Rehabilitation is a poorly understood discipline in veterinary practice. Postsurgical rehabilitation is almost commonly expected when any trauma or surgery is encountered in humans. With pets however, it may be incorrectly assumed that recovery from disease is more innate and does not require formal rehabilitative efforts. This could not be further from the truth. Pets cannot talk, they mask their pain and illnesses from their humans and they need and benefit from rehabilitative efforts more than any other animal.
The success or failure of many orthopedic and neurologic procedures depends on the aftercare and rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is essential for neurologic damage and optimization of stem cell therapy.
Surgical cases such as orthopedic surgery or knee cruciate ligament surgery must have rehabilitation. When surgery is done to a bone or joint, the proprioceptive nerves are cut or damaged. These nerves tell the brain the location of the bones and joints so that movement is accurate and balance is effective. Without proprioception nerves, the pet is clumsy and likely to reinjure the bone or joint. The process of retraining the brain and nerves in the limbs is very important in returning your pet to normal function and to a function that will not cause future damage. This is the job of the rehabilitation specialist to know how to use equipment that safely unbalances your pet so that learning to adapt and restore balance can occur.
Dr. Garner has been through the University of Tennessee CCRP course in Rehabilitative Therapy and our rehabilitation technicians are known worldwide for their expertise and care of pets. Our rehabilitation technicians at Safari select from a wide range of equipment to match the needs of the pet with the best physiotherapy regime. We have specialized tools and techniques taught in formal classes. We are Certified Canine Rehabilitation Specialists operating with the best tools in an environment of fear free encouragement.
Starter exercises include balance pads and wobble boards. We set up obstacles of foam rubber blocks, peanuts and discs and encourage the pets to climb them in a fear free manner. This builds coordination and proprioception skills. These lessons are designed to strengthen core muscle strength, as well as to work on specific leg muscles. Proprioception is the ability to know where your feet are without looking. The nerves responsible for proprioception are located in the joints and may be damaged by surgery. These nerves are the first to be damaged in spinal injuries. Proprioception training involves getting the pet to stand on surfaces that give tactile stimulation. This stimulation helps the pet relearn how to properly stand and how to properly move on an injured limb. More advanced exercises involve balancing with 1 to 4 paws on a donut or peanut.
This is Jasper. He visits Safari regulary for underwater treadmill maintanence therapy due to severe arthritis in his elbows. In this picture, he is asking his Mom for more treats!
The treadmills are used for both balance and proprioceptive training (knowing where the feet are) and strength training. Strength training is best done with the water treadmill. Strength is lost through disuse of a joint or muscle mass, and atrophy of the muscles is a common occurrence with pain or surgery or arthritis. The water treadmill is state–of–the–art in pet rehabilitation by building strength without damage to the surgical correction. Restoring this strength by using the resistance offered by water therapy has long been respected. The water buoyancy takes much of the weight off the joints so that movement can occur more naturally and pain free, while the moving floor encourages walking, the warm water increases circulation and provides resistance to movement that aids in building strength. The water height and rate of the treadmill allow for customizing the exercise for the needs of the pet. The underwater treadmill is an excellent tool for this type of rehabilitation. Land (or dry) treadmills are an advancement for the pet that can use and bear weight, but still needs to work on coordination.
For a complete list of our facilities rehabilitation tools and modalities, visit our next page: Therapeutic Modalities.