FitPAWS Video

I missed doing my blog yesterday — sorry but I have been under the weather. Dutchess came to see me because she has a possible subluxation in her back which causes her to chew and scratch at herself constantly. This subluxation is painful and the only way she can treat it herself is to try and make it stop which makes her a little cranky. We have been using the laser, hydrotherapy and acupuncture but still Dutchess is not feeling the love for palpating her back.

Today we are starting with a Back on Track jacket and balance exercises to help strengthen her core. The Back on Track jacket should warm the whole back up and with a little exercise maybe we can get close to doing an adjustment. I did recruit an extra pair of hands to help today so hopefully today is the day.

Watch the video and see how much movement Dutchess gets with just moving her head for treats. The video will be uploaded to youtube on the ARCC — Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center.

Dutchess does a great job!

Dutchess in her Doggles

Dutchess in her Doggles

Core Conditioning for Your Pet

Icee sitting up and begging -- ain't she the cutest?

Icee sitting up and begging — ain’t she the cutest?

I know that you all hear me harp on core conditioning but I don’t know that we ever took a few minutes to explain why I get on my soap box about it. Core conditioning is the strengthening of the abdominal and back muscles.

  • The core transfers energy to the extremities (legs) in our pets so it affects the speed, endurance and strength of what your pet is doing. The abdominal and back muscles also help a pet to jump and turn; most injuries occur due to poor core strength.

Let’s repeat that — Most injuries occur due to poor core strength.

  • The core muscles include such muscles as: abdominal, obliques, rhombodius, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, multifidus, and pectoral muscles. These muscles are so very important to a good and safe life of exercise.

One of the most intense sports for humans is the triathlon. These competitors have to be able to run, swim and bike huge distances and all of these events depend on very strong back and abdominal muscles.

Michael Phelps may be one of the premier athletes of our time but he is not a long distance runner and the same can be said of other athletes — they cross train in everything but they specialize their training for their event. Michael Phelps exercise routine includes swimming, lifting weights and stretching (hmm — wonder how many times you have heard this?). He has a balanced routine that strengthens not only his legs and arms but also his core muscles.

Core conditioning can be done on a FitPAWS peanut easily and it does not take very long to help increase those muscles. There are also some basic exercises that work the back and abdominal muscles without equipment such as crawling, sit up and beg, and rolling over.

I am helping a search and rescue dog — he runs on average 8 miles while trying to find someone but he cannot sit up and beg but my 3-legged cat can sit and beg for hours; she is phenomenal (and not just because she is mine — lol!). I saw another cat this weekend with malformed front legs and her core strength was amazing — she rotated herself around on the table while sitting up.

Try doing some easy exercises such as crawling or teaching the sit up and beg for a few minutes each day. You can also do just balance work on the peanut for the same strengthening of the abdominal and back muscles but also only do a few minutes each day. 10-15 minutes a day is good for core conditioning and then see how well your dog competes at the next event — does he seem more “collected”, better able to turn, and is he improving with his speed and endurance? Give me a holler and tell me how it goes for you and your dog.


Why Rehabilitation for My Dog?

Rocket sitting up on his own without support -- wasn't possible a few months ago

Rocket sitting up on his own without support — wasn’t possible a few months ago

Rehabilitation for your pet is a lot like physical therapy for you; we are trying to achieve goals that allow your pet to function.

The goals could be anything from: 1) recovering quicker from surgery or injury, 2) make the quality of life better for your pet, 3) improve athletic ability through endurance and/or agility, 4) increase their flexibility and mobility through exercise, and 5) decrease pain.

Not only does rehabilitation increase the comfort, improve your pet’s quality of life but it also stimulates the body to increase blood flow to injured areas, reduce pain, swelling and complications, prevents other injuries, decreases the chance of muscle loss, and makes movement easier and less painful.

Almost all animals can benefit from rehabilitation because we all have some sort of nagging injury; pain, obesity, or just want to make ourselves stronger, healthier and happier (doesn’t hurt that it can make us faster and more responsive either).

Aging makes us weaker just due to normal muscle loss along with wear and tear on our body so rehabilitation can make us live stronger, longer and healthier lives without having to lose the vital function we need for living.

