How important is dog physical therapy in Conservative Management?
Well, in my opinion, super important. I just got back from the Alternative Veterinarian office and Darcy has gained 1.5 inches of muscle on her injured leg and 1/4 inch on her non-injured leg! That’s huge. The vet said we are doing a great job with her daily walks and daily dog physical therapy. We now have some extra exercises to do to gain even more muscle and strength. Darcy just takes to these new exercises like they are fun time for her. She started whining as soon as we got to the vet’s office (in a good way!). Tail wagging she walked right in like they are all her friends. It’s such a difference to have your dog look forward to going to the veterinarian. After the experiences of the first two vet offices when she was first injured, it’s good to have her look forward to going to the vet again. Her new exercises are to do her sit stands on a couch cushion so she has to stabilize more and use more muscles, put her front paws up on an exercise ball (similar to the photo above) and slowly walk it forward and backward and to do an exercise called Snoopy similar to the Yoga Balancing Table pose. And, our lovely vet would like us to get up to 45 minute to 1 hour walks! Yay. I did ask about working her up to having her be able to go out into the backyard by herself at some point and Wendy (the vet) said that was definitely doable. And, definitely by the time we go on vacation in October. Such good news. She thinks Darcy will be able to have some off leash time at some point and play with other dogs. Darcy was at 49.5 lbs. so we can give her a little more wet food to balance her increased activity levels, plus more protein for more muscle-building. The whole veterinary office is so supportive of Darcy’s improvement. Apparently, we are the first patient(s) to get this far and do advanced exercises in their dog physical therapy program. Wikipedia has a good definition of dog physical therapy or canine physical therapy. It is slowly becoming more popular around the country and that is good to see.
Darcy has been doing great on her walks. I haven’t been upping 1 minute a day, since she seemed to be stiffer after the walks, but more like 1 minute every couple of days and this seems to work best. The weather did turn colder, so the increased stiffness could have come from that as well. We are up to 37 minutes of walking now! And, no limping at all. She is definitely tired and takes really long naps, but she did that before her CCL injury. The vet really likes that we give her a recovery day or two to heal up and be ready to go for the next week.
Wendy (the vet) talked about how Conservative Management is actually the harder way to go because it requires so much work from the dog owner. I believe she is right, but also believe it is all completely worth it. She also said that it makes the dog/human bond so much stronger. I agree with her on that as well. Darcy and I definitely have a routine down and she lets me know when it’s time for carrots and exercise.
So, if you are reading from this point, you might want to go back to Day 1 and read further. There has been a lot of time and effort put into getting my dog’s knee better without surgery. If you have the energy and the time, I support it. It is well worth the effort. But, it won’t be easy and when you think about giving up, just look back to the first week of your dog’s injured knee and see how far you (and your dog) have come! It will motivate you to keep going. Hopefully Darcy’s journey is helping in your decision to try Conservative Management, or opt for surgery.
Good health to you and your dog! Feel free to put any comments or questions below.