Hydrotherapy for dogs

vet hydro 1I’ll answer your question by discussing a specific case we recently dealt with. Every once in a while we get a patient referral, and you just know THIS one is going to be special. And when she finally arrives she takes over your life, steals your heart and teaches you lessons in perseverance, determination and strength of character on a daily basis by showing you how to be happy no matter what …

Just such a patient was brought to Paws-itive Paws-abilities by the Johannesburg Specialist Veterinary Centre’s ambulance at the end of January. Ruby, a small-build 18-month-old Pit Bull became paralysed after she ran into a tree a month earlier and sustained a fracture and subluxation in her lumber vertebra. Unfortunately her prognosis was not good, but her dedicated owners and specialist vet, Dr Sarah Boyd, was not about to give up on her and entrusted her to us.

After a comprehensive neurological evaluation, our initial observations revealed loss of deep pain perception, proprioceptive and motor deficits, compromised spinal reflexes, no bladder control, severe muscle atrophy, hyperflexion on all limbs, loss of pelvic limb reflexes, no tail movement and complete loss of abdominal muscle tone. But nonetheless, I designed a specific rehabilitation programme for Ruby and on 26 January she began her remarkable road to recovery.

The first couple of days we gave her endless massages, heated spa-baths and applied an array of veterinary physical rehabilitation modalities, and in return she gave us a sparkle in her eyes and noticeably enjoyed the love, care and attention. Our initial aim was to try to give Ruby a chance on a ‘normal life’ by restoring her deep pain sensation, opening neuro-pathways from the brain to her hindquarters, and rebuilding muscles which required lots and lots of pain management. In order to achieve this we used a Stimpod Nerve Stimulator and Electrical Muscle Stimulator. Ruby responded well and we started getting cuddles, licks, kisses and copious amounts of doggy smiles.

We set daily milestones and hydrotherapy became her daily routine. Her sheer willpower and enthusiasm inspired all around her. The hydro pool gave added buoyancy and enabled us to increase her mobility, thereby strengthening her hind muscles. Soon she started with the underwater treadmill – and although we had to manually move her hind legs, she soon got the hang of it. Assisted standing, walking and swimming became a breeze. Core ball exercises helped with restoring normal standing function and maintaining her equilibrium. Five weeks into rehab, Ruby was strong enough and got her own set of wheels, which increased her mobility 100%.

Of course her charm, spirited character and playful nature spilled over to even our clients and the word spread fast of this courageous dog. A few weeks ago, Jireh Clinic, who specialise in stem cell therapy, generously sponsored Ruby-girl to receive PRP (platelet rich plasma) therapy. Dr Freddie Malan of Jakaranda Animal Hospital kindly donated his time and facility to administer the PRP. On 24 April, Ruby got her first treatment and positive results were noted in three days.

Although Ruby is still not walking, she is improving on a daily basis and with her strong will and charisma, I honestly believe she will one day walk and run free as nature intended for this little angel. Thank you Ruby for teaching all of us so many lessons and for showing us how to be truly happy no matter what.

For more information on hydrotherapy and veterinary physical rehabilitation, please feel free to contact us on 083 566 7008 or heather4paws@gmail.com.

Text: Heather Whitfield, Animal Rehabilitation Therapist at Paws-itive Paws-abilities

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