Tip for Strict rest recovery | Dodgerslist, the premier website for Dog Back Disease (IVDD)


STRICT Rest Recovery Process

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Recovery Suite with Room Service 🍽️

  • The body has the ability to self-heal a disc
  • Disc healing requires time and little movement
  • Terms used for a disc episode: slipped, herniated or bulging disc, or pinched nerve
  • Learn what to expect during healing of the disc
  • Be able to implement ideas to deliver effective STRICT rest recovery during post-op(surgical) or conservative (non-surgical medical treatment).
  • Rethink: "Crate rest" is not your dog in a cage. It’s a “recovery suite” with room service! 🍽️

Two Disc Episode Treatments

Conservative Treatment
It is imperative to keep the dog quiet 24/7 during the recovery period of 8 weeks if the dog is recuperating with conservative treatment (STRICT rest and medical management). STRICT rest is how the disc will heal to form secure scar tissue. Dogs on conservative treatment are limited only to a very, very few minimal footsteps at potty time.

Surgical Treatment

Your surgeon will direct the number of weeks for post-op rest (often in the range of 4-6 weeks rest).  One benefit of surgery is physical therapy can often start soon after surgery.

We got an extra 5 healthy years with Gretta thanks to Dodgerslist Care and Support Forum.

When she lost use of her back legs they were there for us every step of her IVDD journey holding my hand and helping me be sure and assertive on her behalf.

The vet thought she’d never walk again and was disappointed we didn’t choose a surgery we couldn’t afford, but with the help of Dodgerslist she regained use of her legs, and didn’t even need a wheelchair.

She had zoomies right up to the last weekend before complications from Cushing’s took her from us. I wish every dog parent, especially doxie families knew about this resource.

 Gretta's story won the colorful Oceansole® Arnie Award for recognition of an important care provider in Gretta's journey.
crate options during non-surgical or post-op rest

Types of recovery suites

  • A recovery suite provides safety to the healing disc. Restriction prevents bolting or to keep others from bothering the dog. Humans and other pets must be discouraged from any kind of play during the pet’s disc healing period.
  • Avoid giving toys that promote tugging or pulling activities. Excessive back or neck movement can disrupt the healing disc.
  • Your dog needs a flat, always horizontal and firm surface to support his back during recovery. No couches, no beds, no laps.
  • Recovery suites such as a wire ex-pen, Pack N Play or a wire crate are tolerated well by most dogs over the plastic airline crates. Recovery suites can be purchased or modified to top opening to ease lifting the dog in and out of the crate
  • ⚠️CAUTION: Laundry baskets are not acceptable for use at any time as they can tip over and the dog can jump out of…. even a paralyzed dog can do this.
  • *PET STROLLER NOTE: dogs should never be left unsupervised while in a stroller. Please read all of the listed restrictions when using a pet stroller. See also the features to look for when using with an IVDD dog.
How to set up for crate rest: surgical or non-surgical treatment

Size of suite area

  • The size of the recovery suite, ex-pen, etc. should only be big enough to stand on all four legs, turn around and when lying down to fully stretch out legs.
  • The recovery suite area should NOT be big enough to include a separate toilet area. Measurements would be approximately as wide as the dog’s head to tail length by 1.5 times the dog’s length.  Pad out any extra room in the suite with a rolled up blanket as kind of a bolster to deter walking around in the suite area. A bolster makes a nice head rest.
  • Use a wire suite (rather than plastic or canvas) for a less isolating feeling.

Recovery suite tips— back safety, how to set up, valuable member tips:

Make at home post-op or during conservative treatment go smoother with these tried and true tips. Tips gathered from the Dodgerslist IVDD Care and Support Forum (open since 2002.)


Make STRICT rest as comfortable as possible for the dog. A memory foam or eqg crate mattress will relieve pressure points on the skin.

  • 2 inch 4 lb density memory foam mattress to relieve pressure points. Check on-line for pet mattress such as FOAM by Mail  or  Walmart, etc. for human memory foam bed topper can be cut down and stacked for several recovery suite locations.
  • Egg crate foam is another alternative. Check your local fabric stores.

Change of bedding: 100% synthetic (no cotton) Fleece fabric as a bottom sheet wicks moisture away from skin (have 2-3 on hand) and dries quickly. Inexpensive fleece throw can be cut to sizes at Big Lots, Walgreens 2/$10. You can buy fleece yardage at JoAnn Fabric Store or the like. This is a no-sew project as fleece does not ravel.

