Helping your dog through post-op recovery

Did you think the worst was over when you picked your dog up after surgery? Silly pooch parent! The toughest part of any operation is the recovery.

My Rottweiler, Gentle Ben, recently went through his third ACL operation in five years, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.

1. Be aware that your dog is perfectly willing to lie to you.

He will look you in the face – or lick you in the face – and try to convince you that he’s ready to resume his normal Tasmanian devil approach to dealing with squirrels, UPS trucks and other imagined threats, all within 30 minutes of getting home. Don’t believe him! You might feel like Simon Legree from Uncle Tom’s Cabin by keeping your canine in a crate, but following your veterinary’s instructions, including the restriction of off-leash activities, is the only way to get your hound back to health.

2. Buy stock in a vacuum cleaner bag manufacturer.

Like all Rotties, Ben’s short, glistening black and brown coat is a thing of beauty. It is also a never-ending source of extraneous fur. Even under normal circumstances, this boy leaves more hair on the floor in one day than you’d find in a month’s worth of Camp Lejeune barbershop sweepings. Add the stress of surgery and the weeks of post-surgical in-home confinement, and it’s safe to say you can expect a minimum of 3,279 metric tons of hair to be left on your carpets and floors. Do the math. Since most vacuum bags fill up with less than a pound, you’re going to need a boatload of bags. Buy the stock. At least you’ll get a dividend.

3. “Vet” your vet.

Long before the first incision is made, you need to ask your veterinarian how to contact him/her with any post-surgical questions. From my experience, it seems a few vets will go to great lengths to avoid returning phone calls from paranoid pet owners once the slicing and dicing is done. You never want to have to play “Where’s Waldo” with your veterinary surgeon.

Five years ago, Ben’s first surgeon never returned a single phone call and I swore she didn’t use email. This time, I asked Ben’s new surgeon how I could contact him and his answer was music to my ears. He said he checks his email every morning and replies to each one at that time. He also pointed out that his home phone number is on his business card. That may not have made Ben feel any better, but it certainly made me feel good.

It has now been six weeks since Ben’s last surgery and he is very nearly back to being his old self again. The local squirrels aren’t happy, but I certainly am.