When your dog suffers a complete tear of the Achilles tendon, surgical repair is usually necessary. Typically, the prognosis for a complete recovery is very good, but it is dependent on aftercare and rehabilitation. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, as many as 94 percent of all dogs undergoing surgical repair recover with full tendon function and mobility.
Immediate Surgical Treatment
Successful surgical repair requires immediate treatment and surgery of the torn tendon. Ideally, surgery should be performed within a week or two after the initial injury. Waiting longer than this allows scar tissue to form on the tendon, making surgical repair and reattachment more difficult. If you suspect an Achilles tear, consult your veterinarian immediately to discuss surgical options.
Immobilization Post Surgery
After Achilles tendon surgery, immobilization of the affected limb and tendons is essential. This immobilization can be a permanent or removable cast, a transarticular circular fixator wired through the bones surrounding the joint, or a calcaneus-to-tuber ischii nonweight-bearing stifle flexion device that is inserted into the surrounding bones and holds the leg in a lifted position using a bungee cord. Immobilization is essential for the first eight weeks after surgical repair.
Slow Aftercare and Recovery
When your dog returns home from surgery, confinement is necessary to restrict exercise and activity. Even with a cast or other immobilization device, an overactive dog can reinjure the repaired tendon. After eight weeks of immobilization, a gradual increase of activity may occur, but confinement is recommended for a total of three months to allow complete healing. Physically therapy, such as underwater treadmill therapy, allows your dog to rebuild strength in the limb without placing strain on the repaired tendon and risking reinjury.
Infection Risk Reduction
One possible complication with any surgical procedure is post-surgical infection. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions for cleaning the surgical site as well as immobilization care. For example, casts will require regular replacement and veterinarian checks throughout the eight weeks post-surgery. External fixators require regular cleaning and disinfecting around the pin sites, as well as the application of antibiotic ointment.