CCL Knee Surgery Recovery – Keeping an Active Dog Inactive

This is one of the questions that I receive the most – “I have a very active dog, how do I keep him/her inactive during the recovery process”. To be honest, there is not a simple answer. Active dogs are like active people, they get stir crazy when they’re confined to a space for a prolonged period of time. I’m one of those types of people, so I can definitely relate and totally understand what our dogs may be going through during the recovery process.

In talking with our veterinarian, and after going through this experience first hand, I can tell you that trying to keep an active dog inactive is not an easy task. There are basically 3 options that you have which can be used together or independently of one another.

  • Cage / Pen
    Restricting a dog who usually has free reign in the house or in the backyard is difficult, but the thing you have to keep in mind is that it is entirely for the good of the dog. The pen allows you to restrict your pets movement; if there is not enough space to walk/run around, your dog will most likely just lay down (hopefully). Our dog had a hard time adjusting to being in penned up, so we ended up using sedatives. Here are some great options for pet pens and cages.
  • Sedatives / Sedation
    We had a very hard time accepting this method, but when it comes down to it, movement and activity can cause your dog to re-injure its knee or damage the work that was done during the CCL surgery. Our veterinarian subscribed sedatives to us, but we were reluctant to use them at first. After the first day and a half of whining and standing at the door of the pen, we decided to start using the prescribed sedatives and it was the best thing that happened, for us and our dog.
  • Diet Restriction
    We used diet restriction for 2 reasons. Firstly, our dog was overweight and that was a large part of the reason that she tore her CCL in the first place so the diet restriction helped to serve as a weight loss “tool”. Secondly, consuming less food will result in less energy, so your dog will more than likely be less active. Try it sometime, eat 25% less calories one day than you normally would, chances are that you’ll feel a bit lethargic.

When it comes down to it, none of these options are ideal, but when all is said and done, they do help to keep the dog from re-injuring itself after surgery, and they can also help to recover faster.

The following items don’t necessarily help keep an active dog inactive, but they can help contribute to joint health which in-turn will help your dog once it begins its “rehab” and gets to get back moving:



    I am so grateful for these articles! I have a 9 yr old Doberman who injured her acl 10 weeks ago – conservative management worked for a bit, but since we live on a ranch, I let her walk around the barn – then she chased illegals and gophers and hurt it again.
    I have traditional surgery scheduled for June 1st, and only agreed to it because of the meniscus pain.
    Keeping her quiet will be a bit rough, as she will leap to her feet if she hears anything outside, so I’m glad to know there are sedatives I can give her.

    Thanks again for the information!!!
    Stephanie and Buffy

  2. says

    Hi Stephanie –

    I’m glad that you find all of our posts & articles helpful! I hope you’ve read Jan & Fiels story, since that involved a Doberman as well.

    Thanks for your comments, please keep us updated as to the status of your dog.

    Best wishes!

  3. STEPHANIE says

    Dear Kevin:

    These are the BEST articles I’ve read, and yes, I read Jan’s story and was inspired by the results.

    The reality of recovery is clear and concise in these stories, and it really helps an owner facing this surgery for the first time.

    Keep up the good work!!!


  4. Jennifer says

    I have a 6 yr old lab that’s having surgery tomorrow. He is really active and I’m really worried about the recovery process because I heard that’s important for the surgery to be a sucess. He was crate trained as a puppy but I’m worried about bathroom trips. He is 86 lbs and I don’t think I can carry him outside. Has anyone used a mobility harness? Like the lift-n-aid.

    Thank you Kenneth for your stories.


    • says

      Ouch! Shattered femur? That’s gotta be a tough recovery too! Glad you found our blog and glad you found the articles comforting. Any chance you’d like to trade links?

      Best wishes for a speedy recovery,

  5. rori and kabo says

    my wonderful wheaton terrier has a torn crusial and they say the other is going to go soon. any advice on doing both knees at same time? and who did u go to?

    • says

      Hi Rori & Kabo –

      I’ve had a lot of questions come through from users asking about doing both legs/knees at the same time, but I haven’t heard too many stories from users who have done it or experienced it. I am hopeful that we’ll get a story or 2 submitted through our new Share Your Story page. Please let us know if you went this route!

  6. Dee says

    We have a 1-year-old lab who is 3 weeks post-op from CCL surgery. The surgeon recommends 5 MONTHS of restricted activity, which involves 3 walks a day for 5-10 minutes in the beginning and gradually increasing the length of the walks. Our pup will also start physical therapy next week, which will be only 6 sessions. He is restricted to the first floor of our house, which is tiny and we don’t have room for a crate large enough for an 85 lb dog. We are having a really hard time controlling his energy. A bone or a kong only entertains him for so long before he gets rambunctious and tries to dart around the living room. He naturally wants to play every time he sees another dog, which of course he’s not allowed to do during recovery (we live in a very urban neighborhood with lots of dogs so there’s no avoiding other dogs). Does anyone have any suggestions? The “dog whisperer’s” type of advice of making walks his “job” does not apply in this case.

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