All sorts of conditions can be improved with rehabilitation – common conditions include such things as:

  • Surgeries (orthopedic or neurologic)
  • Chronic pain
  • Aging
  • Arthritis
  • Obesity/weight reduction
  • Fractures
  • Sports injuries
  • Tendon/ligament/muscle repairs
  • Dysplasia
  • Strength and fitness training

Canine rehabilitation centers can offer all types of modalities to help your pet recover or improve. These modalities include:

  • Cryotherapy – used to decrease inflammation to an area and decrease pain associated with the trauma.
  • Thermotherapy – typically used after 72 hours to help increase blood flow and decrease pain, it also increases muscle contraction and stretching capability along with helping to speed healing.
  • Massage – increases blood flow, oxygen delivery to the tissues and helps remove waste from the area. It also helps by accelerating muscle recovery, breaking down adhesions, relaxes the patient and relieves pain.
  • Therapeutic Laser Therapy – can help improve nerve injuries, help with chronic pain, help maintain cartilage health, and they are great to help accelerate tissue repair in skin, muscle, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Therapeutic Ultrasound – can locally increase the heat to deep tissues which helps to bring blood into the area, allow stretching to be performed, and help with wound healing.
  • Electrical Stimulation (E-stim) – is used to control pain, prevent atrophy through disuse of the muscle, retain the muscle how to move, and increase strength in a muscle.
  • Hydrotherapy (underwater treadmill) – is used to allow the body to bear less weight on the joints making exercise much more comfortable. It is great for reducing swelling, muscle strengthening, and cardiovascular training. It can help improve strength, range of motion, decrease pain, and increase endurance.
  • Ground treadmill – is used for non-painful patients or patients that are adequately pain managed.
  • Therapeutic exercise – whether passive or active are used to increase range of motion, muscle mass and to help with healing during recovery.

Rehabilitation is good for all of us and we at ARCC — Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center are here for your needs. Give us a call and take a tour!  HAVE A GREAT WEEK!

Massage Therapy for your Pet

ARCC Rehabilitation Rehab Greenville

Cassidy getting a massage!

Since I just recently accomplished getting my certification in massage therapy for canines, I thought I would give you reasons why massage therapy is so good for your pet. I have always recommended massage after doing flexion and extension exercises especially for pets with a medical problem because like most of us, our pets carry tension in the shoulders and neck a lot.

Now the massage therapy that I teach owners is basically a medium pressure massage that starts at the neck and moves down the body along the back, sides and abdomen along with a medium pressure down the legs to the toes. Any time you start a massage, you should finish it completely.

Make sure that you have enough time to finish doing the massage without interruptions because it ruins the flow if you have to answer the phone or go get a drink of water. This time should be just about your pet and your interaction with them.

Massage therapy dates back to ancient times since Julius Caesar’s masseuse also did his war dogs and documentation has been found in China dating back to 2700 BC.

Massage therapy really made its’ mark in the horse racing industry when the “rub down” became known as therapy by the US Equestrian Team in the 1970s. Canine massage became known in the 1990s.

Massage is used for rehabilitation, competition and relaxation. It is well documented to cause physiologic effects such as:

  • Relief from pain
  • Increase in flexibility and movement
  • Decrease in toxins in the body
  • Increased circulation
  • Improved athletic performance and endurance
  • Better focus and attitude
  • Decreased stress

A massage given by a certified individual can take 30 minutes or more and can help detect problem areas by monitoring the pet’s reaction. The therapist can help your veterinarian with diagnosis of your pet by keeping the vet in the loop of what she finds and feels. A certified massage therapist should be under the supervision of a veterinarian according to South Carolina Veterinary Law.

Massage therapy is a great adjunct to other traditional and complementary medicine. A great tool in the toolbox!

Book your pet a massage and while you are at it – make yourself one too!

Babes and Biscuits — Look for the Miracles

Rocket -- handsome boy

Rocket — handsome boy

So last week was a week of miracles with it being Easter week; the Christian faith has the miracles of Christ’s crucifixion, his disappearance from the crypt and his ascension into heaven. It got me to thinking about all the “little” miracles we see daily but don’t recognize because they aren’t impressive — miracles like the sun coming up each day, babies being born, and life itself.

I had miracles myself last week and in my opinion, they were major miracles and I would like to share them with you.

Rocket is a Schnauzer that comes to see me 3-4 times a week. He had a fibrocartilaginous embolism about 4 years ago and has been paralyzed since then. His family pulls him around in a quad cart, expresses his bladder for him and helps him to evacuate his bowels — now you mustn’t think that this is cruel or that he is unhappy. This little man is happy, healthy, loves to eat, loves to play and is loved immensely; he just can’t do some things by himself.

