Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pets and broken legs: 3 things to do to help your pets help you

Fergus resting on my lap and my broken leg

Pets want to help their humans. When we're injured, sick or scared, our dogs and cats seem to sense our distress. And most of the time, they'll do anything to help. That need to protect and nurture is something I'm so thankful for, as I am about a month into a recovery from a shattered tibia and fibula. I couldn't get through this very difficult time without the help and support of my beloved dogs and cats.

But, when you have a major orthopedic injury, instincts of dogs and cats can bump right up against your needs as you heal. And it's taken me this long to figure out how I could adjust my thinking, my habits and my best practices so my little pets can help me and not harm me.

So while I hope you never have to go through any kind of orthopedic problem, if you do, these are my top three lessons you should take to heart.

1. Set lounge boundaries, and communicate them to your dogs and cats. 

Pets express their love through proximity. That means most animals will "help" an ailing human by resting on that person. Both of my dogs and most of my cats have tried to sleep on some part of my body while I've been recuperating from this broken leg. And sometimes, that's not safe.

Case in point: A few times per day, I'm supposed to take off my orthopedic boot and stretch out the tight muscles in my ankle and foot. I've lost a bunch of muscle tone and almost all of my flexibility on my injured side, which means my leg is weak and frail when not protected by the boot.

My left leg outside of its orthopedic boot

If my rowdy dogs jumped up on that unprotected left leg, it could cause me a great deal of pain. It might also cause my bolts and screws to move out of place, and that could send me back to surgery.

Using commands like "wait" and "stand" can help my dogs to understand when it's not safe for them to interact. And using flat-palm hand signals can help my cats to understand the same thing. By now, my pets come up to me and ask before they jump. That's all I need in order to stay safe.

2. Make sure your pets are tired before they interact with you. 

If rowdy pets can cause harm, gentle pets can be a little safer. While I can't take my dogs out for walks each day (as much as I'd like to), they must get walks each day so they have a little less pent-up energy. I have also been using balls and wand toys and battery-operated toys to help the dogs and cats play and move and wear down. That allows them to sit with me and just sleep when it's time for cuddles.

Liam the pug cuddles my leg

3. Keep routines as consistent as possible. 

There's a lot of disruption that comes with an orthopedic injury. Sleep schedules are askew. Meal times might move, based on nausea and drug interactions. My movements and work schedules have been adjusted. Things can get chaotic.

Animals like routine, and all of this adjusting can be hard for them to deal with. Working to keep their lives as regular as possible can help to ameliorate their distress. And that can result in less pacing, less jumping and less upset. Even though my schedules are moving, I try to make sure that theirs do not.

Despite the extra work I must do to help my dogs and cats live with my broken leg, I wouldn't trade the help they offer for anything. I'm so thankful for them.

And that's why I'm including this blog in the Thankful Thursday blog hop, as hosted by Brian's home.

Thankful Thursday blog hop

Head on over to Brian's blog to see more uplifting stories of the human/animal blog. But before you go, do leave me a comment, won't you? Love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Those are great tips and your helpers are most wonderful! Thanks for joining the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

  2. Terrific tips, Jean. We are so glad you have your sweet pets to help you, and grateful that you are sharing this whole experience and all you're learning with all of us. Hugs!

  3. Great advice. It's so sweet how our furbabies try to help us out when we're in need. They just can't always understand that their "help" can sometimes "hurt." Sorry to hear you are going through this and we hope that you have a quick recovery, but we are thankful you have some sweet, cute little helpers :)

  4. Those are great tips that I hope to never need.

  5. That is good advice. We have to use tip 1 and 3 here when the kids are sick. Max feels the need to sleep on the children when they're sick, but 1 they're grouchy and 2 he'll crush them. I hadn't thought to teach the kids the hand signals. Also when little kids get sick schedules come to a stop so we have to make an effort to keep the animals schedule at least. Thank you so much for this post.

    P.S. I love your pants

  6. Sensible advice! I know the cats were always careful around me while I got better and Harvey still cuddles at night even now (I am very lucky!)

    Get well, get better as soon as you can!!!

    We are late for Thankful Thursday but dropping by today!

    Marjorie and The Dash Kitten Crew