Dogs that benefit from physical rehab typically fall into one of these categories:
1. High energy agility breeds typically love their work and have a generous dose of OCD. These characters habitually spin or turn in one direction, which creates muscular imbalances, soreness, joint stress and eventually arthritis.
During a rehab session, we use food treats to motivate the dog to choose the desired behavior, for example, turn the other way. The reward is given and the behavior is repeated until the dog learns the new behavior. These are called “cookie stretches.”
2. Dogs that experience sprains, strains and muscle pulls will develop a chronic injury condition without a period of adequate rest and a structured rehab plan.
A combination of gentle, progressive stretching, acupressure and massage promotes complete healing. Proper warm ups and cool downs are key to preventing future injuries.
3. Traumatic injuries, IVDD, spinal cord inflammation and nervous system disorders such as degenerative myelopathy can cause weakness and partial or complete paralysis. With rehabilitation exercises, stretching and strength training, some dogs can regain partial or full use of affected limbs.
Dogs can acclimate to prosthetic limbs and carts with exercises to strengthen the area of the body that is compensating and carrying the extra load.
4. Dogs and cats that have surgery to repair joint and soft tissue injures (knees & hips most commonly) will heal in half the time and form less scar tissue with cold laser therapy and gentle range of motion exercises beginning 2 days post –op.
Icing is great for pain and inflammation post-op in dogs. Most tolerate it well because it’s offered by a favorite human, not so much in cats.