Physical rehabilitation targets the animal’s specific needs to help reach their functional goals, which in general, are to improve the patient’s mobility. Rehabilitation integrates the use of therapies such as exercise, stretching, massaging, and therapeutic laser to facilitate healing and strengthening problem areas based on findings in an initial evaluation. This is meant to compliment any surgical or medicinal treatments initiated by the primary care veterinarian. This practice is widely accepted by animals with use of rewards based on the patient’s personality.
Dr. McGuffey is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT), and Deanna will be a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Veterinary Nurse (CCRVN) when she finishes her program later in 2022. Because of the ability to perform an evaluation without restraint, Deanna is able to act as a scribe and chart findings as the exam is being performed. This allows a complete, thorough, and accurate record in an efficient matter of time.
In this photo, Deanna is training a dog to use a peanut. Peanuts are often used for balance and strength training especially focusing on the back legs. After Dr. McGuffey assesses the patient, she lets Deanna know what muscles, joints, etc. specifically need attention, and Deanna helps create and carry out an exercise plan for that animal. The plan will include both exercises in the clinic and an at-home exercise plan so owners can continue rehab between visits.
It is always important to make sure you are working on a good surface in which patients can easily get traction when they stand and walk. Inside we use a lot of mats and rubber/foam flooring, but we like to change it up and work outside too. Outside we have the option of grass, turf, and sand. In this photo, Deanna is helping the patient with another cookie stretch. In this case their working surface is sand. Sand is a particularly good terrain for working on strengthening, balance, and neuro stimulation.
Rehab isn’t just for dogs; cats enjoy rehab too! In these photos, Deanna is administering a therapeutic laser treatment to each cats’ spine (one lumbar spine, and the other thoracic spine). Therapeutic laser decreases inflammation, increases blood flow, causes muscle relaxation, and can accelerate the healing process post-injury or surgery. We like to think of it as a direct and focal anti-inflammatory. Therapeutic laser is a great tool for the majority of rehab patients.
In this photo, Deanna is training a dog to use a balance disc. Dogs have to be taught how to use a piece of equipment before actually starting to perform the exercise. Sometimes learning can be a form of exercise as well. A balance disc is used for balance and strength training.
Dr. McGuffey performs rehab evaluations largely restraint-free. New patients are trained through use of favorite treats, toys, etc. Once they learn what the rehab evaluation entails, they learn to like it, and even start to relax for their recheck evaluations, similar to how humans react to a massage, and begin to really look forward to their visits. A rehab evaluation consists of an entire body assessment of the patient’s pain, flexibility, mobility, and strength.
We also have the option of using swim as an exercise. Swim is a great technique for low-impact strengthening. Low-impact is important for patients with painful joints. These patients tend to have mobility issues, and swimming is a great way to get them moving without putting more stress on those achy joints.