He comes in almost daily to the clinic and everyone who comes in the clinic is told “if he gets up and moves you get a free day of rehab”. Rocket has been working very diligently and very hard. In the past I saw Rocket about once a week for laser therapy and we tried some other treatments that helped but they weren’t enough.

Now Rocket comes in 3-4 times a week and we laser him every day along with underwater treadmill time daily and exercise in which we are playing but also helping to move his legs like they should. We also do the torture test where I place a toy in front of him and try to make him walk towards the toy.

Rocket’s front legs are drawn up with the left one near his ear and his neck wasn’t very strong before. Now with treatment the right front leg is almost able to extend to the floor and the left one will move downward more freely but his neck is getting very strong.

While I was in Kansas at chiropractic school, Rocket’s mom texted me that he had moved his cart a couple of feet; I was in tears — this is what we have been working toward. We all realize that Rocket will never walk without a cart but if he could move the cart on his own it would be fabulous. I also tease Rocket that he has to move the front arm in order to hold onto the girls so we are working for that also.

Last week, we had a new patient coming in on a daily basis — Sidy. Rocket and Sidy have been seeing each other across the room since they are both housed in my office right now.

We went outside and Rocket was in his cart: I pulled him out onto the grass and Sidy was on a leashed. Sidy is not leash trained so we were having a few typical leash tantrums. We are standing out there and I notice that Rocket has moved his cart a few inches. I get excited and of course I don’t have the video camera so I pull him to the sidewalk, pick Sidy up and go inside to get the video camera.

We come back out, I set Sidy down, turn the video camera on and Rocket starts to walk. I start recording Rocket and at this point Sidy decides to throw a major tantrum and I turn to pick him up. When I turn back around, Rocket has walked down the sidewalk and has urinated with every step. Rocket had walked over 110 inches and I missed it — I missed it. The only reason Rocket was still not walking was that his front wheel of the cart had fallen off the sidewalk and into a rut — his legs were still moving and he was still urinating but the cart was not moving.

I was ecstatic — disappointed to not capture it on film — but absolutely ecstatic. I texted everybody and phoned everybody but could not get anyone. I was through the roof and I finally get a hold of his mom and she is through the roof also. She took him home that night and she showed his daddy that he could move the chair. His mom came in the next morning and proceeded to tell me that he did well but he would only walk for the girls or for biscuits — babes and biscuits!

So now he is walking for babes and biscuits but at least he is moving. Needless to say we have tried several times to video tape him walking but we have missed it just about every time. I have small videos of a step or two but not a good long walk.

I have a video of the pee trail so here you go — look for the miracles.


FitPAWS for Fit Dogs

FitPAWS Equipment

FitPAWS Equipment

As a rehabilitation veterinarian I use a lot of specialized tools to help a pet return to function or become more conditioned. One of the easiest and most complex pieces of equipment that I just love is the FitPAWS equipment.

FitPAWS is a Colorado based company that has been in the exercise ball market for over 20 years but in the canine market for only about 3 years. This product is made specifically for dogs and is used to condition canine athletes and to rehabilitate pets.

The equipment is built extra tough to deal with our exuberant pets and their nails but is also designed to give our pets a better gripping surface.

FitPAWS has a variety of shapes and sizes to fit all types of pets. The exercise balls look fun and easy but don’t let the bright colors fool you – they are difficult and can wear your pet out.

The FitPAWS equipment is used to develop core strength, balance, and proprioception (knowing where your feet are in space), muscle strength, bonding with you and fun!

There are numerous exercises that you can do whether partially on the ball, totally on the ball or stacked on numerous pieces of equipment.  The main concern is to be in control and to have fun while exercising.

The key to exercising with the balls is control and stabilization. Make sure your pet is able to do the exercises and you should be present to help with any issues.

I personally like the big peanuts because they allow me to stand and help the pet but they are cumbersome when you have to store them. The disks are much easier to store but you need to be on the level with your pet.

There are a ton of exercises and some pretty advanced techniques. YouTube has some amazing videos of pets using the FitPAWS equipment and FitPAWS has a website, blog, and Facebook presence if you should want to find out more about the company.

If you would like to try some equipment or need some help developing some exercises give us a call at ARCC – Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center, as we know I am a great enthusiast about these particular tools.

