Rehab Therapy Exercise & Water Treadmill Therapy

Essentially all animals can benefit from some form of rehabilitation to maintain optimal health. One of the most ideal groups for treatment are geriatric (old age) animals. Unfortunately, in our current society, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease and lack of mobility are some of the most common causes of humane euthanasia in our canine patients. It can be so difficult to watch our animals that we love so much have trouble with their physical bodies while their mental minds are functioning well. Many times the cycle of pain caused by osteoarthritis and decreased mobility evolves into a downward spiral in which one aspect negatively affects the other. Similar to humans, as animals become more affected by arthritis, they are less motivated to walk around on painful joints; as these painful joints become more immobilized, they become more painful and difficult to move. This can present in many ways, from dogs who no longer want to run and walk on the beach as long before to those that have difficulty moving from a standing to sitting or laying position. It is not uncommon that once muscle mass is lost, decreased mobility and exercise allows for increased weight gain and fat deposition. Overweight and obese animals are unfortunately overrepresented in our society and the overall population of dogs affected with arthritis, and all that excess weight can make it so much harder for our beloved furry family members to overcome immobility.

In many cases, arthritis is an inevitable disease; however, there are so many things to help prevent the onset and progression of osteoarthritis, including optimum mobility and proper pain management, which are all addressed in the well-rounded approach provided through canine rehabilitation. From range of motion to home exercises to hydrotherapy such as the underwater treadmill, goals of rehabilitation are to maintain and improve movement, range of motion, muscle tone and strength. Simultaneously, treatment modalities such as laser therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation are aimed at naturally promoting endorphins and pain-control receptors in the body to ensure these physical activities are avoiding pain and/or soreness within your pet.

There are several exercises and movements that can be performed as part of a home exercise program. These exercises are carefully selected by certified canine rehabilitation therapists and taught to owners as part of a long-term, quality of life rehabilitation program. Many times these exercises will begin with something simple such as warm compresses on sore muscles, followed by specific stretching and massage exercises. Many older dogs, especially those of medium and larger breeds, are susceptible to acquired hip dysplasia with subsequent arthritis and muscle atrophy. Relatively basic adjustments on simple routines can help to strengthen hind legs, such as walking on uneven surfaces like sand, as well as incorporating backwards walking for short distances during a routine morning and/or evening walks outside. It can also be extremely effective to help break down movements such as laying to standing that our older canines may be more challenged to accomplish. These movements can essentially be thought of in slow motion and broken down into multiple small pieces; the goal of rehabilitation is to encourage those proper movements in repetitive fashion and help encourage muscle memory, therefore allowing our dogs to become more fluid and less challenged with these motions.

Canine rehabilitation works in conjunction with both traditional and alternative veterinary medicine (including acupuncture, chiropractic, nutritional and herbal therapies) to create the most comprehensive and beneficial treatment plan for your geriatric pet.

- Dr. Jessie Burgess