Canine Rehabilitation

Our mission is to rehabilitate patients to a fully functioning lifestyle, free of pain, through physical rehabilitation techniques and various modalities of pain management. This type of therapy treats movement dysfunction and rehabilitation, promoting healing of tissues, increased strength and faster functional recovery.

Why Rehabilitation?

  • Increase strength, endurance, mobility, and performance
  • Reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation
  • Accelerate healing of injured tissues
  • Restore and maintain range of motion, flexibility, and muscle mass
  • Improve balance and coordination
  • Provide conditioning and weight loss
  • Improve and prolong quality of life

Information for Orthopedic Surgery Patients

These are likely to be the most frequent utilizers of our services, as orthopedic conditions are frequently seen in veterinary medicine. The most common disease process is rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament, which may be treated with a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, tibial tuberosity advancement, extracapsular suture placement, or through conservative management. Other patients may have hip dysplasia treated with a femoral head ostectomy, total hip replacement, triple pelvic osteotomy, or through conservative management. Many patients also present with fractures of the long bones, which are mostly managed with internal fixation, but may also have external fixation or a rigid splint. Early return to function and weight bearing gives a much better long term prognosis to these patients. We usually see these patients starting 10-14 days after surgery to evaluate their pain and mobility, and help to slowly add in flexibility and strengthening exercises. Most patients graduate from rehabilitation 12 – 16 weeks after surgery depending on the type of surgery and other concurrent condition.

Information for Neurologic Dysfunction Patients

These are also frequently seen in practice. These conditions are often breed-related, with chondrodystrophic breeds being overrepresented. These patients may have intervertebral disk disease, treated with surgery (hemilaminectomy or ventral slot) or medically if surgery will be of little benefit. Other disease processes benefitting from rehabilitation are fibrocartilaginous emboli, vestibular disease, or cervical stenosis. Surgical procedures relieve compression on the spinal cord, but often these patients are left with functional deficits that can be recovered with rehabilitation techniques. For these patients, relieving their pain without causing sedation is very important. Rehabilitation focuses on stimulation of the nerves, strengthening lost muscle, and regaining the ability to be independently active at home.

Information for Senior Patients

As patients age, they often develop multiple problems that contribute to weakness and pain. They may have osteoarthritis in multiple joints with accompanied muscle atrophy, as well as mild neurologic deficits or systemic causes for weakness or fatigue. Additionally chronic causes of pain can be difficult to manage with medications alone; medications can also have side effects on vital organs. A rehabilitative approach to these patients often gives them a better quality of life, with a focus on additional ways to manage pain and to build lost muscle mass. While traditional medicine focuses on treating underlying disease processes, rehabilitation focuses on correcting functional deficits, which is often more appropriate in geriatric patients. Using specific exercises to build lost muscle and keep our older dogs strong also has a protective effect on painful or unstable joints.

Canine Athletes

The increasing popularity of canine athletic competitions, like agility, flyball, and dock diving, has lead to athletes with previously unseen soft tissue injuries. These strains and sprains are not easily diagnosed with imaging modalities like radiographs, yet often are a severe limitation for competition, and even for comfort in the normal course of their day. Examination to specifically isolate muscles and tendons to palpate for abnormalities or pain, along with rehabilitation to increase range of motion and flexibility, are needed for these athletes to return to competition. Human athletes rely on physical therapists; canine athletes need rehabilitation medicine to compete at their full potential. Rehabilitation can devise a specific plan of exercise to return to full function, while protecting the previously injured area, and encouraging appropriate healing in soft tissues so ligaments and tendons stay strong.

Canine Rehabilitation Services at Long Trail Veterinary Center

Manual Therapy

  • Tissue massage, stretching, passive range of motion
  • Increase flexibility, improve neurologic function, decrease muscle spasm, pain relief

Therapeutic Exercise

  • Balance boards, wobble disc, theraballs, cavaletti rails, weave cones, tunnels, etc.
  • Improve flexibility, strength, and function
  • Facilitate limb use
  • Neurologic re-education: proprioceptive and balance training to improve coordination, mobility, and neuromuscular communication

Therapeutic Laser

  • Accelerated Healing - photobiostimulation causes nitric oxide to be displaced from cells, allowing for more oxygen absorption. This action along with an increase in the production of ATP (the source of cellular energy) causes cells to be more effective. The body is then able to heal at an increased rate and reduce the formation of scar tissue.
  • Reduced Inflammation - Another action of the laser is vasodilation (opening of the vessels), which allows for more oxygen and nutrients to be transported to damaged cells. Lymphatic circulation is also increased. These actions cause a reduction in inflammation.
  • Pain Relief - The analgesic effect of laser is quite different, and a higher power density is used to inhibit cellular function of nerves rather than stimulate. Basically the light suppresses receptors that send pain signals to the brain. So while the source of the pain is still there, the transportation of that signal to the brain is interrupted. Also, the production of endorphins and enkephalins are increased, which are the body’s natural pain-killers.

Pain Management Consultation

Common Conditions Treated:

Some of these conditions may require surgical treatment in conjunction with rehabilitation. This list is not exhaustive.

  • Osteoarthritis - increased mobility, range of motion, decreased inflammation and need for medications
  • Obesity - weight loss programs can be designed for each individual
  • Hip dysplasia - builds supporting muscle mass, increased mobility & comfort
  • Muscle injuries - speeds healing, decreases inflammation, prevents scarring, restores normal functional length
  • Back injuries - increased muscle support to prevent reinjury, manage pain
  • Spinal injury/IVDD - decreased spasticity, pain management, earlier ambulation
  • Spondylosis - manage pain, maintain flexibility and strength
  • Arthrodesis - faster adaptation, support of surrounding joints
  • Joint replacements - faster adaptation, improves coordination & strength
  • Fractures - faster recovery, prevents muscle contracture
  • Cruciate injury - speeds and improves recovery, restores extension, decreases inflammation
  • Amputation - adaptation, builds supporting muscles, management of pain
  • Shoulder OCD - increased mobility, strengthening
  • Elbow dysplasia - increased mobility, decreased inflammation, strengthening
  • Joint dislocation - strengthens supporting muscles & ligaments, prevents reinjury
  • Patellar luxation - strengthening of quadriceps, prevents reinjury
  • Tendon injury - increased range of motion and strength, decreased inflammation and scar tissue
  • Peripheral nerve injury - speeds recovery, functional adaptation, manages pain
  • Neuromuscular disease - strengthening, adaptation, pain management
  • Fibrocartilagenous embolism (FCE) - can hasten recovery, improve coordination
  • Degenerative myelopathy (DM) - helps to maintain muscle function and prolong life
  • Cauda Equina Syndrome - manages pain, maintains strength and function
  • Vestibular disorders - improves balance and coordination, decreases injury