A Rehabilitation Tale: The Amazing Journey of Daphne

rehabilitation therapyAn Invitation for Rehabilitation

A few months ago, I extended an invitation to our local practices to take advantage of our rehabilitation therapy program as a professional courtesy if anyone in the field had a need. Out of the many invitations that I sent out, only there was only one response-Daphne. Yay! Here was an opportunity to “give back” a little to the awesome veterinary community that we are a part of.

Daphne- The Orthopedic Challenge

Daphne was a tiny 7 pound dog with an amazing collection of orthopedic issues for her 7 years. Congenital elbow luxations, surgically repaired but with significant arthritic changes that limited joint movement, healed broken toes on the right front foot, arthritis in multiple joints (front and hind legs), and hip dysplasia just to name the big issues. Daphne currently had a chronic lameness issue with her right front leg and her mom was interested in seeing if rehab therapy would be helpful in managing her symptoms.


But Will Rehabilitation Help?

Could rehabilitation therapy really help when faced with so many issues? Well, the honest answer is-maybe. We really don’t know when starting new cases if our program will achieve the results that both ourselves and the owners are looking for. The best place to start was by setting realistic goals that can be adjusted as therapy progresses. After discussing Daphne’s history with her owner, we decided to set some early conservative goals of improved pain management and less lameness on her right front leg.

My personal goal for any patient is to increase their quality of life and independent function at home. They may not walk with a perfect gait, but they can do it by themselves and without significant pain (or no pain at all). Pets don’t care how they look or move. They just want to be able to participate in family stuff and be one of the gang.

Pool Versus the Underwater TreadmillCanine Aqua Therapy

We started Daphne on a weekly therapy schedule that included swimming, manual therapy (joint movement and massage), laser therapy and PEMF therapy. Swimming is really a front end driven modality. Some dogs use all four legs to swim, but all will engage their front legs. Daphne had very little range of motion in her elbows so her front legs had a pretty straight, stiff gait. The underwater treadmill would strengthen her limbs but not really get the range of motion that I was looking for. In the pool, she would have greater shoulder and elbow engagement with a weightless environment. Less pain for the patient means happier movement overall. Even her toes were engaged with each stroke.

Over time, as Daphne became stronger and more comfortable in the pool, I added in some balance and strengthening exercises that would address her core muscles and all four limbs. With regular therapy, her endurance and conditioning increased and we hit a “coast” mode of keeping things limber and pain-free.

So where are we today, 11 weeks after starting our journey? Well, there have not been any dramatic results, but Daphne is showing improvement thanks to her rehabilitation therapy. Her owner reports that she has stopped licking her joints (a pain response) and has not been affected by the cold as she normally has been during past winters.  When the weather is cold, Daphne usually becomes painfully stiff with limited activity at all. Her lameness has decreased and overall she is more active at home. Subtle improvements but definitely an improvement and worth the time and effort according to Daphne’s owner.

Rehabilitation Can Be a Valuable Tool for Many of Our Pets

Daphne and her owner represent the vast majority of the patients that we see coming through for rehabilitation therapy. They have chronic issues that are not going to go away. They are instead  are managed long term. Owners are looking for pain to be better controlled, movement a little less stiff, more engagement with family and generally happier. Most people realize that their pet will not suddenly become the nimble athlete that they once were or have the playful energy of their youth. Accomplishing these basic goals are the results that, to me, make rehabilitation therapy a valuable tool for providing the best quality that we can to our pets lives.

For now, Daphne will continue her therapy with the adjusted goals of maintaining any progress that we have made so far. It is the “use it or lose it” principal when it comes to orthopedic issues. As time goes on, we may have to adjust her program to suit her needs. For now, rehabilitation is working well for our girl so we are thankful. Go team!

Understanding Pancreatitis in Dogs: What it Really Means to Your Dog’s Health


Pancreatitis is a Commonly Diagnosed Ailment in Dogs

Do we really know what this disease pancreatitis is and what it means to our pet’s health? It has been my experience that most owners don’t have a true understanding of the disease process and how it can effect their dog long term. The best place to start is to review the pancreas and it’s role in the body. This little organ hides behind the stomach and is responsible for both digestion and producing insulin.


So what is Pancreatitis?Canine obesity and pancreatitis

In a nutshell, the digestive enzymes that are supposed to be released into the small intestine are turned on early, while they are still in the pancreas. This means that these activated enzymes start digesting and breaking down the pancreas itself. As a result there is severe inflammation (where we get the “itis”) and pain. This disease does effect both dogs and cats but with different triggers and treatment protocols. For the sake of this article, I will continue discussing the canine necrotizing pancreatitis and leave pancreatitisthe feline pancreatitis for another day. Cats really are special- same disease name but completely different medical management.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis Include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia (not eating)
  • Fever
  • Painful belly- arched back, tense abdomen, can’t get comfortable
  • Lethargy- just laying around, not interested in usual activities

One of the Big Triggers of Pancreatitis in the Dog is Diet !!!!

Fatty foods (both table food and high fat dog food) play a large role in causing this disease. High fat diets and dietary indiscretion (getting into the trash, yummy decaying treats in the field, or other food that they shouldn’t eat) is the leading culprit of pancreatitis in our hospital patients.
Holiday gatherings where there is rich food and lots of people willing to slip the dog a festive treat usually equals a recipe for a perfect post-celebration pancreatitis flair. The next few days after a holiday are usually the busiest in our hospital with vomiting dogs and hospitalized cases.  Continue…

The Cost of Pet Care, From an Owner’s Perspective

Pet Care From A Pet Owner’s Perspective

In the last blog, I looked at the dilemma of providing modern veterinary services and but with the increased cost to perspective clients. Today, let’s look at pet care from a client’s perspective and see where things go.

Have A Pet And Be HappyPuppy care

We have all heard about the great emotional and physical value of having a cat or dog (or rabbit, or whatever) as a pet. They reduce stress, encourage owner exercise, and help with depression and other medical issues. All of that fly away hair and yucky kisses help kids desensitize to certain allergies and challenge their immune system in a good way. Then there is the whole “best friend” aspect of a pet that you just can’t ignore. Let’s all get a pet (appropriate to your allergies and housing situation, of course) and be happy.

All Of Those Hidden Expenses

But wait! I wasn’t prepared for all of those hidden expenses. Most pets come with a fee of some sort (pure bred or rescue, there usually is a fee for owning/adopting and it is no joke!). OK, now they are home and all is good right? Not so fast. There are wellness visits, preventive care such as monthly flea control and heart worm preventative. Dog licencing, spay or neuter, puppy classes? Wow this first year is starting to really get expensive. My new pet may be fun for my kids but, as the responsible adult in the family, I am getting a little overwhelmed with all of these pet bills. When will it ever stop?