Callie on the FitPAWS Donut!

Callie on the FitPAWS Donut!

Go out this week and have a ball!

Getting in the Water — Hydrotherapy

Getting in the Water — Hydrotherapy

Okay — clicking the little link above lets you see Rocket and the underwater treadmill in action — no laughing at the white legs!

Water has a lot of properties that make it a great environment to exercise. These properties include such things as: 1) relative density (no, not how fat your mother-in-law is), 2) buoyancy, 3) hydrostatic pressure, 4) viscosity and resistance, and 5) surface tension.

Relative density means that something lean will sink faster than something with a little fat.

Buoyancy reduces the amount of weight the pet carries and decreases the load on the joints. This makes exercise more comfortable especially if your pet has painful joints.

Hydrostatic pressure is fluid pressure that helps decrease swelling and edema. The deeper a body is immersed in the water, the greater the pressure exerted on the body.

Viscosity and resistance describe how water likes to stick to itself (cohesiveness) and the amount of force that must be exerted to move the body through the water.  This helps with strengthening and cardiovascular training. Viscosity helps stabilize your pet allowing him to stand in water when he can’t stand on land.

Surface tension describes how water at the surface has a greater tendency to adhere to itself. This property makes it harder to move at the surface of water than below it. It becomes a factor when the foot breaks the surface of the water.

Hydrotherapy has a lot of uses such as:

  1. rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery — i.e. fractures, OCD, cruciate surgery, hip replacement
  2. rehabilitation after neurologic injury — i.e. disk disease, degenerative myelopathy, FCE (fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy)
  3. muscle strengthening and improved joint function — i.e. arthritis, spondylosis, hip dysplasia
  4. conditioning — i.e. increasing endurance, speed, strength, range of motion and cardiovascular fitness

There are some contraindications to hydrotherapy such as heart and lung disease, infections, open or draining wounds, and infectious skin diseases.

Benefits of hydrotherapy include:

  • Comfortable Movement
  • Decreases Edema and Swelling
  • Great for Muscle Strengthening
  • Increases Cardiovascular Stamina
  • Neuromuscular Re-education
  • Weight Loss

Our Oasis H2O underwater treadmill is large enough for your pet and has four jets for added resistance. Come by and see how the underwater treadmill could be beneficial to your pet.

Ursa says -- don't forget Valentines Day. Keep chocolate away from your pet!

Ursa says — don’t forget Valentines Day. Keep chocolate away from your pet!

Healing with Animals

Giving support and love where needed

This past week has been terrible with the news of Sandy Hook Elementary. It grieves our hearts and souls to hear about such tragedy. I know that when I have been faced with emotional turmoil one of my first defenses has been to cuddle something warm and furry. My dogs and cats will come and lay close to me allowing me to tell them my problems, cry, and just release what needs to be gone. They understand and know that I just need them to be — just be and they do it willingly (okay, not the cats so much). They sit there and give unconditional love so that I can begin to heal.

The animal community always amazes me at how much we pull together in times of hardship. Dogs and kittens are making their way to Newtown community for their part in the healing of those whose lives are in disarray. The Lutheran Church Charities sent 10 dogs to comfort people and just be there. The Kitten Associates and their “Kitties for Kids” program have also brought in animals to help people heal in this time of tragedy.

Other (non-human) companies are also giving of themselves to help with the healing such as Walgreens donating pictures of art, other companies donating art supplies, and tons of people donating their time and services. We are all pulling together in this time of need.

There are so many organizations out there who help heal with animals whether the wound be emotional, psychological, or physical. Organizations such as Service Dogs for the blind, deaf or disabled, Dogs for Autism, Patriot Service Dogs and many others that I can’t even begin to list. The point is that pets are used for healing in so many situations.

In this holiday season, let us be grateful for our furry friends and support one of your local animal organizations through either donation of time, money or supplies. We who own the furry creatures know how much comfort they can truly give.

Show Me the Light — Laser Therapy

Cassidy wearing her doggles before laser therapy

High power laser therapy is not “light”, “cold”, or “low level” therapy. High power laser therapy does work on the same principles as cold or low level therapy but with a more consistent and measurable clinical response on deep tissues and bones.

Class IV (high power) lasers were FDA approved in 2005 in the United States.

