Canine Rehabilitation: Focusing on Healing Both the Body and Mind

100_1893 Don’t forget the emotional needs of your pet.

When most people think of canine rehabilitation therapy, they focus on the exercises and physical aspects of this field. We picture specific equipment such as a pool or underwater treadmill to build muscle, laser therapy or a TENS unit to manage pain, and massage to work out tight muscles. In truth, rehabilitation for most pets involves as much abstract emotional type support as physical conditioning. When chronic pain or a sudden injury changes how a pet moves or is able to interact with their family, they can battle frustration and withdrawal just like we do. To be truly successful in rehabilitation, the emotional state of the patient needs to be included in any protocol planning and goal setting.

So what’s your goal and how do you get there?

Quality of life and a pet’s happiness should be at center of our goals, but how to get there in each case is a little different. For the animal dealing with chronic pain from arthritic joints or soft tissue injury, perhaps aggressive pain control through oral medication, laser therapy, and some pain free exercise in the pool. Maybe your dog has mobility issues due to neurological changes or unstable joints. Support wraps or the use of carts can open doors to periods of independence and joyful play. Don’t think of a cart as giving up, but rather as an opportunity for your furry loved one to feel a little freedom once again.

Changes at home can make a big difference.

With these goals in mind, changes in the home environment are also important to maintaining a positive outlook for both a pet and their family. Some adaptations include: the use of ramps in and out of the house, steps to the bed for animals unable to jump up on their own any longer, stragically placed runners on slippery hardwood floors, booties to protect the foot that gets sores from dragging. The list of possibilities goes on and is limited only by your imagination and creativity. Being able to move around comfortably and with out assistance can lead to exploration and a return to activities that had previously been too painful or difficult.

From a rehabilitation therapist’s perspective.

I have seen time and again situations where rehab intervention will make moderate progress in the physical realm but leaps and bounds in a patient’s attitude and interaction with their people. By removing the barriers of pain and immobility, many pets are happy and confident enough to get off their bed and go for those short walks or spend quality time as part of the family. A great attitude and strong spirit of both pets and their owners can be the key to a successful rehabilitation of both body and mind.

Preparing for the Pet Surprise

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Surprise! Now What?

This is the time of year when many cute and cuddly puppies and kittens are exchanged as wiggly gifts to excited family members and loved ones. Whether free or purchased from a reputable breeder, the responsibilities of pet ownership are the same and it is important to prepare for the gifted pet. It is easy to get caught in the excitement of the furry present and forget about all of the not so fun and expensive details that go along with pet ownership.

Don’t Skimp on Wellness Visits

After researching and purchasing the perfect pet for their family, many new owners will readily shower their puppies and kittens with closets of clothing and accessories, more toys than can be played with, and all of the treats that will fit in the cabinet. However, in the veterinary hospital we frequently see skepticism and reluctance during first exams. During these first important visits to the animal hospital,  your veterinarian will set up individualized vaccination protocols, prescribe preventative parasite control, and educate about the pros and cons of spay/neutering . Yes, these things all quickly add up financially during the first few visits for your pet but will hopefully work to avoid more costly and potentially devastating illness in the future. When faced with an estimate of $1500+ to nurse a puppy through parvo infection, the cost of a preventative vaccine does not seem so unreasonable. Prevention is usually more cost effective and definitely safer for your pet, no matter what the health concern is.

Investigate, Budget, and Plan Ahead

The best way to be prepared for your new four legged friend is to plan ahead beyond the initial purchase and responsibly budget for a series of initial wellness visits. Call ahead to your veterinarian and get an estimate of what to expect for the first few visits. Puppies and kittens have vaccines that are required by law and some recommended by circumstance and lifestyle. Deworming benefits both you and your pet since some parasites our animals carry can be spread to humans. Heartworm protection and safe flea control are easier on your pet and wallet if you address them early on, before they become a health issue. Planned spay and neutering can extend the life of your puppy or kitten by avoiding unwanted pregnancy, infection, and some cancers later in life.

Sometimes Happiness is in the Details

A happy and healthy pet can make a wonderful addition to any houshold. A little research and preparation a head of time can alleviate much of the frustration and aggravation caused by an expensive “surprise”. By recognizing and addressing all of the fun and unfun details of pet ownership in a responsible way, your family can make a furry, kissing, wiggling surprise a wonderful gift any time of the year.