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Rehabilitation Therapies

By Robin Tierney

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Rehabilitation Therapies

At the American Veterinary Medical Association's 2007 convention in D.C., Laurie McCauley gave a lively presentation about canine rehabilitation tools and techniques.

The most important tool? Hands

Her novel, smart practices included targeted use of knuckles to motivate recovering animals to walk. Tailwork often yields rapid results. Smearing peanut butter along wall to persuade an animal to walk? Priceless.

To encourage a recovering dog to stand up from a sit or down position, feed a meal in 3 episodes.

When a dog collapses on his rear legs, or when he needs assistance rising, lift from under his hips and gently spread the hind legs a little wider to give him stability - and help him learn the feeling of stability.

Tickling to wake up neuroreceptors, exercise balls to help dogs regain stability, zig-zagging in simple exercise courses to re-teach body shifting, and balancing on rocker boards were among her rehab strategies.

Other perspectives were offered by Dr. Jacqueline Davidson, who discussed passive manipulations such as PROM - passive range of motion exercises that involve movement of the joint with no voluntary muscle contraction by the animal. Therapy goals: joint mobility, muscle elasticity, and improved circulation. For animals with osteoarthritis, duration and intensity of progressive exercise should be increased gradually - no more than 20% per week, since overly vigorous exercise induced too soon can increase inflammation and/or cause pain. If pain or lameness increases, decrease exercise by half for a week.

Good point: Withhold medications during periods of increase to avoid masking signs of pain - since pain signals harm to the joint. Ideally, optimal function should be reached without long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs. She holds that exercise generally beats neuromuscular electrical stimulation.

Maintaining the right weight is key, since excess body weight stresses joints. Weight reduction alone can help alleviate osteoarthritis. Also, don't subject the recovering animal to slippery flooring.

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