Lily is on Bed Rest

We had a bit of a scare last week. Lily came up suddenly, painfully lame. At first the vet thought that she had injured her back and had neurological damage, but x-rays showed that not to be the case. Still, the prognosis was not good – Lily had blown the cruciate ligament in her right hind leg. This is an injury often associated with large, overweight dogs, which she is not. She is, however, a twelve-year old dog who does not know how to compromise or slow down. Despite aging bones and weaker tendons, she still chases down squirrels. Well, not anymore.

Little dogs who have this injury are able to rest and heal. Big dogs need surgery. Lily is fifty pounds, and so between the two. We’re hoping that rest will take care of things.

Lily hates to be confined, and this will be an extended period of a few months of no stairs, no running, and of short walks on a leash. Lily is currently on medication which makes her drowsy, but she’s still miserable about the situation. She’s my shadow, and she’s not allowed to follow me.

Lily on rest


To occupy her time, I bought her a “long lasting chew toy.” That lasted 45 seconds. I put peanut butter in a kong. That lasted one minute. When she comes out of the haze of drugs, I’ll be teaching her tricks (using clicker training)  that she can do while on her bed. My friend Karen Pryor, who knows Lily well, sent me these suggestions in an email: crossing the front paws, telling big object from small, cocking the head on cue, nose target to object on the laptop screen, which hand is the treat in, etc. Karen says that such training can tire the mind and thus calm the body.

It will be interesting to see if the deer and predator situation changes now that Lily is not patrolling the backyard. Scooter is confused by all of this – instead of Lily protecting him from hawks outside, one of us hovers over him. He can’t play zoomies with his best friend, and the mealtime routine has changed. Yesterday he sat on the steps and yowled. (This video is from a previous howling session, but it’s what it was like.)

Have you had a dog on extended bed rest? What did you do?


  1. So sorry to hear this Terry. Our Golden Retriever/ Lab had a devastating injury to her hind leg a few years ago. As you probably know, here in New England, glass used to be discarded by burying it in 55 gallon drums. Unfortunately, over the years the drums break down and the glass erupts in any area not covered by grass. Bailey ran into the woods and came back with a terrible wound on her lower leg. She had severed many tendons and needed surgery to repair them. She had vet wrap that needed to be changed weekly and she had to have a plastic bag tied over her leg when going out to relieve herself. We weren’t sure if the repair would be successful or if she would have a dropped hock. Thankfully, she recovered completely! At first it seemed like we would never be able to keep her quiet and calm for that length of time, but it’s almost like she knew that she was hurt and needed to stay quiet. We took her for rides in the car, brushed her, and exercised her mind with “find it” games. It’s great that you are home during the day, and even though Lily can’t follow you, she’ll know that you are around. Sending healing thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery for Lily!

  2. You are going to think I’m nuts Terry, but several decades ago I had a cat with asthma, and he would calm down during attacks almost immediately if I slapped classical harp music on the cd player.

  3. i once had a cat with a broken pelvis who had to be confined to the bathroom. The vet can’t put them in a cast, same for humans, so the patient is immobilized by the pain until the bone heals. It was not a fun convalescence. On another note, I had ACL surgery which wasn’t much fun either. I wish Lily a better non-surgical recovery.

  4. I put 3 red solo cups upside down on the floor one had treat under it and he had to knock the cup over with his nose to get it
    My dog had surgery for torn ACL, and torn meniscus. The healing time was long, but now he is back to normal(he is a 10 year old golden)

  5. Poor Lily

    I wonder if she thinks she has done something wrong?

    I had a mix breed that had to have knee surgery. My experience was miserable. I was suppose to keep him confined to his crate for a week or so (don’t remember exactly) and only let him out to eat and potty.

    Well!!! that just let to other problems. He scratched and scratched and bite at the crate until his gums and toe bleed, and he even went so far as to partially tear off a pad.

    I finally gave up. I got tranquilizers from the vet and just keep him sedated until he heeled.

    Best of luck Terry and of course to Lily.

    • I can’t keep Lily in a crate. She would be as miserable as your dog was. Fortunately, she is a very smart dog, and she’s already learned what I expect of her. So, there’s a lot of moping, but no damaging behaviors.

  6. Oh, I’m so sorry for Lily, and like Ken, I wonder if she thinks she is being punished. You & the family must be feeling as sad as Lily and Scooter. I hope she heels quickly. Hugs & kisses to Lily.

  7. I had a pom in a pen for 3 months with a broken leg. Then she died from the tainted Chinese dog food. Now I have a senior pom with kidney stones and potty issues penned.

  8. Oh Terry! I am so sorry to hear this. Lily has become OUR dog too. Have you tried those big bully sticks? It takes forever for them to eat them down but they keep my little guy really busy. I know they are made of something grose? But even my natural pet store carries them? Let me know. Hugs to you my friend and Lily and all the critters. I also use those dog puzzles where you hide a treat? I can send the link. They have them on Amazon.

