11 Lessons from Golden retriever ACL surgery recovery

You may be wondering exactly what Golden retriever ACL surgery recovery?. Well, let me explain in this post as well as provide you with information on how to handle recovery in the event of your pup going through this.

Image result for dog ccl

What is ACL? Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

This is when there has been damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee area of a dog. In dogs, this ligament is referred to as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). There is no prediction to when or if this will happen, but if it does then you will need to make an expensive trip to the vets.

1. Preparation time

Make sure to order everything you need beforehand. After paying the fees for the surgery and then coming home with a puppy in pain. Well, the last thing you want to be doing is last minute shopping.

This, of course, is if you are reading this before your poor pup goes in for surgery. Make sure that you have all the relevant equipment beforehand. A great place that did me just well was GingerLead®.

Consult a professional veterinarian beforehand to find out exactly what equipment will be suitable for your breed and circumstance. Clear a space in the house where your dog will stay after surgery. You’re going to need an orthopedic dog bed too. I recommend the big barker as it’s the one I used back then and still up till now too.

2. Feeling sad and upset is OK

To see your best friend go through such a hard time may be difficult to bear. I know as I also had to go through this too. I just want you to know that you can contact me personally at any time if you need someone to speak to [email protected].

It was so difficult to see Toots go under such extreme measures but I knew it had to be done in order to help him. My husband was the shoulder to cry on t the time but it’s sometimes difficult for others to understand.

Which is why I want you to contact me if need be.

3. Have faith and believe in the process:

When things look bad it’s very easy to think the worse. However, that is, in fact, the worse thing you can do. Understand that other dogs have been going through this surgery for many years before this.

And a whopping 85% have managed to come out successfully on the other end. SO, I always say to you that you need to just believe in the process as this has been proven to work thousands of times by various surgeons.

Think positively about the outcome and all great will come. I know this sounds kind of ‘airy fairy”’ but it’s totally true. Good thoughts bring good outcomes.

4. Straight After surgery:

When Toots came home he was completely drained of energy. In the first 3 days of him coming home, I was told t apply a cold compress to the affected area for a period of 15 mins minutes at a time.

I would then repeat this process around 2 or 3 times per day, and that went on for around 2 weeks. What is a cold compress? this is a tough or thick piece of cotton that is used to apply pressure to a wound or stop bleeding.

In the case of dogs, this is used after surgery to apply cold pressure to affected areas. It’s important for your dog to have a good night’s sleep after such traumatic experiences.

I made sure to have Toots fully equipt with bedding and warm covers to ensure he was comfy. The BigBarker orthopedic dog bed (Link to Amazon) did just fine for him. He was able to get the support needed to heal in the fastest time.

5. It is NOT a race

Although it is recommended to take your dog for a walk as soon as they are fit enough. Well, make sure to have them on a collar and do not let them run. I know I can think I’m Superman in the flesh from time to time.

Well at least in my mind but whether my body agrees, is a whole other story. Make sure that your dog doesn’t do the same too as this can result in further injury.

Careful on stairs

In the first few weeks after surgery, it is not recommended to allow your dog to use the stairs alone. I recommend that you hold onto their collar whilst you walk them up and don’t allow them to go too fast.

If your pup is mischievous of any sort then you might need a gate to avoid them going up and down the stairs for a while.

Going out for walks: During the first 2 weeks after surgery, the vets recommend that Toots do not walk more than 2 blocks at a time. Make sure to get them out at least once a day for a walk to start getting them back into the groove of normal life. Don’t overdo it though, as they are still going through a healing process.

6. Swimming is great:

If you have the luxury of having a pool then make sure to take your dog out for a swim. Even local places that they are very familiar with can be great.

As you know goldens are natural swimmers and they will usually take the opportunity to do so at any given time.

The first couple of days after surgery will be the most painful for your dog. So make sure to let them rest it out at first before taking them on activities.

The great part about swimming is the fact that when they go out for a swim. There is no real pressure on the affected area. However, they are still able to exercise it enough to rebuild the strength in that part of their body.


It’s super easy to get yourself into a state of panic. Like when you’re being over cautious about every little move that they make.

Things like your dog going up the stairs may happen and if it does then make sure to assess before you stress the situation. Make sure to pay attention to the affected area to see if there is any unusual swelling.

This in most cases is perfectly normal, so if you see this happen then just refer back to tip no 4 and apply a compress to the affected area to reduce the swelling again. Furthermore, panicking never solves anything and it’s an unhealthy way for you to be.

So just take some time to coordinate and think effectively as that’s what will ultimately provide the best help to your loved ones.


You may notice your puppy trying to lick the wound when they first get back. This is definitely a no-go zone as it can prevent the wound from healing and potentially cause further problems in the future. If you notice this happening a lot then you may need an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from licking the incisions.

9. Have a VET on speed dial:

Now although he said not to panic it is still just as important for you to pay attention. If you notice any unusual behavior in your pooch, or you think they are in pain.  Then it might be worth giving the vets a call just to identify exactly what’s going on.

The first few days of recovery are the most important to pay attention to. Sudden yelps could be the indication of a more serious problem and it’s important for you to make the call if that becomes the case.

10. The Next Phase:

Around a week or so after surgery, you will be told that your pup will enter the ‘second phase of rehabilitation. Make sure to follow all the instructions provided by the professionals to ensure that your dog makes a full recovery.

Before walks make sure to use a warm compress and then a cold compress after the walk. Don’t push them to walk too much as you need to work with what they can tolerate.

Although Toot’s can’t physically talk to me, he sure gave me clear instructions of when he was done with walking. On the other hand, do not let them get crazy with it and go for long walks in the early stages as this could be more harmful than good.

Just make sure to do everything in gradual increments at a time. This is a goal and not a race so there is no rush to get to the finish line.

11. (2 months after)

At this stage, you should be looking to ease things back into a normal routine. You can now take part in activities such as dancing with your dog or even allowing them off the leash for short periods of time.

I threw in a few great balancing activities that I researched online. There are also things like leg weights that can be great for these last stages too.

All I can say is just follow the steps of the recovery plan religiously. It may not be fun at first but it will definitely help you and your pup make a hell of a recovery.


In hindsight, it’s easy to tell you all this information.  When I was going through it. Well…. To be honest I was an emotional wreck.

It can be very traumatic for both you and your pooch. But just make sure to keep close attention and respond to anything when needed. Apart from that, you will receive a recovery plan from the veterinarian.  

It should be everything you need to know and what numbers to call should you need to get some help. 

Picture of Rachael Summers

Rachael Summers

Rachael Summers is the Founder and Senior Editor at Dig Doggy. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! Rachael also loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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Rachael Summers is the Founder and Senior Editor at Dig Doggy. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! Rachael also loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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