Tips for Moving and Caring for an Injured Pet

In some point in your time as a pet owner, it’s likely your furry companion will need your assistance in moving from one place to another. Whether it’s after surgery, after an injury, or simply old age, here are some tips for keeping your pet safe and comfortable while transporting or moving him.


1. Give your care provider a heads up. Call ahead to your vet clinic or the animal hospital to let them know you’re coming and what to expect. That way, they can prepare to assist with transport upon your arrival.

2. Keep your pet calm. Sit next to your pet, speaking to him in and soothing, comforting tone. It’s important that you stay calm, too. Even though it may be your natural reaction when your dog is frightened, you should avoid hugging, holding, or any other stimulating interactions that could worry or excite him.

3. Minimize handling (after an accident). In cases of physical trauma, it can be impossible to know the extent of your pet’s injuries, and any manipulation of his body could lead to further injury. Do not prod, shift, or move your pet beyond what is absolutely necessary to get him to safety or emergency care. All movements must be slow and steady. Try to stabilize visible injuries with a splint or bandage.

4. Minimize handling (after surgery). When your dog has just been through a surgery or other corrective procedure, avoiding unnecessary movement is the best route to quick recovery. Speak with your vet about how you should limit your dog’s motion and the best ways for you to help him carry out necessary activities while healing. You can read more in our post on keeping your dog inactive after surgery.

5. Lifting and carrying. Small dogs are a breeze – just put them in their carrier and make sure they are secure to avoid too much movement. However, large dogs can be too heavy for one person to lift alone, or in too delicate a state to be lifted by hand no matter how many helpers you have. Instead, use a stretcher (any strong, flat surface, or even a rug or blanket, should work) with some type or restraint or barrier to keep the dog in place when lifting.

6. Protect yourself and your dog from aggression. Even docile dogs can become aggressive when in pain or distress. Approach your pet cautiously from the side and avoid the mouth area. If necessary, gently muzzle and create a temporary restraint with towels or blankets to prevent your dog from hurting himself or others. If a dog is vomiting, never muzzle him.

7. Plan ahead for the unexpected. It doesn’t hurt to have a first aid kit with a muzzle, leash, blankets, and other items that can help protect your dog on the way to emergency or veterinary care. You should also have your pet’s medical records in a convenient location.


If accidents can happen to us, they can certainly happen to our pets, too. Part of being an attentive pet owner is preparing yourself for the unexpected, and educating yourself on how to handle emergencies that require calming, stabilizing, and transporting an injured animal.

CCL Injury Treatment Options

A CCL injury is no fun for your dog. Think of it like an ACL injury in humans – painful and limiting, but a typically positive outlook for healing and getting back to regular activity. There are varying treatments your veterinarian may prescribe for an injured CCL, and by following through with the advised care, your pet will be active again in no time.

In the past we’ve covered what can increase your pet’s risk for CCL (Cranial Cruciate Ligament) tears or ruptures, which can occur chronically (slowly over time) or as a result of an isolated incident. As a brief recap, here are the top risk factors:

  • Knee deformities that put more stress on the CCL
  • Obesity (increases stress on all support structures)
  • Age. Animals over age 5 often have decreased strength and increased stiffness of CCL.
  • Past injury of the opposite CC
  • Immune diseases
  • Breed (according to statistics ). Breeds more prone to CCL injury include Mastiffs, Akitas, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, and Labs.

If your dog is – or potentially will be – diagnosed with a CCL injury, you may be curious about the various treatments vets consider before making a recommendation. With all treatments, the goal is to relieve pain, restore, or at least improve, mobility, and slow the onset of degenerative diseases. Below is an in-depth look at a few of the corrective routes. You can also check out our services page for an overview of our surgical procedures for CCL injuries.

Note: If you suspect your dog is injured, please see a veterinary professional for accurate diagnosis and the most effective treatment plan.

