What Are the Best Low-Impact Exercises for Dogs Recovering from Surgery?

April 21, 2024

As the proud owners of our furry friends, it’s our utmost responsibility to ensure their wellbeing, especially when they undergo surgery. Postoperative care is a critical part of your dog’s journey to recovery, and it often includes a shift in their exercise routine. Not all exercises are suitable for a recovering pup. So, you must be cautious about their activity level to avoid causing them unnecessary pain or distress. This article explores the best low-impact exercises for dogs recuperating from surgical procedures, offering you insights that will help your four-legged friend bounce back to their usual playful self in no time.

The Importance of Low-Impact Exercises

Before delving into the best exercises for your recovering canine, let’s first comprehend the significance of low-impact workouts. Following surgery, your dog’s body needs time to heal. Activities that exert excessive strain can be too demanding for your pet, potentially leading to injury or hampering their recovery process.

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Low-impact exercises, on the other hand, allow your dog to remain active without putting undue stress on their healing body. These exercises can improve circulation, maintain muscle tone, support joint health, and enhance overall mobility, all while minimizing the risk of postoperative complications.

Walking on Leash

Arguably the most fundamental of all exercises, leash walks can be incredibly beneficial for dogs recovering from surgery. Walking is a low-impact activity that helps maintain muscle mass, enhances joint flexibility, and bolsters cardiovascular health.

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Start with brief, gentle strolls around the house or backyard, preferably on flat terrain. Gradually, as your dog’s stamina improves, increase the duration and intensity of the walks. Always observe your dog’s comfort level and energy during these walks, ready to adjust the pace or cut the exercise short if they seem fatigued or distressed.

Assisted Standing

Assisted standing is an excellent exercise that helps restore balance and strength in dogs post-surgery. It’s particularly useful for dogs who’ve undergone orthopedic procedures. This exercise involves supporting your dog as they attempt to stand, with their weight evenly distributed on all four legs.

Begin with brief standing sessions, gradually increasing the duration as your dog’s strength improves. Always make sure to provide adequate support to avoid unnecessary strain on your dog’s healing body.

Gentle Playtime

While roughhousing is not advised, gentle playtime can be a joyful low-impact exercise for your recovering pup. Engage your dog in calm, controlled play sessions using their favorite toys. This can be a simple game of fetch in the living room or a soft tug-of-war.

These activities can stimulate your dog mentally and physically, promoting healing and easing their transition back to normal activity levels. However, remain mindful of your dog’s energy level and pain signals to avoid overexertion.

Swimming or Hydrotherapy

Swimming is a fantastic low-impact activity suitable for dogs recuperating from surgery. It enables your dog to exercise without bearing their full weight, reducing the pressure on healing tissues or joints.

However, swimming should only be introduced with your vet’s approval, typically when sutures or wounds have completely healed. Some veterinary clinics even offer hydrotherapy services, providing a controlled, safe environment for your dog’s water exercises.

Gentle Stretching

Lastly, gentle stretching can be an effective low-impact exercise for post-surgery dogs. Guided stretches can improve your dog’s flexibility, aid in maintaining joint health, and reduce the likelihood of postoperative stiffness.

Always follow your vet’s advice when introducing stretches, ensuring they are gentle and adapted to your dog’s recuperating state. Remember, the goal is to facilitate recovery, not to challenge your dog physically.

In conclusion, low-impact exercises play a pivotal role in your dog’s post-surgery recovery, improving their physical condition while minimizing risk. Always consult with your vet before starting any new exercise routine to ensure it’s safe and beneficial for your pet’s specific condition. Your loving care and attention, coupled with the right low-impact workouts, can help your furry friend bounce back from surgery quicker and healthier.

Massage Therapy for Dogs

Just like humans, dogs can significantly benefit from massage therapy after surgery. Massaging your dog can aid in reducing swelling, easing muscle tension and promoting the healing process. Furthermore, it can provide comfort and reduce the anxiety that might be associated with post-surgery recovery.

The technique used for dog massage therapy is similar to that used for humans. The idea is to gently work the muscles, using your fingers to knead and rub in a circular motion. You should focus on the areas of your dog’s body that seem to be in pain or discomfort, provided these areas are not directly affected by the recent surgery.

The touch should be light and soothing rather than deep and intense. Listen to your dog’s signals during this process. If they seem to be in discomfort or pull away, stop the massage.

It’s important to consult your vet before attempting massage therapy. They can guide you on the right techniques and precautions to be taken to ensure the wellbeing of your dog.

Healthy Diet and Hydration

A healthy diet and proper hydration are integral to your dog’s recovery process after surgery. The right nourishment can provide the energy needed for healing, while hydration helps flush out toxins and aids in digestion.

Your dog’s dietary needs might change post-surgery, depending on the type of procedure performed and the medications given. For example, they might need more protein to support tissue repair or fewer calories if they’re less active.

As a responsible pet owner, you should consult with your vet about any dietary changes that should be made. They might also recommend supplements to aid in recovery.

Also, ensure your dog always has access to clean, fresh water. Dehydration can slow down the healing process and cause other health issues. If your dog is reluctant to drink, you might need to encourage them by adding a splash of chicken broth to their water or offering them ice cubes to lick.


Recovering from surgery can be a challenging time for your dog, but with the right care, they can bounce back to their regular self. Low-impact exercises, massage therapy, a healthy diet, and proper hydration all play a significant role in facilitating recovery. Always remember to consult with your vet before introducing any new activities or dietary changes to ensure they’re suitable and safe for your pet’s specific condition. With patience, love, and proper care, you can help make your dog’s post-surgery recovery a smooth and quick process.