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Cruciate Repair Physical Therapy

Instructions for Cruciate Repair Physical Therapy

Please give your pet his or her pain medication in the morning ½ to 1 hour before doing any physical therapy.


Do not start until day 7 post surgery.  Use a soaked towel in hot water (moist heat) and place it over the knee and surrounding muscle for 10 minutes before exercises each day.  This will help warm up tissues, increase flexibility, and provide comfort and general relaxation of the muscles.


Gently but firmly massage along both sides of the lumbar spine in both a circular motion and along the direction of muscle fibers (longitudinally, up and down the back on each side of the spine). Also massage up and down the thigh along the front, side, and back of the leg muscles.  After the initial massage treatment, your dog should learn to love having you do this.

Placement Exercises

With the patient standing, gently but firmly place the hind foot on the floor to reinitiate contact.  Initially, no weight bearing is necessary, just contact. Then, gradually shift her/his weight to encourage light weight bearing.  This can occur by applying pressure to the opposite hip with one hand and guiding the foot on the affected side to the ground with your other hand. This can also be done with a soccer ball, basketball or other large children’s ball.  Place it under the abdomen so his/her weight is on the ball and you can fine tune how much weight goes on the hind leg.

Passive Range of Motion

With the patient lying on the non-affected side, each joint on the surgical leg will be flexed and extended.  First start by grasping the toes with one hand and use your other hand to support the hock (ankle) while you flex and extend it as far as is comfortable for your dog.  Second take one hand and grasp the hock and then place your other hand over the stifle (knee).  Straighten the knee out, and then gently bring it back to a 90-degree angle or as far as is comfortable for your pet. Do 15-20 repetitions, three to four times daily to maintain joint mobility until you see good weight bearing on the leg.  If your dog will not allow you to do this by yourself, have an assistant distract or restrain your dog, so that you can really do these exercises comfortably and appropriately.


After therapy, please apply ice to the knee for 15 minutes. 

Remember:  There is some discomfort associated with post-surgical healing and with physical therapy exercises, but the goal is to work through the discomfort to achieve pain free motion.  If you feel your dog is experiencing pain that is excessive, contact your doctor. 

***ALSO, keep your dog completely leash restricted when outdoors for the first 30 days after surgery and follow the prescribed walking regiment.

Check out this link to see how this procedure impacted a chocolate lab.  


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