Nonsurgical

While minor tears in the CCL often become full ruptures (it’s hard to keep dogs from aggravating activities!), taking early action can help. Conservative treatment options, if fully adhered to, can be effective for healing or at least controlling the injury. This is especially true for small dogs.

Conservative treatment includes rest, rehab, pain medication, and weight maintenance. If you need ideas for keeping your dog at rest for an extended period of time, see our post on keeping your dog inactive after surgery (it applies to caring for any type of injury).


Surgical

For advanced cases, larger dogs, or athletic/performance dogs, conservative treatment alone probably won’t cut it. In most cases of CCL injuries, these measures are prescribed along with surgery; unfortunately, ligament tears are likely to progress and leaving them untreated often results in injury to the opposite leg. Further, surgery is the only correction for a fully ruptured CCL.

TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy), while an invasive procedure, is considered the gold-standard correction for a torn CCL in dogs.

The procedure involves adjusting the proximal tibia to eliminate the need of the CCL for stabilizing the knee joint. During surgery, a TPLO-specific saw is used to make a very precise cut through the tibial plateau, altering its slope. It is then rotated slightly. This stops the femur from sliding down the tibial plateau when the knee is bearing weight. Once the correction/rotation is made, a specialized plate and set of screws is used to secure the bone. 

TPLO surgery has a faster recovery time than other procedures, and is the preferred route for avoiding long-term pain medications and enabling very active dogs to resume normal exercise.

Our recovery regimen for a TPLO: It’s crucial for the patient to undergo 8-12 weeks of very strict exercise restriction. During the recovery phase, the body will repair the external incision and the osteotomy (cut through the tibia). Rechecks occur around 2 weeks and 8 weeks post-op. The 2 week recheck is to ensure the incision is fully healed and that the patient is progressing appropriately. X-rays will be taken at the 8 week recheck to determine if the surgical site has healed. Once fully healed, the plate and screws will no longer be necessary, but will remain in place unless they cause issues.

Lateral Suture Correction is the preferred surgical solution for small dogs (30 pounds or less) and may also be appropriate for sedentary dogs.

The goal of the procedure is to stabilize the dog’s knee by using monofilament (a single stand of fiber very similar to fishing line) on the outside of the knee joint. The suture is looped through the front part of the tibia, then looped around the fabellar bone. It’s designed to mimic the original ligament and prevent abnormal joint movement. Over time scar tissue will form around the area, providing more permanent stabilization.

As with any surgical procedure, a Lateral Suture correction requires strict rest post-op. However, full recovery and efficacy requires a longer period of limited activity than with other approaches. Physical therapy may be prescribed as well. The Lateral Suture stabilization allows most dogs to return to normal activity levels.


In cases of injury, your vet will help determine the best treatment options for your pet. Still, it doesn’t hurt to educate yourself on what the various treatments entail and why an expert may recommend one over another.

Because we understand the stress and high cost of surgical referrals, we strive to be an accommodating and attentive (and mobile!) alternative. We’ll work with you to determine the best approach and care plan. There’s no “one size fits all” solution for a torn CCL, but the goal is always the same: getting your pet back to it’s healthy, happy, and active life!

Why is my dog limping?

It’s difficult to see dogs suffering a limp, and even worse that they can’t communicate with us where and how much it hurts. A trip to the vet is the obvious choice for figuring out what exactly is ailing your pet, but before you rush to the animal hospital, you may be curious whether the limp is a true emergency, and what the culprit could be.

There are two types of limps: gradual and sudden onset. Knowing which form your dog is experiencing will assist your vet with diagnosing the cause.

Sudden onset limps, as the name implies, occur abruptly due to injury or trauma. They can range from minor gait modification to complete inability to bear weight, just as different injuries affect us. Regardless of the severity of the limp, if it doesn’t resolve quickly after the incident, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as you can to avoid further damage and prolonged pain.

Gradual onset limps grow worse over time and are usually caused by a chronic condition or overuse injury. These limps can also range in severity, and can be tricky to notice in early stages. Like with sudden onset limps, as soon as you notice your dog is struggling, you need to address it.

