Clarification on Recommendations for Open-Heart Surgery Post-Operative Activity
During the first 3-months after surgery, your dog must be strictly held with a short leash when it is walked outside and is not allowed to run, walk fast, and jump. Excitement must be avoided as well. The cordages are still fragile, as well as the annuloplasty, and the regurgitation can increase and the heart chambers can dilate again, even a clot can show up. The dog’s life at home must stay the same as before surgery with the same recommendations as outside (no running, no jumping, and no excitement). After surgery, your dog must sleep a lot to recover from the major surgery it underwent.
After the 3-months post-operative, mitral valve disease is still present and the mitral valve is still fragile, as it has not been replaced but repaired. The new cordages are attached to your dog's native valve, which means that the more damage it has before surgery, the more difficult the repair is during surgery, and the more likely some regurgitation may happen again.
Even after the 3-month post-operative recovery period, your dog must stay calm and not experience vigorous exercise like excessive fast runs and certainly not brutal jumps, especially many jumps in a row. Your dog can trot about, run a few steps gently, or even take a small jump onto a low step (to reach its bed or yours, for example). Remember that your dog’s legs are much smaller than yours and that it will trot or run while you walk to keep up with you; its goal being to stay as close as possible to you during the walks.
For that reason, even after surgery and for its whole life, it is recommended that you walk your dog outside with an extension leash so you can control its movements and exercise. Please don't let your dog run freely. If you must walk fast, it is advised to hold your dog in your arms so you can avoid it running vigorously for an extended period (meaning that the heart rate jumps suddenly from 100 to 200 beats per minute). If you are aware that your dog is very excited outside when it encounters other dogs for example, please avoid it, and again, hold your dog in your arms or change your route.
All these recommendations are even more important during the week of hospitalization after surgery, when the repair is very fresh and fragile. The frequency and duration of your visits during the immediate post-operative recovery must be controlled by the surgical team and strictly respected.
Remember that you have made an incredible journey by choosing open-heart surgery for your beloved dog, so please take care of the repaired valve as best as you can so that you can enjoy a lifetime with it!
Thank you very much for your attention,
Drs. Bozon and VetsHeart Team