Layer in this manner: Trash bag enclosed mattress, pee pad*, fleece bottom sheet tucked in all around mattress.
*OPTION to disposable pee pads are reusable waterproof absorbent bed pads. Look for children’s disposable bed mats at your grocery store. Cut down the twin size to make several suite size ones.


DIY conversion with tie wraps to open the crate from the top for easier lifting your dog.
D/l a printable PDF at this link: Convert to top opening


Anytime your dog is out of the recovery suite, while you change bedding, can be a danger of darting off. Too much movement of the back can put the disc healing process back at square one.

  • A harness/leash tied to leg of heavy couch can protect from running off.
  • An ex-pen how-to solution when changing bedding: http://youtu.be/9GTd_134hL8


Place a rolled up towel or bolster pillow to lean against or rest head on. Mary’s tip: warm up in the dryer 100% synthetic light-in-weight fleece fabric to snuggle against.


Make your own med log chart to avoid double dosing or forgetting a dose, a safety measure in families where several persons are giving meds.
D/l a printable PDF at this link: Med Chart


Some pharmacies provide the boxes for free if you ask when picking up your order. Pill splitters are inexpensive, much easier & accurate than using a knife to cut pills.

Plain Pureed pumpkin: CONSTIPATION

Meds such as tramadol or post-op IVD analgesics can cause constipation. 1 teaspoon of plain pureed canned pumpkin 1 x a day PLUS soaking kibble with equal parts water for all meals can loosen stools for small breed dogs. Hint: freeze in teaspoon size portions to use as needed.

NOTES: 1) Give a teaspoon of plain pureed canned pumpkin for every 10 pounds of body weight. 2) Alternatives are really ripe mashed fresh pear, just take off the peel off; microwaved and mashed peeled sweet potato.


Attach food and water bowls to the suite at head height, so the dog does not have to bend down to eat and drink. With neck discs especially helpful to not lower head to eat/drink. Always provide plenty of fresh water. Dogs on steroids will be thirsty.


Good thick low salt/no fat chicken broth is full of cartilage-building proteins and amino acids. Freeze it up into cubes for easy access as you need it. Fun and keeps the body hydrated: place cubes in a bowl for licking.


During a disc episode is not the time to be on a diet. The reason is nutrition is never more important than during healing. The body actually needs additional protein and nutrients because the body is calling upon its reserves to fuel all the many repair jobs that have to be performed so that healing can take place. Now is no time to be restricting and denying the body that badly needed nutrition by reducing portions just because because of inactivity. Cut out commercial hi-cal treats and sub for low cal small pieces of apple, carrot or frozen green beans, frozen broth cube to lick on.

It is crucial the dog maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on the spine. After the STRICT rest is over, when his body has self healed the disc, ask your vet when your dog’s diet can start.

After graduation, follow the guidelines of your vet or canine nutritionist regarding weight-loss goals.

Do your best to avoid a high carbohydrate, low-calorie food. Opt for a good quality, high-protein dry kibble, just using less of it while taking the excess weight off over a 1-2 month period.

2  flyers FOR THE FRIDGE:

Know medication side effects, etc. Ask your pharmacist for the informational sheet or check Mar Vista Veterinary Directory for each medication.

1️⃣  Print out the emergency “FRIDGE flyer” to be able to recognize an emergency situation and get help.

Emergency signs your whole family needs to know about.  
D/l a printable PDF at this link:
E- Fridge Flyer 

2️⃣ Print out the Roadmap flyer for non-surgical conservative treatment

With a dog on conservative treatment, owners can avoid dangerous detours. Be empowered to recognize well intentioned but harmful advice that would take your dog off of the 8 weeks of very STRICT rest to heal the disc.  D/l a printable PDF at this link: ROADMAP

Dodgerslist Med card

Handy to keep a reference card in your wallet. Useful for keeping all the meds straight as  you discuss things with your vet. D/l a printable PDF at this link:  Med-card-to-print


  • Unscented baby wipes for quick clean up on skin & fur.
  • Marjorie’s tip: boil and cool decaf green tea to dampen a washcloth, neutralizes urine on skin and fur to avoid rashes from urine scald + leaves a clean fragrance.
  • Use white vinegar in a spray bottle to kill the bacteria and the odor they cause on floors, linens, carpets.



If your dog is incontinent, male wraps can reduce laundry just until you become proficient in expressing the bladder. Diapers are NOT recommended. Dogs abhor being near/in their feces, diapers cause problems for skin. Proper expressing is what keeps a dog dry and the bladder healthy. Avoid ointments containing zinc, it is toxic if too much would be ingested.  Dogs lick!!

