This page contains information about what to expect after the following procedures.

  • Soft Tissue Surgery
  • TPLO
  • Orthopedic Surgery


A successful surgical outcome relies almost entirely on what happens after surgery. 

The recovery period for most soft tissue procedures is around 2-4 weeks. Each patient is of course unique and circumstances will vary from one pet to the next. Typically skin sutures/staples will be removed at 10 to 14 days after surgery. 

Depending on the severity of your pet’s surgical procedure his or her recovery will require different restrictions. Please refer to your pet’s post-operative instructions for that specific information. 

Some basic rules of thumb for all surgical patients: 

  1. The incision should be clean and dry. No licking or disturbing of the incision as this can lead to infection or delayed healing. An Elizabethan collar (lampshade type collar) should be fitted to your pet at the dismissal appointment. It should be worn at all times until the skin sutures/staples are removed. Cool compresses may be applied for 5 to 10 minutes 2-3 times daily for the first 3-5 days following surgery.
  2. Restricted activity means no running, jumping or uncontrolled activity. Your pet should be taken out to use the bathroom on a leash. He/She should not be allowed on or off of furniture as per the post-operative instructions. Your pet should be kept in a crate or small room with nothing to jump on or off of as directed in your post-operative instructions. 
  3. We strive to keep your pet as pain free as possible so please make sure you give all pain medications as directed. 
  4. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact TVSS or your veterinarian.


Weeks 1 - 4 post TPLO:

  • Check the incision twice daily for redness, excessive swelling or drainage. The skin staples should be removed 10 - 14 days after surgery. Swelling around the ankle is normal and expected the first week postoperatively.
  • Leash walk only when going outside to void.
  • When inside your dog must remain strictly confined. This means in a crate or in a small room with a non-skid floor and NO furniture to jump on or off!
  • It is extremely important not to let your dog lick at the incision site. An Elizabethan collar should be worn when your dog is not being strictly supervised.
  • Give pain medications and antibiotics as directed.
  • Some bruising and swelling at the incision site is expected for the first 10 days. A cool pack (a zip-lock bag filled with 3 parts water to 1 part rubbing alcohol that has been in the freezer for 30 plus minutes) wrapped in a towel may be applied to the incision site twice daily for 10 minutes for up to 5 days post operatively.
  • Within 14 days of the surgery your dog should be weight bearing on the limb. This means he/she will be able to stand on the leg but will be toe touching at the walk.
  • When starting physical therapy, remember to go slowly and stop the session if your pet seems exceptionally uncomfortable - trying to bite, kicking off you with the unaffected limb or vocalizing. If this behavior continues contact TVSS.

PASSIVE RANGE OF MOTION (ROM) and stretching exercises should begin once your pet has returned home.

  • These exercises may be performed with your pet standing or laying on his/her side.
  • When starting these exercises it is recommended to have 2 people handling the dog- one to steady the head and one to perform the exercise.
  • Begin by grasping the paw of the operated limb with one hand and with the other hand hold the thigh just above the knee.
  • Then slowly flex the knee toward the body until you feel resistance or sense discomfort from your
  • Hold for a count of 10 and then slowly extend the limb to a normal “standing” position.
  • Repeat these exercises 10 to 20 times 2- 4 times daily for the next 4 weeks.
  • A 4 -week recheck appointment with Dr. Nunley is recommended to evaluate your dog’s progress.

Weeks 4-8 post TPLO:

  • As long as Dr. Nunley is satisfied with your dog’s recovery at this point, leash walks may begin.
  • Start with slow walks and a short leash on level ground for 5 to 10 minutes 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Move slow enough to ensure the limb is used in every step.
  • Gradually increase the time you walk and the number of walks you go on a day.
  • Your pet will benefit more from increasing the number of walks rather than fewer walks covering more distance.
  • You should work up to about 20 minutes 2-3 times per day.

