Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy are best started as soon after cruciate surgery as possible.
In an ideal world we would love to see dogs before they undergo their cruciate surgery. This helps to get them used to walking through the treadmill and we can set our owners up with some physiotherapy exercises to do in the first few days once they get their dogs home. In the clinic we can use LASER treatment and manual physiotherapy techniques to reduce pain and inflammation straight after surgery and the LASER treatment also helps to speed up bone and skin healing at the surgery site. After a few days we can introduce some static exercises that can be done at home and once the stitches are removed then hydrotherapy on the underwater treadmill can start.
As we have an underwater treadmill we can start hydrotherapy with our patients as soon as they have their stitches out (which is normally 10-14 days after surgery). Swimming is not recommended until 8 weeks after surgery as it increases the strain on the patella tendon and can cause tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon) and pain if performed too soon. As dogs progress we continue to challenge them with longer and faster sessions on the underwater treadmill and harder exercises to do in the clinic and at home. It is really important not to go too fast with a rehabilitation program as injury could occur. If there are no concurrent problems or set backs then most dogs take about 3 months to get back to fitness after their cruciate surgery.
Click on this link to view a study which took two groups of dogs both had TPLO surgery for cruciate disease but only one group had physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. The results showed much better muscle strength and joint movement of the affected stifle (knee) in the group that had the physiotherapy and underwater treadmill hydrotherapy compared to the group that just had lead walks. If your dog has been diagnosed with a cruciate injury then do get in contact as soon as you can as the sooner they start on their rehabilitation program the sooner they will be back to fitness and enjoying their walks again!