Recovery times after surgery

The length of time it will take for your dog to recover from surgery and how much normal function will be achieved depends on several factors:

  • How fast the extruded disc material hit the spinal cord
  • How much damage was done to the spinal cord
  • How long the spinal cord was left compressed


In general, the less severe the damage and the quicker surgery was performed, the better will be the recovery.

In one study (Hady & Schwarz 2015), the average recovery time was 16 days and dogs spent an average of 40 days in formal physical rehabilitation. It also reported that more time in formal rehabilitation and more underwater treadmill sessions increased a dog’s chances of improvement.  The underwater treadmill therapy was started 10-14 days after surgery and was done weekly.


Other studies have shown that 90% of dogs were able to walk at between 10 and 13 days after surgery. However, the dogs able to walk after 10 days had all been able to walk prior to surgery (i.e. they had lower pre-operative Pain Response Scores).


Davies & Brown 2002 reported 96% of dogs in their study were able to walk within 3 months. The average time to walk was 12.9 days and was significantly shorter if dogs had postoperative voluntary motor function (7.9 days). 


A small study in 2019 showed a median recovery time of 44 days: 


Mini-partial lateral corpectomy and hemilaminectomy for the treatment of heavily protruded thoracolumbar intervertebral disc in small dogs.
  • Source: Korean Journal of Veterinary Research . 2019, Vol. 59 Issue 4, p213-217. 5p.
  • Author(s): Hyun-Jung Han; Hun-Young Yoon
  • Abstract: Five paraplegic dogs were diagnosed with thoracolumbar intervertebral disc disease with more than 50% compression of spinal cord. Because the lesions were determined to be disc extrusion on magnetic resonance imaging, a hemilaminectomy was initially performed, however, protruded discs were confirmed during surgery. To remove the protruded disc, modified partial lateral corpectomy (mini-PLC) was additionally performed. All dogs recovered to full ambulation within a median of 44 days without temporary deterioration or vertebral instability. Mini-PLC as described here enables successful removal of the protruded disc, while preserving vertebral stability in dogs for whom the use of hemilaminectomy is inevitable.

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