Preparation and Checklist for before and after dog knee Surgery

Last Updated on 2022-01-19 by Admin

The checklist contains many helpful details we applied in preparation for Annie’s Tightrope knee surgery. All of the before-surgery items we took care of helped reduce stress and give a feeling of preparedness.

The after-surgery list has its root in our experience with Annie’s surgery. All I can say is I wish I had that list when I picked up Annie after surgery. We could have avoided much stress and unnecessary pain for Annie.

Preparation Steps Before Surgery

Weeks before surgery is time to plan for that dreaded day when Your dog has to go to the hospital. The items listed have served me well to prepare for Annie’s knee surgery.

As a dog owner, I want to reduce the risk of injury after surgery, avoid adverse interactions with medication, and provide a clean and secure environment for my dog to recover. I also like to have all the tools to look after my dog after surgery at home with as little unnecessary stress as possible.

Once You arrive at the hospital to pick up the dog after surgery, there is joy and often a rush to go home. But I learned that having a more clearheaded approach could have avoided some situations that caused pain for my dog. I like to share my experience and what You can do to prevent many of the negative aspects.

Arrange for someone to help You and Your Dog After Surgery

If You live on Your own and own a medium to large dog, see if You can get a friend to go with You to pick up the dog after surgery. You will need help getting the dog in and out of the car after surgery. Assistance is also required to get the dog from the car into the house.

Because the dog is still partially sedated, it can’t stand on the leg that had surgery. That means that someone may have to hold the dog’s rear up with a lift harness while someone else leads the drowsy dog to its home.

The first night after surgery will very likely be a long and restless knight for You and Your dog.

Use Non-Slip Area Rugs or Mats on Slippery Floors

After knee surgery, a dog will be on three legs and may require assistance with walking. Non-slip mats can help prevent accidents by providing secure footing.

Many kitchen floors and hallways utilize easy to clean and slippery materials. Places where dogs often have food and water.

Block Access to Stairs and Rooms

When healthy, a dog might be allowed to roam the house as they please. But after surgery, they may not be allowed to use stairs or walk freely. Blocking stairways and closing doors to rooms that are not safe for the dog are simple steps that go a long way.

Soon after surgery, dogs tend to follow the pattern of behaviour as before the surgery. Even when injured, they can still be quick on their feet and in a place that is not safe for them.

Refresher Training on the Heel, Wait and Stay Commands

A Few days after surgery, you may find that the dog is eager to go out and explore, way before it is safe to do so. Pulling and walking all over the place can strain the surgical wounds cause the incisions to open.

Doing some refresher training for the heel, wait and stay commands are a good idea to keep the dog on good behaviour. With my Boxer girl Annie, I know that the heel command can always use some refresher training.

Potentially Stop Giving Supplements to Prevent Drug Interactions

As supplements can interact with medications, it is good to ask a veterinarian about them. Get the details on when to stop them and when it is safe to start them again. Don’t rely on the vet to ask You. The veterinarian or surgeon might not be aware of what You give the dog.

In the case of my Boxer girl Annie, I stopped giving her supplements weeks before surgery. Mainly because she is sensitive to medication, I was interested in limiting adverse reactions between medicines and supplements

Clean Crate and Favourite Spots where Dog Likes to Lay Down

Clean the dog’s crate and favourite resting places around the house. And if it makes sense, get freshly washed blankets ready for those spots. The goal is to reduce the chance of infection. After surgery, it doesn’t take much to get an infection.

The crate can be the safest place for a dog after surgery. That is where they can rest and at the same have movement restricted.

Switch the Dog’s Food from Raw to Cooked or kibble

Veterinary hospitals care for many animals, some with conditions that can get aggravated by raw food. A dog owner who feeds their dog raw food should check well ahead of surgery if raw food is allowed. Being aware upfront allows for enough time to adjust the diet accordingly.

I think it is essential to state that I feed my dog raw meat most of the time. Finding out last minute that raw food is not allowed for a few weeks might not be enough time for a dog to adjust to a different diet.

Home cooked food , kibble and Canned food were all fine when I checked with the Veterinarian.

Hot and Cold Packs

After knee surgery, it is common to apply ice\hot packs a few times a day to control swelling and inflammation. Having a good number of gel-based ice packs allows for rotation. The after-care instruction will inform You if ice packs, hot packs or both are needed.

What I found helpful is to contour the packs before they go in the freezer.

Clean towels are great to put an ice pack in and then apply the ice pack on the swelling. Most ice packs are too cold to be used as they are. Putting them in a towel makes them more tolerable, with less chance of freezing the skin.

Buy or Rent a Dog Lift Harness & Short Leash

When Your dog is ready to go home, You may need a Dog lift harness to lift the dog into the car.

Some Veterinary hospitals sell or rent them out, but not all of them. Find out if Your dog will require a support harness and for how long. Buying one might be less expensive than renting one.

The dog may not appreciate Lift harnesses. But they do help a lot with getting in and out of the care after surgery. They are also helpful when walking the dog the first week or so after surgery. The dog does not put the full weight on the affected leg in the first few days after surgery. Providing some support till the leg is ready to tolerate the full load can prevent injury.

