Sunday, March 16, 2008

Grace's Rehab

Thursday marked 6 weeks after Grace's ACL surgery. We had a post-op appointment to check healing - Dr. Muldoon pronounced her leg solid - then had a visit with a veterinary technician who has had specialized training in physical therapy for dogs.

Shawn Combs works at the VCA Tennessee Avenue Animal Hospital in Cincinnati. As well as being a Registered Veterinary Technician, she is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner, having attended the canine rehab courses at the University of Tennessee after her graduation from the University of Cincinnati's Raymond Walter's Veterinary Technology Program.

I was very interested in this appointment, not only for Grace's sake, but to check out doggy PT. It is always easier to recommend a boarding kennel, dog trainer, or health care professional to my clients if I have been there myself with my pets.

Grace relaxes on the comfy mat
in Shawn's tiny office

Grace meets Shawn

First, Shawn took some measurements of Grace's leg, comparing it to her normal left leg.

thigh circumference

Checking the degree of flexion

and extension of the stifle

Next, warming up the joint and massage ...

... before beginning passive range of motion.

Bicycling. This retrains the nerves and muscles in a leg that hasn't been used much for a month and a half.

To strengthen the thigh, Shawn had Grace doing "Sit to Stands," that is, moving from a Sit to a Stand position and back. Having a well-trained dog is helpful here - Grace already knew the commands "Sit" and "Stand" from our obedience work, and was used to doing "puppy push-ups," moving from a Sit to a Down and back, so this step was a snap for her to understand.

Another exercise that accomplishes the same thing is "Limbo." Grace's eyes lit up when she saw this arrangement of PCV poles. It looks a little like an Agility jump, but the idea is for the dog to lower herself under the cross bar instead of jumping over.

Grace took this obstacle in her stride. Being coaxed with a liver treat had nothing to do with her eagerness to try a new trick.

"Everybody limbo!"

Cavalletti poles. A concept taken from the equine world, cavalletti are low rails that train a young horse to pick up its feet and gauge the distance between the poles, in preparation for jumping. In rehab, it helps with strength and coordination.

At the end of our hour-long session, Grace unwound with a cold pack on her knee.

I can see where rehab can be a useful tool in a dog's post-op recovery. My biggest problem is that Grace's physical therapy is aggravating the impinged nerve in my neck. Any time I work with her, my symptoms get worse. Gotta find a way to help us both heal ...


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Well, it is good to see that Grace is getting around well for an after surgery patient. May it continue.

I hope your neck gets better too.

Mary said...


I hope your neck heals. Perhaps a glass of wine before bed might help :o)

Watching Grace cooperate in PT amazes me. It's not really funny, but I laughed to myself, imagining either of my Boston Terriers cooperating like that. There's NO WAY! They'd be bouncing off the walls, sniffing under chairs, and embarrassing the heck out of me.

Susan Gets Native said...

That is almost exactly what I get during PT for my foot. But without the liver treats.

KGMom said...

I'm thinking you and Grace can get in a heated pool together and rehab away.
A most interesting post.