    • She makes short work of those bully sticks, too. And she’s so smart that she figures out the puzzle toys. It’s a challenge!

      • I bought 2 puzzles…it took Benny 5 minutes to figure them challenge at all…My child is soooo smart! LOL!!!

  9. Watching how Lily is, she doesn’t look like a 12 year old dog, clearly she hasn’t felt like one either – until now maybe. Get well soon Lily.

  10. O dear, poor Lily and poor you. I know of one person who pushed their dog around in a child’s pram/pushchair – they harnessed the dog in like you would a toddler – and took the dog wherever they went including her walks in the woods. The dog was a bit smaller than 50 pounds, but not much. Another friend got her dog a wheeled mobility aid. No idea what that cost, though. Nor if it works for cruciate ligaments as opposed to paralysis and/or fracture. Finally, my friend with a Golden Retriever who had this trauma more than once found that taking her swimming as often as possible not only aided recovery but kept everyone sane. Don’t know if this is an option, your vet would know.

    • I’ve read that swimming therapy is excellent. Lily will be doing laps in the koi pond when she is cleared by the vet to do so. The Beast is used to her swimming with her and doesn’t care!

  11. I don’t have any experience in this, but Kipper (my black cat) and I send Lily all our thoughts for a thorough recovery. She certainly is getting the best of care.

  12. My brother has a black lab with that same type if injury. They opted out of the surgery. She was kept quiet for awhile. Then they decided to just let her be…She has a limp, but seems happy. I call her a race horse. That was a few years ago(2 or 3) and she is doing fine..they have let her decide what she can or can’t do. I think its amazing how well she runs and enjoys her life. She was not over weight either, just ran full out everywhere. She seems to self monitor..A truly wonderful dog! Chin up, Lily is strong and smart, she will be fine!

    • Exactly what I had hoped to hear. At 12 I don’t want her to go through surgery. She’ll be fine on 3 legs, if only she’s not in pain – hopefully after the injury stabilizes.

  13. Consider using the Adaptil spray or collar or using lavender in a diffuser. They help with general anxiety and are supposed to give feelings of calm and happiness.
    As a vet I always tell people that surgery is an option, but seldom a necessity with a damaged ACL (I am quoting a surgical specialist). Most do very well after the recommended confinement and gradual return to normal activity.

  14. Poor Lily. Poor Scooter. Poor you! And just when you all could finally have quality time outside after such a long winter.

  15. Poor Lily, am sending lots of hugs for you both :)
    We had a cream Labrador that did the same thing, he used to run full pelt down the garden after squirrels and then stop quickly. He was 9 so the vet operated he did recover well, but the vet warned us he might get arthritis and he did !!, but he still managed a happy life for many years.

  16. I use those Kongs with my dog Otis a lot, and the trainer that I take him to recommends freezing them. That way it entertains them longer and there are all kinds of things that you can put in them. I’ll make several ahead of time and put them in the freezer. Good Luck to you and Lily!

    • Yep, I just gave Lily a kong with frozen peanut butter. It last 5 minutes. Longer than the “long lasting chew.” :)

  17. Would she respect the pen outside? That would be easy enough to move around. And since you have handy people at your place, how about jerry rigging a small chicken tractor for her to rest in outside? Big enough to stretch out in, but not big enough to run in. She can ‘follow’ you around that way. When she’s able to move around, her leash attached to your belt or around your waist will keep her with you and quiet. It’s only awkward the first day or two while both of you figure it out.

    Best wishes for a quick and solid recovery! And more best wishes for sanity retention! :D

    • Right now she’s still woozy from drugs. No telling what she’ll respect when she is more alert. I’ll know more about the level of activity she’s allowed in two weeks. Fingers crossed that an x-pen is okay.

  18. Do you know anyone who does Reiki for animals? It’s very soothing, non-invasive, and, since it’s calming, allows/helps the body to heal. Dogs usually respond well to it (horses, too!) and it’s also great for people.

  19. I am so sorry to hear about Lily’s injury, Terry.

    We did have a similar situation with our dog 3 years ago. It sounds like the two injuries also had similar causes (our old dog decided that jumping from the ground up to the small bridge over the marshy portion of Nara Park in Acton was a good idea, but her poor back did not agree). It is so sad when we see them still happy enough to play but their bodies just can’t keep up any longer. I certainly sympathize with them!

    Our dog was confined for nearly 3 months, and we switched up the location of her little “pen” (it was similar to the set-up that you show in the photo of Lily above). We had 4 spots in the house where she often would go on her own before the injury, and we knew she would be comfortable in all of those locations. We set up some blankets and a few of her toys in all 4 spots. Every time after we took her outside to quickly “do her business” we would place her in a different spot just moving the baby gate we used as a pen. I am not sure if it helped (she still seemed miserable), but we felt better about trying to give her some variety.