While walking my dog after surgery, she did not have complete control of her paw. Instead of stepping on her paw, she would touch the floor with her toes. Walking with the lift harness prevented putting too much stress on the toes and hook.

Bring the lift harness with You to the animal hospital when picking the dog. The dog will be tired, sedated, and requires help to get in and out of the car.

When walking the dog after surgery, I found that a short leash allowed for easier control.

Collar to Prevent Licking

Your dog will most likely come out of the hospital with a plastic cone around the neck. That cone is to prevent the dog from licking the wound and cause infection or remove the stitches. If you have a flat-nosed dog, you might want to look into a different collar that is more comfortable and acts simultaneously as a pillow.

The downside of such a collar is that it is too warm to be used in hot weather.

Foam to Close the Gap Between the Front and Rear Seats of the Car

Something that always bothers me when driving with my dog in the back seat is the gap between a car’s front and rear seats. Abruptly applying the breaks could lead to the dog all down that gap.

For that reason, my wife got some cushion foam to fill the gap behind the seats. A little foam from a mattress store or cutting up an old couch cushion to proper size might prevent some severe and costly re-injuries.

Mat and Pillow for the Dog Owner

As a caring dog owner, you may end up sleeping on the floor beside the dog, the knight or two after surgery. I spent two nights sleeping on the floor beside my dog. Even a dog sleeping in a crate may need care and comfort.

An exercise mat and old pillow can come in handy for such a situation.

After Surgery Checklist

While waiting to pick up the dog from surgery, is the best time to review, append or add comments to the below checklist.

Animal hospitals are busy places, and Your dog is only one of many that need care. The instructions you will get when the dog is released are proven to work in most cases. But keep in mind that every dog is different, and there are situations where the instructions need modifications or adjustment.

Do Yourself a favour and do the following when picking up the dog after surgery. I wish I had done so. It would have saved my dog and me a lot of frustration, pain and discomfort. It does not have to be that way for You and your dog.

In the resource section at the bottom of this article is link to Get the Facts about Pain Relievers for Pets. Might be worth reading to understand potential side effects.

Go over the Instructions and the List of Medications, Check the Dosage

It is common to get an information sheet about the drug. That same sheet may have details on how much and how often to give the medication. You may also get the medication\ prescription which also contains similar details. Confirm that the dosage and timing are consistent between the prescription and the information sheet.

Before heading home is the time to get clarification and corrections.

In my case, for the anti-inflammatory medication, the document stated to give the amount based on a 20kg body weight. But on the prescription package, it says to provide a dosage based on 30 kg body weight. That is is a big difference. Before You drive off is the best time to check for discrepancies and ask for clarification.

Suppose You get informed that all written down in the paperwork. Find that piece of paper and verify.

Find out When the Last Time the Dog got Medication

I did not confirm this, and once I got home to check when to give Annie her medicine, I found the list of drugs, but the details about when to next give medication or when Annie last had her medication were blank. So I called the Animal hospital about when to provide Annie with her medicine.

For Each Medication, Ask what Lea-way there is

You want to know this because Your dog may need more, less or even skip some medicines. For pain killers, it can be that the frequency to give the medication might not be sufficient the first night after bringing the dog home. That was the case with my Boxer girl Annie. While sleeping on the floor beside Annie, she started to pant, shake, and wince the first night. So after trying to find out what is wrong, I called the emergency line of the hospital to find out what to do. Then I was told I could give the next dose in two hours. In the meantime, I got advised to ice the treated leg.

The following day I emailed the surgeon, and he provided the information I needed. From him, I learned that I could give the prescribed pain medication safely every 8 hours. That is the type of information You want before leaving the animal hospital.

As it turned out, Annie only needed extra pain medication the night of surgery. After that, the recommended dosage worked just fine. Asking such questions upfront is helpful when You have a panting, shaking and wincing dog on Your hands and don’t know what to do. And You are tired because You did not sleep.

Ask Which Medication can be Safely Eliminated or Reduced

The reason for this question is that each dog reacts differently to medication.

Annie got prescribed a sedative but did not need it as the pain medication already made her extremely tired. Again I called the hospital to find out what to do.

In that conversation, I asked the right questions for every medication that my Boxer needs. There was no need to administer additional sedatives. Maybe in few days, she might need that medication.

When Know which medication can safely be skipped and what the minimum time gap between intervals is, empowered me to take better care of my dog.

If there is a cause to call the emergency line, that can still be done when needed.

Write Down When and How Much to Give for each Medication

In the section about medication, I provided my real-life experience of how things might unexpectedly change. If medication needs adjusting, it is a good idea to write down each adjustment. There might be more than j one adjustment required over time. Tracking changes and adjustments helps to avoid making mistakes. The modification is essential to other family members or friends that look after the dog.

The initial schedule for Annie’s medication was simple. But after the adjustment, it looks very different. One pill is skipped for now. Another increased, and a third has a schedule of its own.


Some basic preparations and due diligence go a long way to reduce stress and anxiety about the pet’s surgery. When You feel calm, so will Your dog. There is always the possibility of something not going to way one expects. However, being prepared gives peace of mind.

Update 2022-01-19

Annie underwent the Tightrope surgery and you can read about some research on that procedure in my latest article. All the details about the actual surgery and recovery are available here .


Get the Facts about Pain Relievers for Pets

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