Care of a Dog After Spinal Surgery

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

When you bring your dog home after spinal surgery, he's got a long road to recovery, and you've got your work cut out for you. Much depends on your dog's prognosis -- and whether he's expected to walk again. If he is expected to regain that ability, physical therapy is a large part of his recuperation process. Even if it's unlikely he'll regain mobility, physical therapy can improve his quality of life.

Canine Confinement

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

When your dog returns home, he requires confinement so he can't inadvertently hurt himself. Choose a large cage or crate, and fill it with soft bedding. You'll have to change or wash his bedding daily if he fouls it. You'll have to turn him regularly so that he doesn't develop bedsores. Your dog will likely have to stay confined for at least a month, besides trips outdoors for calls of nature.

Expressing the Bladder

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

It's possible your dog won't be able to urinate on his own, at least initially. That means you must express his bladder manually several times a day. It's still a good idea to take him outside during these attempts, as he'll know what's expected and try to go on his own.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

Your veterinarian will show you how to express the bladder before you take your dog home. It consists of putting firm pressure on his abdomen in front of his rear legs. If you have issues, call the veterinary hospital at once -- your dog's bladder can't remain full. Your vet may prescribe a muscle relaxant for your dog to help you express the bladder. You should also call the vet if your dog's urine smells very bad or is discolored.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

Tips

  • Your dog should have a bowel movement within three days of his surgery. If he's home and that hasn't happened, contact your vet.

Other Care

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

Other basic care during your dog's recovery includes:

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

  • checking the incision for signs of infection
  • administering prescribed medications
  • and feeding the appropriate diet.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

It will take longer for an overweight dog to recover, as the excess weight strains his joints and limbs. If your dog is too fat, your vet will recommend a weight-loss diet during the recovery period.

Physical Rehabilitation

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

While your dog may require visits to a canine physical therapist, much of the work is done at home once you learn the ropes. Early home therapy focuses on getting the dog to stand and balance once more. The therapist may teach you basic exercises, including:

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

  • massage
  • stretching exercises
  • range-of-motion exercises
  • and sitting to standing exercises.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

You will also take your dog to rehab for services a facility can provide. This may include:

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

  • therapeutic swimming
  • treadmills 
  • laser therapy
  • acupuncture
  • electrical muscle stimulation
  • and poles and obstacle courses for coordination.

Caring for a dog after spinal surgery requires a big time commitment. Your dog may need help relieving himself. Physical therapy is also on the agenda.

As your dog progresses, the therapist will give you additional exercises to work with on your dog at home, including controlled walks. These may include walks on specific surfaces or on hills. With luck, your dog will soon be back to a "new normal," even if he can't do everything he did before his injury or illness.

About the Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.