Do you know about the Goldilocks Principle? If not, read on because it will definitely help your dog. This information applies to all CCL tear dogs whether you've chosen conservative management (CM) or surgery.
Our goal is to give our pups the opportunity to return to happy, healthy, mobile lives. With CM and post-operative recovery we need to return them to activity slowly and carefully. When the surgeon says they're fully healed, don't be too quick to throw a ball and play fetch for an hour. Many people are so excited to see their dog run again, and they let them play without restriction only to see their limping return. It's disheartening after such a long recovery. The goal of this article is to walk you through figuring out how to carefully and systematically resume your pup's activity.
The challenge lies in figuring out three things:
1) which activities can be done without lameness afterward
2) how often the activity can be done without suffering afterward
3) duration of time the particular activity can be done
Deciding on exercise duration can be challenging because it can change each day and certainly will as our dogs age, so there are no absolutes here. It's more like an ebb and flow where you'll be flexible with timing. Some days they'll do a certain activity for 20-minutes and be fine and another they could limp for days after. That's because besides the activity there are other variables factoring in:
Let's think about ourselves and how we feel with exercise. When we're young and agile we can physically do what we want for however long we choose without much soreness afterward. We can hike in the Grand Canyon one day and easily run five miles the next. But as we age we learn to selectively pick and choose what, when and how long we'll exercise because if we ignore those things we'll suffer. Let's take that same approach for our pups. Here are some guidelines.
Let's refer back to Goldilocks for a moment. She wanted to figure out the "just-right" temperature of her porridge or the just right softness of her bed. There's actually a multi-applicative term called the "Goldilocks Principle" and that's what we'll use to help our dogs safely get back to exercising. The challenge is figuring out how much activity is just enough to keep the dog healthy, happy and mobile.
We've got to be like detectives and pay careful attention to look for signs of pain, not only during the day he/she exercised but for a few days after. Notice the duration of time and types of activities that cause soreness. Before exercising, start a countdown timer on your phone to keep track of the moment he/she begins favoring the leg. To keep track, take notes on paper or create a note in your phone. Signs of pain include (but are not limited to): panting, lying or sitting down, refusal to move, licking the leg and limping. If one or more of these happen at 20-minutes for example, then you'll try decreasing duration by 5-minutes and maintaining the adjusted duration for a week (unless they're struggling and you'll decrease by five additional minutes). Always re-assess. If they tolerate a certain duration, stick to that amount for a week or so before increasing duration, and when you increase do so by adding another 5-minutes. The idea is to continually assess and make adjustments as needed.
We must also consider the physical challenge on our dog's body when choosing exercises. An example of this is a dog that limps after chasing a ball for five minutes versus being able to walk for an hour or more. Why does that happen? It's because playing fetch is comparatively harder on the body than walking. Here are a few more examples:
Paying close attention to duration, types and frequency of exercise will help you decrease the repetitive nature of pain flare-ups and remissions that can temporarily sideline your pup's ability be active. Following this method will help you minimize exercise-induced inflammatory response, giving you the ability to be more effective at controlling pain. Hooray, YOU!
If your surgeon gave you exercise guidelines, please follow them or share these ideas to ask whether they're applicable.
Leave a comment about how you safely returned your dog to activity!🥰