    As far as chew toys go, the only thing that our dog doesn’t chew through immediately are those shed antlers you can find at some pet shops. However, with any chew toy like that I only give it to her when we are around to supervise. I may be overprotective, but I am always afraid that if it did somehow break or splinter she could ingest it.

    • I’m trying to give Lily variety, too. Today I put a tie-down stake in the shade so that she could watch me garden. She liked that.

  20. Our beagle mix (who was a little but not terribly overweight) got a herniated disc when she was about 8 years old. It was very sudden; one morning, she seemed completely paralyzed from the “waist” down. The vet pinched her toes and determined she did still have feeling in her back feet, so we decided to try 6 weeks of complete crate rest with steroids and lots of prayers instead of surgery. She was miserable, but she was sleepy from the meds and still in some pain, so she did not seem to want to get out and go. Keeping something to chew on was the best thing, and we did put a cone on her when she was alone for very long. Otherwise, she would lick and chew on her back foot, which I imagine was having some pain or odd feelings due to the nerve compression. After about 2 weeks, she began to try standing up, and by 6 weeks she was able to walk short distances. We then built her back up with longer walks and got her to a healthy weight, and she recovered well. She would still be a little unsteady in her back end when she got tired, but she did not seem to be in any pain with it. She could do (and loved!) long walks in the woods and lived to be about 15 years old. We were very thankful! They’re such dear, faithful little things, and it’s hard for everyone when they hurt and don’t understand what’s going on. Lily is blessed to have such a great nursing staff! :)

  21. Ugh. Confining a dog as active as Lily is just no fun for anyone involved. I feel for all of you. When my very active Jack Russell had her luxating patella operated on, she was similarly confined for weeks. We all just about lost our minds until…I began giving her marrow bones. My (regular supermarket) butcher would cut them for me to about 4″-6″ and leave on as much (very disgusting) tissue as possible. I’d keep a supply in the freezer and half thaw them for Annie. Put a washable sheet down because they’re a bit messy and greasy. But they saved our sanity because they’re an incredible amount of work for the dog to “work” them to get the marrow out of the middle. She would work on one frantically for an hour, at least, and be just exhausted afterwards. Maybe try different sizes until you find the right length for her to chew comfortably. Burns off a lot of mental and physical energy, and cleans their teeth, too. I feel for you!

  22. Forgot to mention the marrow bones are safe. They’re from the long and very thick leg bones of cows and therefore don’t splinter and because they’re raw, they don’t crack like a cooked bone would. I don’t leave them around, but have never had a JRt or a GErman Shorthaired Pointer ever crack or break one.

  23. Oh Lily, I am so sorry to hear this! :( Very frustrating for you and her, a few months is a long time to be down. I hope the in-bed-training will help her pass the recovery time quicker. The marrow bones are a great idea (Tracy!)

  24. Poor Lily. She looks very sad in the photo above. It sounds like you have quite the challenge keeping her mentally occupied…and on top of that, trying to help Scooter through this too! Good wishes to all for the fastest recovery in history.

  25. I agree with Tracy try the marrow bones, really worked for us, but boy are they messy !! Well worth a try and Scooter can have one too :)

  26. Good Morning Terry. I am so sorry to hear about Lily. I use to work for a vet that did Animal Rehabilitation. Basically, physical therapy for dogs. One thing we used that was effective was an underwater treadmill for dogs. It gave them an opportunity to exercise without causing further damage. The vet I was working with moved to the Chicago area and now just recently took a job (basically near Chicago) working for the most renowned physical therapy vet in the country. I am sure he would be willing to speak with you and recommend such a person in your area or even offer some suggestions on things that you are able to do at home with Lily. The dogs we treated showed great improvement and the return of mobility to dogs that are in the same situation as Lily. Feel free to email me directly and I can put you in touch with the vet. I will give him a heads up that you would be calling. He is a great guy and truly like a brother to me. This situation is very difficult for active dogs.

  27. I was also just reading some of the other comments in which one mentioned a wheel chair type situation. That should be your last resort. However, I have a friend in Canada that does remarkable things with wheel chairs for dogs which are basically made to meet each dogs need. This can be done by precise measurements. If the need for this direction should arise, I can put you in touch with him. He actually lives in Nova Scotia.

    • Thank you for both of your comments. I’m hoping that the joint will stabilize and then she’ll get along fine with 3 good legs and one gimpy one. I’ve got a great vet here, who I’ll see in another week and discuss how long the rest period is and then what we do to rehab. I think my koi pond will turn into a water therapy tank :) If I have questions about that, I’ll get back to you!

  28. I hope Lily recovers quickly! Our Westie is 12 as well, and still chases squirrels like Lily. I worry about something like this happening to her. I hope Lily enjoys her training and special treats. All good thoughts coming her way!

  29. I hope Lilly is soon on the mend. It’s at times like this that you wish you could explain to them that everything you do is for their own good.

  30. Have you put the peanut butter/treats in the Kong and then frozen the whole thing? It lasts a lot longer that way!