Rehabilitation is defined as the action of restoring something that has been damaged to its former condition. This can specifically mean to improve function and comfort. Some of the big tools we use to achieve this in our pets are exercise programs, medications, pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical aids, and manual therapies.
Our most common patients for rehabilitation are pets with neurological disorders, orthopedic or soft tissue injuries, or pets with weakness. These pets improve with exercises geared toward gait training, nerve stimulation and re-training, muscle development and joint flexibility. Pets in these categories often have had paralysis in the hind-end or an ACL tear.
There are many other pets that could thrive with a rehabilitation routine. Pets we would love to see more of include:
– Weekend Warriors: these pets spend most of their time on the couch, until their big hike or thrilling game of fetch when parents are off of work. While these thoroughly enjoy this schedule, they are prone to injuries due to the lack of muscle conditioning. Soft tissue injuries, including iliopsoas strains, can take months to heal- and are often preventable with consistent exercise and appropriate muscle training.
– Overweight Pets: studies demonstrate that overweight pets on average have a shorter life span. While we often equate treats and food with showing love, pets often enjoy quality time just as much as that piece of cheese. Daily exercise and weekly routines with strategic feeding can change their body condition tremendously. An ideal weight can help pets thrive and be around longer.
Maintaining an ideal weight and body condition can help our pets live longer and be more comfortable.
– Performance animals: working dogs or dogs that compete in sports tend to be an ideal weight and have good muscle tone but tend to overuse muscles/joints important for their tasks. Marathon runners often cross-train to improve their performance and allow for the best overall growth in strength, flexibility and durability. Depending on the sport, certain joints or muscles can be under constant strain leaving vulnerability to early breakdown. Finding ways to condition with these things in mind can help mitigate these risks.
Where and how:
Dr. Sharon Cubelo is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner and will come to your home or meet you in our office. She will assess your pet for imbalances or areas that can improve, then design a program based on her findings. Most programs can be followed using many household items; however, items such as balance discs are extremely helpful if purchased. On her next visit, she can demonstrate some of the exercises assigned and answer any questions you may have.
Home Exercise Programs:
Programs are designed to strengthen specific muscle groups or improve range of motion in certain joints. Typically, programs come with many exercises that can be cycled through so both the pet and the owner don’t get bored! Programs are also specially made with the pet and the owner in mind.
More than Exercise Programs:
We may also discuss things that can help improve ambulation safety and overall comfort in the home. While in your home, we may suggest specific environment adjustments that can help, such as carefully placed ramps, rugs and yoga mats. Support options such as anti-slip measures and special harnesses are also common suggestions we make.
Dr. Cubelo of Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice & Integrative Medicine can provide home exercises to strengthen muscles and improve mobility.
A big part of the relief we can provide is through using both our Western and Eastern training. Medications and herbals are often prescribed for daily use and modalities such as acupuncture and medical manipulation (chiropractic) are often mainstays in our care to improve on pain and function.