Laser has two basic components that determine the function and these are wavelength and power. The laser light in the red and near-infrared range has a positive effect on cells in the body. The light warms up the tissues, crosses damaged cell membranes, excites the mitochondria which makes ATP. ATP is the energy the body needs to repair itself. The light only affects damaged cells and not healthy cells.

The production of ATP (energy) leads to an increase in the following:

  • Cell growth replication
  • Repair
  • Production of enzymes, proteins, immunoglobulins, and other compounds needed by the body

The laser also warms up the tissues, causes muscle relaxation and helps with nerve condition. It can stimulate acupuncture points and can cause other cellular reactions such as:

  • Accelerated tissue repair and growth
  • Faster wound healing
  • Decreased inflammation and pain
  • Improved nerve function and nerve repair

This list is not inclusive of all that a laser can help with but does show a small portion of the possibilities.

Laser power is the rate at which the energy is delivered. The power is associated with the depth of the tissue involved in healing and the deflection of the beam due to the tissues — all of which is physics and makes my eyes roll back in my head. If you want a precise explanation I can send you the handouts but suffice it to say — it works and I love it.

Laser therapy is an effective tool. It has measurable positive results in the following conditions:   

Lily in her doggles.

  • Arthritis
  • Neck and Back Pain
  • Post-surgical pain/healing/rehabilitation
  • Trauma/fractures
  • Muscle, ligament, and tendon injuries (sprains, strains, and tears)

There are other areas in which laser can have positive results. New research is being conducted in such areas as stimulating stem cells, controlling allergic reactions and maybe even shrinking tumors.

Laser therapy not only accelerates healing but helps with repair, regeneration and remodeling of tissues. It can decrease pain, post-op complications, and has a positive effect on neurologic function. Competitive athletes can recover quicker and regain their edge while family pets can be an active member again. Laser therapy has become an indispensable tool at ARCC — Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center.

Getting Older

Senior pet, arthritis, aging, gray face,

Hannah Brocht
November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month and advantages of adopting a senior pet can be found at They have a very good article on adopting older pets and how to find the one for you. Please take time to look at their site and think about adoption next time you get a pet; hopefully one that can age gracefully with you.

I have a thumb that has issues.  Yeah, I know, in the scheme of things it is a small problem but it is a problem for me.  I have had the issue off and on for a couple of years but the fun part is that a pet didn’t do this to me – a client did!

The client didn’t mean to hurt me but he ended up pulling my thumb while disciplining his dog.  It hurt really bad, really quick but being a typical doctor I waited to see if it got better.  It didn’t and I went to see the human doctor a couple of weeks later.

By then, they couldn’t tell if it had been dislocated or if the tendons were damaged so I was stuck in a brace and given the almighty corticosteroid shot – yuck!  My thumb has improved and hurt periodically over the last couple of years and each time they give me a shot and a new brace.

I finally got tired of it and decided to have a diagnosis once and for all.  I have gotten four different ones in the last two years and while waiting to see the doctor over my thumb and I thought about how his different diagnoses affected me.

When they first thought it was carpal tunnel I was “okay – a hazard of my job – giving injections all day”.

Then I got a diagnosis of a cyst on the tendon – a little worrisome but still not too big of a deal.

The next time they thought it was tendonitis and I again assumed job related but when the final diagnosis of arthritis was made; I became depressed.

Arthritis in my mind meant I was old.

Now I don’t know about you all but even though I know my age – I don’t feel it.  I feel like I am still in my 20s.  Yes, yes, I know that I don’t look 20 but honestly I don’t look at myself in the mirror very frequently.

I know that sometimes I will look at my hand and think when did my grandmother’s hand become attached to my body. arthritis, older, senior, aging, pain, pet

I think this is why we don’t see arthritis in our pets – we see the gray but we still see that young pup.  It is hard to imagine that they and we are aging.

To have to say that my pet has arthritis means we are getting older and none of us want to do that.  I know I don’t – why can’t we just stay 20 forever but with the knowledge our age has given us.  I don’t know the answer.

I do know that pain medication and exercises are helping me and we can help our senior pets the same way, but it is the thought of aging.  I want to do it gracefully so I guess I will quit complaining and continue to think of myself as young – just like my pets.

If you need help keeping an older pet comfortable and moving, call us at ARCC — Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center and we will devise a plan to keep you and your pet together longer.

If you have an older pet, leave us a comment on how you are aging gracefully together.