• Ryan Wharton

The Importance of Crate/Cage rest

You may have heard your vet say, “Your dog needs to of crate rested” following surgery, and you start to panic…well there is some method behind the madness.

Following surgery, however invasive, vets will often advise a period of rest or even longer crate rest for your dog. This is to ensure they get the recovery time they need to heal and prevent them from causing further damage to the surgical site or creating a whole new injury from trying to bounce around the house. When bringing your dog home, the surgical site and soft tissues may still be inflamed at this point, which can last for up to 72 hours. Where there is inflammation there is also pain present, meaning rest and pain management (Medication, Icing and Laser Therapy) are very important at this stage to make your dog is as comfortable as possible.

Why crate?

Crating your dog is a great way of you ultimately protecting them, ensuring they’re not able to injure themselves further and ensure they recover successfully. If crating wasn’t carried out and your dog still had access to areas of your home such as; the staircase, beds, sofas and slippy flooring then this may cause further injury. Depending on where the surgical site is, jumping on and off the sofa or a bed could be disastrous for their recovery.

Why so many weeks?

Depending on the condition, most cases such as Orthopaedic surgeries (e.g. Cranial Cruciate Ligament Surgeries TPLO or Bone Fractures) can take around 8 weeks to heal. However, bone remodels due to the force being placed upon it, in tern making it heal a lot stronger, this refers to 'Wolffs Law'. So as a physiotherapist, it's also important to carry out physiotherapy and hydrotherapy once your dog is able to bear weight, this can help address areas of muscle atrophy, improve joint range of motion and encourage a normal return to function. This healing process can vary depending on the condition as bone, muscle, ligaments etc, can take varying times to heal as there are all very different structures. Muscles have a fantastic bloody supply, meaning they can heal a lot quicker than ligaments which are ‘avascular’ meaning they don’t have a blood supply, which means they can take 6-12 months to fully heal, something to remember.

It’s always important to follow your vets recommendation on how many weeks of crate rest you should be carrying out.

What exercise can I do with my dog if they’re crated?

Just because they’re in a crate doesn’t mean they cant enjoy time out of their cage, it is important they still get time out of the crate for toileting, feeding times and mental enrichment activities such as using a lick mat or a puzzle feeder and physiotherapy or hydrotherapy. Exercising is reduced during crate rest to ensure they prevent further injury to themselves until your dog is at a point where exercise can be increased, this can be discussed by your vet or veterinary physiotherapist.

What steps can I take to help my dog during or after weeks of crate rest to help their recovery?

Following the first few days of crate rest where the inflammation phase has passed and the medication is helping with controlling your dog’s pain, then physical therapy may benefit your dog at this point. Getting in touch with a qualified Veterinary Physiotherapist for advice is a great start. Physiotherapy sessions consist of assessing your dog’s pain, their movement (gait), joint range of motion and muscle mass/quality. Manual therapy techniques such as Massage, Passive range of motion exercises and the use of electrotherapies (such as Laser Therapy, Muscle Stimulation, PEMFT) can help address any areas of tension and muscle atrophy (weakness) during their crate rest period.

Take home message:

  • Crate rest is important and can benefit your dog massively if adhered to

  • Ensure your dog has access to mental enrichment during their rest period

  • Contact your Vet if you’re worried about your dog’s progress or for any advice

  • Get in touch with a Veterinary Physiotherapist to discuss the benefits of physical therapy following surgery.


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