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Post-surgery exercises and functional recovery

“Where should my pet be at this point after surgery?” This is a very common question to have, and it varies from patient-to-patient. In this section we will introduce the four major phases that you will encounter after surgery, and the goals you should strive for in each of these phases.  


As we discuss leash walks and their duration, it should always be prioritized to go for more frequent walks of shorter duration to minimize your pet’s stiffness. When we talk about extending our leash walks, we should pick one or two of our daily walks and have these be our “duration” walks, with the remaining walks of the day being shorter walks.  


Each time we extend our leash walk duration or introduce new exercises, we will cause muscular fatigue. Episodes of limping are therefore common, and you should reduce your pet’s activity and notify your veterinarian, especially if the episode lasts more that 2-3 days.  


REMEMBER – If you had an equivalent surgery as to what your pet had, then you would be likely be in physiotherapy for six months after surgery with continual exercise restrictions, so give your pet the time and credit they deserve. 


The four phases of your pet’s rehabilitation

  1. Week 0-2: Early healing phase 

    • This first phase is all about getting your pet’s INCISION HEALED so that we can safely begin Phase 2 on-time. We cannot proceed to Phase 2 until we have successfully completed Phase 1, so be vigilant while monitoring your pet’s incision.  

  2. Week 3-7: Mobility conditioning 

    • During this phase, we will begin your pets leash walks so that they maintain their muscle mass and get the appropriate stimulus for healing. 

    • Bone and other connective tissues need to “learn” what forces they will be exposed to, and by conditioning them in this manner they will heal faster. 

  3. Week 8-10: Advanced strengthening 

    • Once your pet is in the advanced conditioning phase, we will begin to focus on their muscles and other supporting tissues, like tendons, that have become stiff and atrophied over the previous weeks.  

  4. Week 11-16: Return to full activity 

    • In this final phase, your pet is able to resume their normal activity gradually, introducing each new activity individually so that we can be confident that your pet is comfortable and capable performing that activity. 

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