Canine Bilateral Knee Surgery: Physical Therapy for Cooper. Do Dogs Enjoy Their PT?

Working with dogs over the past four years has certainly taught me about their ability to understand and retain words and phrases uttered by humans.

Canine Bilateral Knee Surgery: Physical Therapy for Cooper

Never has a particular dog, Cooper, shown me the depth of those perceptions than he did a few short weeks ago.

Cooper’s story

Cooper is a 4-year-old white-coated Golden Retriever who suffered cruciate ligament tears in both of his knees.

Cooper required surgery only three weeks apart.

Cooper’s bilateral knee surgery was quite disabling. It caused him great difficulty with walking, climbing stair, and standing. Cooper began a program of canine swimming. This helped him a lot but his walking was still labored, with the hind limbs bent and crossed underneath him.

Physical therapy for Cooper

Cooper’s veterinarian recommended physical therapy and Cooper’s mom got in touch with me to arrange treatment.

She further enticed me by sending a short video of her adorable canine boy, struggling along the sidewalk awkwardly.  He stole my heart and motivated me to offer as much help to him as I could.

Cooper’s rehabilitation process lasted 7 months, with 1-hour sessions each visit.

I worked with Cooper in his home, surrounded by his loving family of 3 generations.

Tracking progress

Each week Cooper gave it his all and the family cheered him on!  We kept a chart of his progress with a range of motion, measured in degrees, plus the bulk of the leg muscles using a tape measure, his standing height, etc. We watched him steadily improve and reach the pre-set goals.

Gradually I was able to reduce the frequency of PT from weekly to every other week, every 3 weeks then finally a month.

On the last visit when I returned after a month, I found that not only had Cooper maintained all of his gains, but that he had further improved in standing taller with straighter hind legs, and with his ability to walk.

When the session ended I went into the kitchen to talk with his mom Kathy and give her my ecstatic news– Cooper was ready to be discharged!

Cooper doesn’t want to quit

All of her time, effort, money, had paid off!  As we were discussing this, Kathy’s Sister Linda quietly “tip-toed” over, tapped each of us on the shoulder simultaneously and pointed to the dog, silently mouthing the words:  “LOOK AT COOPER”.

We turned to find Cooper sitting in the doorway of the kitchen with his head slumped completely down, resting on his chest. At first, I thought he must be sleeping, sitting up! I went over, bent down to look and his eyes were open but very sullen.

He looked completely despondent.

His head stayed drooped but his eyes looked at me as if to say “are you kidding me?”!

I went back to Kathy but before I could say a word she quickly muttered, “can you come back in 6 weeks

”What day, what time? “came my reply!  As we scheduled another session for Cooper, we heard him walk away and then a familiar thumping sound. She looked around the corner into the living room and there was Cooper in his bed, lying on his side with his tail wagging, with each beat hitting the floor. Kathy said to me,” well, he knows you’ll be coming back, and since he has another appointment, he is happy”!

I smiled, shook my head in amazement, went over, bent down and gave the dog a pat on his head saying “okay Coop; see you in a few weeks. Be a good boy!

Related articles:
Talk to Me about ACL/CCL Injuries

Further reading:
Lilly and Tara’s TPLO surgery

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