Image: Dog In Sling Rusty just wasn’t herself any more. At 10 years of age, the once-active Sheltie lagged behind on walks. She was reluctant to jump onto the bed and couch. And she refused to sit, even when her favorite treat was dangled above her. When pain medications alone didn’t improve the situation, her veterinarian recommended adding rehabilitation.
“Rehabilitation gives the opportunity of maximizing return to function, even for patients with permanent impairments,” according to Dr. Julia Tomlinson, a board-certified specialist in rehabilitation and sports medicine and president-elect of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, who treated Rusty after she was referred from her primary veterinarian.
As rehabilitation increasingly becomes part of the therapeutic mix, some general practice veterinarians now offer a few services, and a growing number of specialty practices are popping up, staffed by board-certified veterinary specialists who have advanced training in sports medicine and rehabilitation.
Like physical therapy in humans, rehabilitation helps restore mobility and function by focusing noninvasive therapies on muscles, bones, joints, and the tissues associated with them, such as ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Although pain medication is often an important part of therapy, Dr. Tomlinson points out that rehabilitation itself can also help to reduce pain for many pets.Clinic Therapy With HomeworkWhen examined by a veterinarian, Rusty was stiff and painful in her lower back and pelvis, and her muscles would spasm when those areas were manipulated. At the Twin Cities Animal Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Clinic in Minnesota, she underwent laser therapy and joint mobilization and manipulation to help improve limb movement. Her pet parents were taught gentle traction techniques to perform at home with her.
“Within 2 weeks, she was feeling much better, managing a full walk with enthusiasm, and getting on the bed again,” reports Dr. Tomlinson. At that point, Rusty was prescribed at-home exercises to bolster her flexibility and strengthen her rear legs and core muscles.
“Owners often think all treatments have to be done in the clinic,” says Dr. Tomlinson. “They underestimate what can be done at home with our guidance.” That perception, along with another misconception — that rehabilitation is always expensive — often prevents pet parents from pursuing rehabilitation. “In fact, it can be one of the least expensive of all veterinary specialties,” she says.
Help For A Wide Range Of ConditionsWhen combined with appropriate medical treatment, including effective management of pain and inflammation, rehabilitation can help pets recover from injuries or surgery, such as a cruciate ligament or spinal repair. Pets with other conditions that aren’t amenable to surgery, including osteoarthritis and obesity, may also benefit from therapy. “Research shows that dogs lost more weight with diet and in-clinic exercise therapy than with diet and at-home exercise alone,” says Dr. Tomlinson. “Therapeutic exercise also helps to prevent loss of lean body mass, or muscle, in the face of calorie restriction.”
Rehabilitation specialists often practice sports medicine as well, which applies athletic conditioning to help maintain fitness or prevent injury in sporting or working dogs. And small animal rehabilitation isn’t just for canines. “We see cats mostly for spinal pain and stiffness, some for diseases of the nervous system and hip arthritis, and some for orthoses, or braces,” says Dr. Tomlinson.Finding The Right TherapistIt may be tempting to assume that anyone, such as a technician trained in human massage or physical therapy, can provide rehabilitation for pets, but that’s not the case. “Not all people who advertise as animal rehabilitation therapists are adequately qualified,” warns Dr. Tomlinson. “The patient needs a veterinary diagnosis,” she adds, stressing the importance of working with veterinarians who have specific training.
That’s why you’ll want to first schedule a visit with your veterinarian: to make sure your pet gets a proper diagnosis and ultimately works with someone who will help you reach the goals you and your veterinary team set together to help alleviate your pet’s pain, restore function, and improve her quality of life.
Working with the right therapist certainly paid off for Rusty. “Two years on, she’s still getting on the couch and bed, loving walks, and having no pain issues,” says Dr. Tomlinson, who now sees Rusty only every 3 months.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of HealthyPet magazine.
