Physical Therapy for Full CCL Tears

After surgery, physical therapy for full CCL tears should begin upon removal of the sutures, at 10-14 days post-op.

Canine Full Cruciate Ligament Tears: Physical Therapy for Full CCL Tears

You should get instructions from the surgeon on what to do during those first two weeks. 

Physical therapy for full CCL tears weeks 2-6

During weeks two through six, the dog should start to bear weight on the limb and take short leash walks of 5-10 minutes one to three times per day.

The vet may allow your dog to go up and down a few steps, but only on a lead. Running, jumping, playing with other pets should be fully restricted during this time.

Physical Therapy: Full Cruciate Ligament Tears

Range of motion for flexion and extension of the stifle and hock should be performed with the dog lying on its side.

This is the point (if not before) at which most dog owners decide whether to do the therapy on their own or hire a physical therapist or canine rehabilitation practitioner.

Most owners are prompted to seek professional care when the dog isn’t putting the limb down to bear weight and some are just squeamish about touching and moving the limb.

Whatever the reason, using a trained therapist is optimal. It helps your dog get the fastest results with the best chance of avoiding re-injury or long-term complications.

Therapy will often consist of

  • functional electrical stimulation
  • cold laser
  • massage
  • range of motion for the stifle
  • hip and hock joints
  • stretching to the thigh and calf muscles/tendons
  • plus exercises

These exercises will help to build strength, reduce post-op muscle atrophy, and encourage weight distribution onto the operated side. The therapist will also help train your dog to walk properly, in a reciprocal (left-right-left-right) pattern.

Physical therapy for full CCL tears week 6+

After the sixth week, your dog should be at or very near full weight-bearing in standing and walks. Therapy includes daily leash walks to about 20 minutes twice per day. The dog may be allowed on the stairs off-leash depending on the advice of your vet.

Strengthening and functional exercises will become more advanced and involve

  • resistance
  • foam rollers
  • balance discs and balls
  • figure 8 movements
  • hi-stepping over rails or hurdles
  • tunnel walking
  • treadmill (land or underwater)
  • walking, etc.

Physical therapy for full CCL tears weeks 12-16

At 12-16 weeks the speed and distance of leash walks increases and may include trotting. 

Active play and jumping across/over low objects is now permitted, progressing to full running and jumping by 16-20 weeks post-surgery.

These are general guidelines only.

You must follow the particular surgeon’s protocol and your therapist should be in close collaboration with them as well. 

Consult your vet and therapist about lifetime precautions to avoid injury to the surgery site and help to prevent a tear on the opposite limb.

Always strive to keep the dog’s weight at a reasonable level.   

Related articles:
Treatment Options for Full Cruciate Ligament Tears

Further reading:
Physical Rehabilitation of Dogs following TPLO

Share your thoughts