Duchshunds and cat

Rehabilitation Therapy is gaining popularity with phenomenal results – even right here in South Africa.  To follow are some conditions which rehab has proved extremely helpful.  Tell us below how rehab has helped your fur buddies!

Remember, always follow the advice of your veterinarian and rehab therapist for optimal recovery.


1. Post-operative cranial crucial ligament (CCL) rupture surgery.

Problems with the CCL are relatively common in dogs, especially large breeds.

When a dog undergoes surgery to repair a CCL rupture, initial therapy normally involves pain management, massage, passive range-of-motion exercises and icing the surgical area.

As the tissues heal, weight-shifting exercises and walking on an underwater treadmill are often recommended.

As the dog gains strength and improved mobility, leash walking in hilly areas is a good next step, with progression to light jogging or trotting.


2. Postoperative femoral head and neck ostectomy.

This is a surgical procedure that removes the head and neck from the thigh bone (femur) and is generally only a last resort to ease pain.

It is often performed to treat:

  • aseptic femoral head and neck necrosis (Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease)
  • dislocation of the hip joint resulting in displacement of the head of the femur (coxofemoral luxation),
  • femoral head and neck fracture
  • hip dysplasia
  • arthritis of the hip.

Initial therapy, beyond pain management, usually involves massage and passive range-of-motion exercises.

Once the surgical incision has healed, underwater treadmill walking encourages weight bearing and return to a normal gait.

When the dog is able to walk using all four legs, additional weight-bearing activities may be added using tools like a balance board or exercise ball.


3. Spinal cord diseases.

These include:

  • intervertebral disk disease
  • fibrocartilaginous embolism
  • degenerative myelopathy
  • spinal trauma
  • inflammatory central nervous system (CNS) disease.

The goal with therapy for dogs with spinal cord disease involve:

  • pain control
  • maintaining joint flexibility
  • preventing muscles from wasting away (atrophy)
  • restoring coordination
  • awareness of body position and movement (proprioception).

The types of therapy used depend on the dog’s symptoms and their severity. These may include:

  • massage
  • passive range-of-motion exercises
  • targeted movements using an exercise ball
  • water therapy. (Water therapy is extremely beneficial for dogs with paralysis, as the buoyancy created by water encourages movement.)

Once a dog can walk independently, extra exercises with tools like Cavaletti rails helps improve overall co-ordination.


4. Osteoarthritis.

Dogs with arthritis may benefit from various physical therapies. Pain management is important to prevent a vicious cycle of pain. Pain causes inactivity, which causes the muscles to waste away (atrophy), and adds to weight gain, resulting in even more pain and so the cycle continues and gets worse. Early intervention is paramount.

Water therapy on an underwater treadmill or in a pool is gentle enough in building muscle strength and endurance with minimum stress to painful joints. Once the dog has improved, targeted weight-bearing exercises also help strengthen joints.


5. Obesity.

There’s an epidemic of overweight pets in the U.S. (and SA). Obesity is one of the most common canine medical disorders.

Health problems resulting from obesity include:

  • joint and musculoskeletal problems
  • exercise and heat intolerance
  • lung and heart disease

Exercise is an important component in achieving weight loss, while at the same time building muscle mass and improving a dog’s strength and overall condition. Exercise therapy for obesity should be customized for each individual dog. Your rehab therapist is there to help encourage and assist in movement and safe exercise for optimal joint, heart and lung function.


Sashas Blend is exceedingly useful for pre- and post-operative joint surgeries, aiding in joint synovial membrane repair, anti-inflammatory and pain management – so much more than a joint supplement!


~ Resource:  The Bark: Canine Rehab Can Help Your Dog Get Back On Her Paws

Dr Karen Atlas, PT, MPT, CCRT

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