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Image: hyacinth plant ThinkstockPhotos-655458988 335 Springtime flowers are beautiful, but some are potentially dangerous to our pets. The "bulb" plants can be toxic. Botanically speaking, flower bulbs come in many forms: true bulbs, corms, tubers, tuberous roots and rhizomes. With some bulb plants, only the part below the ground is problematic; with others, it is the whole plant. The plants discussed in this article are toxic to both dogs and cats unless otherwise specified (some are toxic only to cats), but keep in mind that just about any plant material, even grass, can cause mild stomach upset if eaten and a pet is sensitive to it.True BulbsMost true bulbs have a papery skin and look similar to an onion. These are plants like daffodils (Narcissus sp.), tulips (Tulipa sp.), hyacinths (Hyacinthus sp., Muscari sp.) and snowdrops (Galanthus sp.). These plants contain compounds that are irritating to the gastrointestinal tract. Ingestion of the leaves, stems and flowers (i.e., the above-ground parts) may cause mild stomach upset, while ingesting the bulbs can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea.
Lilies (Lilium sp.) are true bulbs without the papery skin. All parts of the lily are potentially deadly to cats, as they can cause vomiting and kidney failure. Examples include Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum), Oriental lily (Lilium orientalis) and Japanese lily (Lilium speciosum). CormsCorms look very similar to true bulbs but are missing the onion-like rings when cut open. Corms are a bulb-like organ that stores the food needed to produce the flower. Common corm plants include: crocosmia (Crocosmia sp.), gladiolus (Gladiolus sp.), freesia (Freesia sp.) and crocus (Crocus sp.). With ingestion of the above-ground parts of these plants, mild gastrointestinal upset can be seen. The corms are more irritating than the above-ground parts and can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea. TubersThe tuber plant pet owners may be most familiar with is the potato. Tubers are just enlarged underground stems. Common flowers that grow from tubers include: tuberous begonias (Begonia tuberhybrida), cyclamen (Cyclamen sp.) and anemones (Anemone sp.).
Tuberous begonias contain soluble calcium oxalate crystals with the highest amounts being found in the tuber. In dogs and cats, these crystals can cause vomiting and drooling if ingested. Grazing animals (horses, cattle, etc.) can potentially eat enough to cause kidney failure and death.
Cyclamen plants contain terpenoid saponins. These are soap-like compounds that can cause stomach upset in dogs and cats. Large ingestions of tubers from these plants by grazing animals can cause heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures and death.
Anemones contain protoanemonin throughout the plant including the tuber, which is a blistering compound that can cause pain and sores in the mouth if ingested. Tuberous RootsTuberous roots are enlarged specialized roots that store food for the growing season. Examples of tuberous root plants are dahlias (Dahlia sp.), daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) and sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas).
Dahlias and sweet potatoes are considered to be nontoxic, but remember just about any plant material can cause mild stomach upset if eaten.
Daylilies are edible for people, but deadly for cats. All parts of the plant can cause vomiting and kidney failure. RhizomesRhizomes are specialized stems that grow sideways underground, and some are used for food storage for the plant. Common rhizome plants include: iris (Iris sp.), lily of the valley (Convallaria sp.), canna (Canna sp.) and ginger (Zingiber officinale).
Irises contain gastrointestinal irritants that can cause burning in the mouth, gagging, vomiting and diarrhea.
Lilies of the valley are highly toxic plants and contain cardenolides that affect the heart. Ingestion of the plant (even water from the vase) can cause vomiting, low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, seizures and death.
Cannas and ginger are considered to be nontoxic, but again keep in mind that any plant material can cause mild stomach upset.
Whether you are planting bulbs in your yard, forcing them inside or cutting them for bouquets, make sure your pets do not have access to the plants. Prevention is important, especially for bulbs. Make sure to store them in safe places. It is also important to keep the labels that contain the Latin names, just in case your pets do decide to sample some of the plant.
Call your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the potentially toxic plants listed here or is exhibiting gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting or diarrhea.
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