Week 8 and After:

  • Another recheck appointment with radiographs is recommended to ensure that the bone is healing as expected and to determine your dog’s joint and limb function.
  • If Dr. Nunley says your dog is ready, then the next stage of physical therapy begins.
  • Gradually increase your dog’s walks to 1 mile in 15 to 20 minutes - working slowly up to 7 to 10 miles a week.
  • Slow stair climbing (both up and down) should be introduced but must be done on a leash to encourage full weight bearing and pushing off with the affected limb.
  • Jogging slowly for 2 to 5 minutes at a time 3 to 4 times daily. Gradually increase the number of times and duration of the run.
  • Occasionally your dog may be lame after increased activity. As long as this does not persist and resolves with a few hours of rest you may continue on your schedule.
  • If however, your pet seems very uncomfortable and resists the activity it is fine to skip a session or even a full day as long as the next day you’re seeing improvement.


A successful surgical outcome relies almost entirely what happens after the surgery. You play a vital role in your pet’s recovery and return to normal activity. The recovery time for most orthopedic procedures is around 8 weeks. 

The first 24 to 48 hours: Your pet will be very tired and will sleep more than usual. He/She should be kept in a safe, quiet and warm confined space with access to drinking water. Surgical pain will be at its highest during this time so be sure to administer pain medications as directed. Sedation may be necessary to keep your pet quiet during the recovery period. If you believe your pet (and you) would benefit from a sedative, please contact your veterinarian.

48 hours and beyond: If your pet comes home with a bandage, please review the bandage care instructions you received. The bandage needs to be kept clean and dry at all times. Also check the toes for swelling twice daily. If the bandage has slipped or if it seems to be causing your pet discomfort, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Monitor the incision site twice daily until the skin sutures/staples are removed. There may be some swelling and bruising that tends to drift toward the foot of the operated limb. This is normal and should resolve in 3-5 days. Apply a cool compress to the incision site for 5 to 10 minutes 2 to 3 times daily for the first 3-5 days. The incision site should have not have excessive swelling, redness or drainage and if you notice any of these or have concerns, please contact your veterinarian. Your pet must not lick the incision site! This can introduce infection and will delay the healing process. It is strongly recommended that an Elizabethan Collar (lamp shade type collar) be fitted to your pet before he/she leaves the hospital. The E collar is usually not needed once the skin sutures/staples have been removed (10-14 days).

Your pet may begin to “toe touch” on the operated limb immediately following surgery and this is absolutely fine. He/she should not be able to damage the repair walking BUT he/she should not be allowed to have any uncontrolled activity (running, jumping or falling) for the first 8 weeks following surgery. He/She should be kept in a large crate or small room with nothing to jump on or off of as directed in his/her post-operative instructions.

Physical Therapy should begin within 24-48 hours after surgery. Be sure to have your veterinarian or technician show you how this is done at dismissal appointment. (Click here to see a video that explains how to perform these exercises). Unfortunately, physical therapy may be a little uncomfortable initially. Ideally one person should restrain your pet while another person performs the range of motion exercises. They will usually need to be performed for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per day for 4 weeks following surgery or as otherwise directed in the post-operative instructions.

By about the 4th week out from surgery most pets have forgotten they have had surgery! This time will be harder for the owner than the patient. It is necessary to follow all restrictions to the 8th week of recovery to allow the complete healing to occur. Just because your pet does not display pain does not mean the healing is completed!

Once your pet is using the leg regularly and has had the 4-week recheck examination. You can very gradually start controlled (short leash) walks for 10-15 minutes two to three times a day and building on that as directed by Dr. Nunley or your veterinarian. Walking actually stimulates bone healing and is encouraged in most cases. The walks should be slow enough that your pet has to use the operated leg.

Your pet will receive an 8-week recheck examination from your veterinarian or Dr. Nunley. Typically at that exam, your pet will be able to gradually return to normal activity over the next 4 weeks. This gradual return to activity is needed to ensure that the soft tissues have had time to strengthen and can handle normal activity.