Canine Carts: Helping Our Pets To Get Back On Their Feet

canine cart

Carts Offer Comfort and Mobility

Through our rehabilitation facility we have had the opportunity to meet a lot of dogs with a wide variety of mobility issues and needs. Some pets are suffering from arthritic joints or sore muscles, others have an orthopedic injury that needed surgery to repair, and then there are the neurological or back dogs that are having difficulty getting around on their own. Whatever the case may be, our job is to try and get them back on their feet and moving around comfortably and as independently as possible. During a therapy session, we frequently encourage mobility through aqua therapy such as the underwater treadmill or therapy pool. But what about when the session ends and the patient has to go home? It is important to keep the exercise momentum strong and moral high with continued independence outside of rehab time and at home in real-world situations. One useful tool to help families with home mobility needs for a weak or down dog is the use of a cart or canine wheelchair.

All of the Positive Changes a Cart Can Bring to a Pet

Many of our clients are resistant to the idea of using a cart for an unstable or non-ambulatory pet. They feel that using a cart is somehow associated with giving up on their pet and any future healing or movement possibilities. Some owners expect a cart to be too expensive or not worth the investment. Thankfully, this is frequently not the case. In rehab therapy, carts can be a very useful tool to allow free movement and help avoid depression or isolation away from family. If a dog has a tendency to fall over or drags an end of the body around, it is natural for us to pen them into an area that we consider safe or easy to care for. This may leave an animal companion spending their days behind a gate or in a crate watching family fun instead of being able to participate. While intentions are good, often times such isolation will eventually lead to depression and lack of motivation to progress in healing therapy. Through the use of a cart, a mobility challenged dog can once again participate in the neighborhood family walk or the backyard play time. After a brief transition period where a pet learns how to motor around with wheels, many dogs enjoy some cart time and return to activities that they had been forced to give up. Continue…

Aqua Therapy in Pet Rehabilitation: A Comparison of the Benefits of the Underwater Treadmill and Pool

underwater treadmill hydrotherapycanine hydrotherapy in heated poolThe Role Of  Aqua Therapy In Rehabilitation

Aqua therapy, the use of a pool or underwater treadmill, is an important and well utilized modality in many of the rehabilitation programs at our facility. Why does it play such a large role in therapy for most of our recovering or arthritic patients? Well, for quite a few reasons. The buoyancy of water acts to reduce the amount of weight pressing down on painful joints or sore muscles during exercise or movement. Swimming in a pool can allow weightless exercise for the painful animal. Depending on the level of water that the patient is walking in, the underwater treadmill can reduce the amount of a pet’s body weight bearing down on joints by up to 62%. The hydrostatic pressure from the surrounding water will act to reduce tissue edema and minimize swelling in the lower extremities during exercise. Hydrostatic pressure will also work to decrease the perception of pain during exercise and allow for better movement of a problem area than when out of the water. Lastly, the resistance from moving through water will work to strengthen muscles and increase overall cardiovascular fitness.

In summary,  aqua therapy is a great tool to:

1. Strengthen muscles, build endurance

2. Encourage better range of motion of joints

3. Promote a happy and confident pet through independent, pain free exercise.

Is The Pool The Best Choice For My Pet?

At the Rehabilitation Center, we have a heated pool for our patients to use. The weightless experience of swimming can be easier to maneuver for some of our more painful patients. An older, unstable patient or paralyzed pet may be a stronger participant in the pool where they don’t have to worry about falling over. And for the stubborn patient that refuses to use an injured limb during recovery, there is no choice but to swim when your feet don’t touch the bottom and you find yourself in the middle of the pool. Most dogs have excellent front limb movement in the pool. This is why I sometimes go straight to the pool if I have a pet with a painful elbow or shoulder. Usually I can encourage greater front limb range of motion in the pool and loosen up tight muscles.  Continue…

Sucessful Management of Hip Dysplasia from Puppy to Geriatric Years


Duke in rehabiltation for lamness due to hip dysplasia.

Rehabilitation therapy can be a powerful tool when managing hip dysplasia.

Duke, A Shining Example of Possibilities

Duke is a typical Golden Retriever: active, easy going, friendly. You would never know by looking at him that he has been living with terrible hip dysplasia for 10 years. This happy-go-lucky guy is a perfect example of how to successfully manage a potentially debilitating orthopedic disease throughout the life of a pet. With Duke demonstrating how he has not been held back by this life long condition, hopefully we can illustrate that a happy and active life is possible in spite of early orthopedic challenges.

Diagnosis at a Young Age

At 10 months of age Duke began to have problems with his hind end. Radiographs showed severe hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip sockets are not formed properly resulting in loose hip joints and progressive arthritic changes early on in life. This abnormality has both an inherited and developmental component that work together to create varying degrees of dysfunction for each pet diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Many pets with hip dysplasia have lameness or pain issues as a young dog, grow out of it and have a period of normal activity, and then again become symptomatic as the arthritic changes cause pain in the joint and surrounding muscles.

Simple Management Strategies Make a Big Impact

This diagnosis of a long term orthopedic condition that will be present for the life of the pet can be overwhelming for many owners. With some simple management strategies, many owners can ensure an active and comfortable life for their dogs. Duke’s initial intervention after diagnosis consisted of short periods of NSAIDs for pain management, long term weight control to keep unnecessary pressure off his painful joints, and comfortable but consistent exercise such as weekly swimming. Eventually, joint suppliments such as Dasuquin and fish oil were added to his daily regimin to protect the joint and cartilage as best as possible as it wears over time. These simple, but effective, interventions managed the symptoms of his orthopedic disease for 8 years.

As the Condition Progresses, Canine Rehabilitation can be Helpful

By the age of 9, Duke began to have a subtle lameness on his left hind leg. The NSAIDs, joint suppliments, and exercise were not managing his symptoms as well as they used to. This is where canine rehabilitation came in and got Duke quickly back on track. When we added the underwater treadmill,  laser therapy, and massage to his existing treatment plan, Duke’s lameness and pain were once again well controlled and he continued to thrive. Here we are, over a year and a half after his first rehab session, and this amazing athlete is doing great. Duke is now on a regular program where he comes in for a rehab “tune up” every couple of weeks while continuing all of the other activities that have keep him on his feet for so long.

A Long-term Plan Makes All the Difference

Diagnosis at a young age of a chronic and potentially debilitating condition can be devastating. Just remember, with some basic interventions such as weight control, regular exercise, good pain management, and rehabilitation programs, many dogs will live active, happy lives despite their orthopedic concerns.