Three no-zinc products: Aquaphor Baby, Aquaphor regular Healing Ointment OR Bayer’s A+D® Original Ointment


  • Place the suite near a window with a view, on the coffee table in front of couch where you sit.
  • Place the suite so the dog will be in the middle of family activities, near your bed at night.
  • Secure the suite if a wire crate to a flat moving dolly (or put casters on plywood) to easily move the suite room to room.
  • Fill a kong or a lick mat with a small amount, a slight slather of soft dog food and freeze. Put part of the dog’s total daily dinner kibble in the kong to lengthen time to consume dinner. NECK disc dogs should avoid things that cause too much chewing or head movement.
  • Good low cal snacks are carrots, apples, or frozen green beans, licking a frozen low sodium broth ice cube.


Thundershirt® is a similar concept as swaddling a baby to calm. Read neurologist, Dr. Isaacs‘ comment.


Is your dog rambunctious in the suite? It is imperative that during the healing period the dog rests. Being jumping against the side of the suite is not resting. Make sure you are not inadvertently training the dog for unwanted behavior. Rewards are food, eye contact, speaking, approaching the suite.

Normally these calmers are not a problem to help your dog relax in the recovery suite, but always let your vet know of everything your pet is taking. A dog that is rambunctious in the crate defeats the purpose of STRICT rest. It is better to have the edge taken off than facing paralyzed legs with too much movement.

Using any oral calmer in combination with a pheromone diffuser seems to work best. It takes several days for these to start working. Other product brands may be available in your area or on-line… just comparison shop by the active ingredient(s) and qty

Place a DAP pheromone diffuser at floor level where the recovery suite is.
–Adaptil (DAP) wall plug in diffuser 48ml http://www.adaptil.com/

Use a diffuser with one oral calmer from below:
1) ANXITANE® S chewable tabs contain 50 mg L-Theanine
2) Composure Soft Chews are colostrum based like calming mother’s milk and contain 21 mg of L-Theanine.


Hours of Relaxation Music for Dogs Great for people too! 10 hours of calming rain sounds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyTuslmSu_8


Tamara’s homemade lowering of a wire recovery suite’s roof to prevent standing on hind legs: Cut a cardboard box to the length and width of the suite. Punch holes around the cardboard edges. Use string or plastic ties to attach the cardboard inside the crate at a height that only allows standing up, but not room to jump up or stand on hind legs.

Option 2 to keep dog from jumping. Drape blanket to head height of standing dog, so he can’t see if he jumps or stands on hind legs. Many dogs are calmed with a more den-like environment. Draping the blanket simulates that coziness.

Add crate casters to wheel a crate from room to room. Available from local pet shops, about $10 for 2 casters.

Convert crate to top opening crate: Michelle’ photos and instructions: crate-top-conversion

Get your dog on a feeding schedule. Potty times will be predictable and accidents can be prevented. Steroids cause thirst. Paralyzed dogs may need to be expressed every 3-4 hours while on steroids. Paralyzed dogs can also be expressed for poop. Walking dogs will also need to be taken outside more often when on a steroid anti-inflammatory.

An ex-pen or wire poke-in-the-ground garden edging fence is an excellent alternative to minimizing footsteps  with the physical and visual to indicate there will be no sniff “fests” going on! Use a sling if your dog is wobbly.

Always carry your dog to and from the potty area. Carry your dog supporting both ends with each arm. Use a six-foot leash attached to a harness and a sling to stabilize the rear. You stand in one spot to minimize the number of footsteps your dog may take.


A harness for potty breaks to control speed and limit footsteps. No more collars as it is too much stress on the spine and soft tissue of the neck. Do not leave your dog home alone or unsupervised with harness on.



– Sling for supportive and minimal footsteps during potty break: ace bandage, a long scarf.;

– Here’s one you can make from an old sweatshirt good as a front leg sling

– Kristen’s figure 8 sling made from two leashes


An older/spare IOS or Android device can be used as an at-home camera. Google for the many free dog monitoring apps to download.


Your dog will pick up on your stresses and internalize them…not good for your recovering patient! A simple breathing technique can help YOU help your dog. Belly breathing will relax you, slow you down, quiet your mind.  You DESERVE it as a care giver!!! Do anytime during the day, whether you are sitting at your desk, driving in your car, or walking down the street! YouTube on relaxation breathing: http://youtu.be/H5H_Qrcmxdg

Stress relief breathing technique

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