Benefits of Rehabilitation After Your Dog’s TPLO

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A knee surgery for your dog is a pretty penny, no doubt about it. (What is a TPLO?) And yet veterinarians agree that NOT doing surgery is a guarantee of ongoing arthritis problems, expenses and pain for your dog. Then why would you spend another pretty penny for rehabilitation?


 Simple answer: Protect your TPLO surgery investment.

Look at it this way. If you put a new deck on your house, you stain it. Why? Because you want the integrity of the wood to remain. If we pet-friendly folks buy new carpeting, we spring for the pet-protective kind. Why? Because we would rather pay up front and have easy maintenance than a chronic problem and earlier replacement. Right? Pet Rehabilitation helps protect your pet from ongoing orthopedic issues, helps you through yourpet’s particular needs and rebuilds a body that needs less maintenance in the future.

Protect your investment by building a better machine:

Your pet and your wallet are in better shape when you create a structurally sound pet from the post-operative start, and protect the other knee. Your pet and your wallet are in better shape when he learns the correct way to compensate for the change of angle in his knee, rather than end up with a shoulder injury later because he is compensating improperly. And your pet’s knee does not operate in a vacuum – there are usually other structural issues in the pet that contributed to the rupture in the first place. If you and he learn exercises to help him keep aligned and properly muscled, (and lose weight if needed), you will prolong his life and help your wallet in the mean time.

Protect your investment by investing in knowledge:

When you buy a house, you use a real estate agent and a property inspector to make sure things go the way you want. They have seen hundreds of houses, hundreds of types of financing, hundreds of disasters and successes. The retired couple looking to buy a condo is completely different than the young couple needing a yard and room to grow. The same is true for rehabilitation for your pet. Your veterinary practitioner will have help for you for your unique situation:

  • Do you have an elderly dog that needs extra help rising and better footing?
  • Do you live in an apartment where your dog must do stairs?
  • Do you have a young dog on property and we have to figure out how to keep him less active?
  • Do you have a back problem yourself, so lifting your 90# dog in the early stages is problematic?
  • Do you have trouble with your knees, so exercises of stretching your pet on the floor is not reasonable?
  • Do you work long hours, yet dog rehabilitation 3 times a day is best?
  • Is your dog a couch potato and not easily motivated?
  • Is your dog an athlete and needs to return to sport?
  • Does your pet have other arthritis that limits their abilities?
  • Is your pet overweight?
  • And on and on….

As dog rehabilitation practitioners, this is our version of calculus. Even if two patients weigh the same, have the same energy level and the same injury, their rehabilitation program is going to be different. There is no recipe that fits every patient. Wouldn’t it be easy if your surgeon could just send you home with a check list of exercises? But wait, they don’t even do that in humans, do they? Nope. Because each body and each personality is different.

Protect your investment by having proper advice throughout:

Even if your pet rehabilitation practitioner did not have specialized equipment (but YEA we do!), it is worth the extra investment just to have a trained eye watching your investment in the early stages. If you are a parent, do you remember coming home with your first child? Everyday questions come up – is this normal? Is this too much? Is this not enough? Am I doing this right? The same is true of watching an incision, feeling a bone plate, judging your pet’s limp, monitoring swelling and many more. Your practitioner, who should be a CCRP or CCRT, is well versed in these problems and their solutions. They know when to worry and when to watch and see.


Every time I see a pet, the first question I ask the owner is “how are things going at home?” Many times owners say, “She loves this exercises, but I can’t get her to do that one.” Exercises done improperly or with a resistant patient often can do more harm than good, so this is the MOST important factor in the whole equation. HOW ARE WE PROGRESSING?   Every program needs tweaking for the maximum benefit of a pet.

Protect your investment by returning your pet to function in a way you can’t do at home:

 Our equipment and exercises are designed to help your pet in 3 ways:

  • Reduce pain after TPLO surgery:

We all know that TPLO surgery hurts. Medications are great, but we still have to convince your pet that stepping on that leg that has hurt for so long is OK and safe. Massage, therapeutic ultrasound and laser therapies enhance movement AND reduce pain.

  • Strengthen:

Physiotherapies and the underwater treadmill work allow your pet to gain muscle back without having to bear full weight or overdo. It also helps prevent further muscle loss in other areas of the body while they are more sedentary during recovery after TPLO cruciate surgery.

  • Rebuild Conscious Proprioception for your dog:

Conscious proprioception is knowing exactly where your limbs are in space. It is what the cop is doing in the road side sobriety test when you close your eyes and touch your nose. proprioception is what you gain in yoga when you can tree pose with one foot up and your eyes closed. For our TPLO surgery patients, the ACL surgery has created a new angle to their joint. For us, it would be like suddenly walking on high heels. We can do it, and become good at it, but our body had to make adjustments. If you don’t then you shuffle along forever.

Best of all, (which is why we do what we do), you have someone who is with you in the trenches helping you celebrate this success. Someone who is equally invested and turning cartwheels with you when she walks normally again. Someone who can help you trouble shoot when the silly pup keeps doing “zoomies” around the back yard now that he’s feeling better. And someone who can help keep your realistic about expectation.

In short, your rehabilitation practitioner is part financial planner and part counselor – we make sure that today’s investment is going to take care of your dog in their old age AND that your relationship continues to blossom in the process. 

Author: Mandi Blackwelder, DVM, CCRP