Here are the most common causes of limping, both gradual and sudden onset, and in no particular order:

  • Paw injuries, like splinters, cuts, insect bites or stings, broken toenails, burns, and frostbite. Incessant licking is a sign of paw injury.
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Dislocations
  • Ligament tears and ruptures, such as the CCL
  • Sprains
  • Joint diseases, such as osteoarthritis, dysplasia, patellar luxation, and intervertebral disk disease
  • Spinal injury
  • Lyme disease
  • Bone diseases
  • Cancers

If your dog is limping, what should you do? Just how pressing is a visit to the vet? Should you head to a 24/7 emergency center if the issue occurs outside of office hours?

Limps don’t often show external damage, and when the damage is external, it’s obvious that emergency care is needed. Dogs may “power through” with just a slight change in their step, they may lightly place their paw down as they walk, or they may not be able to use the limb at all. Sometimes the limp comes and goes, and sometimes it resolves itself before you even have it examined. Use your best judgement and monitor closely.

No matter the case, it’s a safe bet to take your dog for evaluation by a veterinarian. Pets can’t tell us exactly what’s wrong, so it’s our responsibility to keep them as safe and pain-free as possible!


Keeping Pets Inactive After Surgery

You may have heard how avid runners are notorious for discounting pain or not resting long enough when injured. Dogs exhibit similar behavior – they’re known for ignoring discomfort in order to run and play like usual.

After a surgery, though, it’s crucial for your pet to get adequate rest in order to heal properly. That means coercing an active canine to stay relatively still for a period of time. That time frame ranges depending on the procedure and situation-specific factors, so it’s important to follow your vet’s recommendations and ask questions about what is acceptable.

You can’t sit your pet down and explain the importance of recovery, so how can you possibly get your eager-to-play pup to take it easy? Here are a few tips.

You do the work.

When possible, carry your pet up and down stairs, or over any more challenging obstacles. Don’t hurt yourself or stress if your dog isn’t small or light enough to help in this way; offer the support you can, and block off areas as otherwise needed.

Get out the crate.

We know, this one may be tough. But you don’t want your dog wandering about the house when you can’t keep an eye out for off-limits movements and activities. Keep your dog confined to a small space while you’re away from home. It doesn’t have to be the dreaded crate – a small room, playpen, or baby gates are practical options.

Keep your dog on a short leash

You can’t avoid potty breaks during surgery recovery, and you can’t simply open the door and let your dog outside to roam freely. Not only should you use a leash to let your dog relieve himself, but make sure it’s short enough to prevent wandering around the yard. Hang up the retractable leash for now and choose one with a fixed length.

Skip the walks and playtime.

Walking or playing fetch with your dog is your special bonding time, and changing your daily routine can be difficult. Even if your dog is relentlessly begging to go out and play, you must keep exercise to a minimum during recovery. Avoid the buzzwords that your dog associates with playtime, and if you’re headed out for a solo walk, keep it on the down low.

No jumping on the furniture.

Explosive motion can definitely impede healing or cause more damage to wounds. Be vigilant and assist your pet in getting onto and off of any elevated lounging place.

A room with a view

While your dog isn’t able to go outside and run around during the healing phase like he probably wants to, setting up a little camp with a clear, stimulating view of the outdoors can help relieve that desire.

Exercise for the mind

Keep your dog busy in ways other than moving around. The possibilities for a mental workout are virtually endless! You can buy food dispensing toys or interactive toys – anything that makes your pup work for food or treats while building problem solving skills. You can also spend time teaching basic obedience skills or tricks (that don’t require a lot of movement).

Cuddles, cuddles and more cuddles

Ah, the easiest one. Your dog loves to be by your side, so post-op recovery is a perfect time to cozy up with your pet and relax together.

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– TPLO Surgery
– Lateral Suture Correction
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