehab Instructions: Mindset & Expectations
  1. Jeanette Shade says:

    What is the best way to clean our black lab’s sutures? There is just a little clear discharge. Our daughter has been wiping it with a dry paper towel since when he is taken outside to urinate or poop the lawn is wet.

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Jeanette that is fine. This clear discharge is called serosanguinous fluid and it totally normal.

  2. Paul little says:

    7 year old Beagle a little heavy, had TPLO mon. Pm this is we’d morning. Has not put weight on it except for potty. Also does NOT want me to move it. Will let me ice but that is all.
    3 legs it up and down 3 stairs for potty. How long before she should kinda sue it. Should I take her back in?
    Thx Paul

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Paul I am sorry that I am catching you a bit late and I am hoping that by now you have seen improvement from where you were only 3 days post-op. All dogs are different post-op though with the TPLO most do have a tendency to use the surgery leg quicker than some of the other procedures. If at any point you are concerned or question how she is progressing, I would most definitely call the surgeon directly since they are the ones responsible and know she particular situation best. All the best, DR.J

  3. Susan says:

    hi there. I just connected with your organization yesterday. My 2 3/4 year old, 116 lb. Bouvier had TPLO Jan. 12 so we are starting week 8 next week. the email I received today was for week 1. I don’t mind having a reminder for the exercise though. We are walking 30 minutes twice a day on a leash now. she is coping very well but has a limp and hold her paw about 3 inches off the ground when standing still – indoors and outdoors. is this normal? also wanted to know if I could start taking her to a heated indoor salt water pool for a swim with me a couple of times a week – for maybe a 15 minute swim? at what point can I have her off leash and doing a slower pace run – sometimes when walking she speeds up the pace on leash to a little jog for a few feet – thank you for your help

    • Dr. James St.Clair says:

      Hi Susan, what beautiful dogs Bouvier’s are. If I understand you correctly while on walks she still has a noticeable limp and then when she stops he holds the leg up slightly. So I would say that yes this could be perceived as normal even at 8 weeks but with a TPLO at 8 weeks post-op I would expect any limping to be minimal. You best bet is to have a recheck evaluation with the surgeon just to make sure all is healing well. Second I would then just want to make sure that you have her on a good supportive joint health supplement that is packed with everything that joint and all others need for optimal health. As for the swimming 8 weeks post-op I don’t have a huge problem with that as long as the process of getting her into and out of that pool is very safe and avoids any struggling. I would rather see her in an underwater treadmill at a local canine rehab facility though. As for the off leash and slower paced running my answer would be no way. She is not ready for that. She first has to master or achieve a level of perfect gait walking and weight bearing before she could ever be ready for increased speed. Once she is walking perfectly without a limp, then you can start to test increasing her speed and definitely always on leash. Hope this helps and answers some of your concerns. All the best, Dr.J

Watch and see the amazing results!