Your dog has had successful surgery for a luxating patella (dislocating knee cap / trick knee / floating kneecap). He's passed the zonked out from medications period and even with the cast on to hold the knee rigid, he seems to be navigating quite nicely.
Feels like smooth sailing from this point on, does not it? Maybe not. It depends if you know a few very important points about recovery from trick knee surgery.
As an example of what can happen (cause I too thought recovery would be a breeze), let's talk about my handsome pup Simon – true to his cockapoo mix, he is a sweet, affectionate, and easily trained animal.
When he was a year old, he had trick knee surgery. And everything went fine – the bandage and suture removal were routine – no infection. He did develop a bump at the suture site, but that disappeared after a few weeks. Post surgery visits to the veterinary surgeon were also routine.
But then – about week 4 of the ten-week recovery period – sweet Simon began to show classic behavior problems. Excessive barking and whining were a few issues that started up. And curious, puppy biting crept into his play. This last item was particularly troublesome because I had been careful to address biting, a common puppy phenomenon, early in his development.
Why Behavior Problems?
As unacceptable as this situation sounds, it is perfectly understandable. Here's a dog who has to be constrained so he does not damage surgical repairs. Simon was confined in a pen or room so that he could not run, jump, or play with the other dog in the family. It's unfortunate that the vets who dictate post-surgery recovery rules fail to explain what might happen as a result of enforcing these rules.
In case you are not yet familiar with post-surgery restrictions, here are Simon's:
No stair climbing.
No jumping on people or furniture.
No playing with other pets.
These rules serve a purpose by protecting the healing canine knee, but they also implicate confinement and inactivity.
At the time his behavior changed, Simon had been couped up for three to four weeks. True, we paid attention to him, carried him in and out of the house for "bathroom breaks," walked him once a day, and made sure he had plenty of toys.
Clearly, it was not enough. I increased the walks so that he would get tired (and not gain weight) and spend time re-directing the biting to a more acceptable action, like playing with a special toy. The barking and whining also were addressed by diversioning the unacceptable behavior.