Rocky is a soon to be 13 year old Labrador Retriever. Over the course of two months we started to see Rocky limping, we took him into our primary vet who took an x-ray and did not see anything on the X-ray that would indicate a problem other than osteoarthritis. About a month later, the limping was getting worse and we noticed a lump on Rocky around his left shoulder area, it looked like his shoulder was dislocated. We were honestly hoping that was all it was but unfortunately our vet took another X-Ray and there was the tumor clear as day. Our vet informed us that she did not really recommend amputation in a dog his age or his size ( 96 lbs.) and that we would probably only have another 6-8 weeks with him but she did refer us to a specialist in Malvern. My husband and I were bracing for the worst news but were given hope. The oncologist and orthopedic surgeon recommended a front limb amputation after multiple tests and Rocky only having one negative factor (the location), all his other tests came up clear (had not metastasized and Rocky was in really great shape- not overweight). Knowing that we had to give Rocky the best shot at more time we proceeded with the amputation. The following two weeks were hard, my husband and I questioned our decision every minute of every day. We would see Rocky take 2 steps forward and then one step back. Gradually, we have started to see Rocky get back to his old self; it wasn’t until he was off the painkillers though. Being a cancer patient myself, I knew that Rocky was going to need physical therapy, much like how I needed it. So I talked with his vets and they gave me the go ahead after his staples were removed. I knew I needed to find a physical therapist that was certified in which I found Fit for A Dog in Havertown, PA. I then set up an appointment with Susan McIntyre, she was the one that actually recommended I go online and check out the Tripawds website. She has been a licensed Physical Therapist for over 30 years with a background in orthopedics and sports related injuries. Immediately, upon entering I felt like we were in the right place. Susan is extremely welcoming and Rocky loved being there, he immediately went and made himself comfortable on the mats and when she brought out the treats, he was hooked on his new best friend. You can tell Susan loves her job; she was very informative all the while being hands-on with Rocky. We talked and Susan put my husband and I at ease. She told us Rocky is doing really well and honestly does not need a ton of Physical Therapy. She felt all over him and told us that he is a really strong dog and for being only 3 weeks out, he far exceeded her expectations. She did teach us some at home routines and exercises that would make the Tripawd life easier for Rocky.
Massage/Range of Motion (Once a day for 5-10 minutes before bed) à dog should start in a lying down position preferably on his side, then begin rubbing hands in circular motions all over his entire body starting from the rear area focusing on his hips and then moving through to his spine and then to his front leg (triceps and biceps) and then his neck and headà this will not only feel good for him but you will be able to tell if things are sore on him or hurt before they get worse, you will get to know the ins and outs of your dog’s body and be able to spot if anything feels off. Focus a lot on the front limb massage and exercises especially since 60% of your dog’s weight is put on the front legs, with one leg missing the remaining leg has to endure the brunt of the weight and in turn the bicep and tricep muscles will get very tight.
Arm Extension Range of Motion :
- Brace his shoulder blade and move his arm forward by pushing on the back of his arm or above his elbow
Elbow Extension Stretch:
- Brace above his elbow and behind his arm, move his elbow into a straight position by pushing on the front of his arm, below his elbow.
Arm Flexion Range of Motion
- Brace his shoulder blade and move his arm into a bent position by pushing on the back of his paw
Finger Flexors Stretch
- Brace your dog’s wrist straight and move his fingers upwards by placing the pads of his paw on your palm and pushing up.
Leg Flexion Range of Motion
- Brace on top of his pelvis and move his leg into a bent position by pushing on the back of his paw
Toe Flexors Stretch
- Brace his ankle straight and move his toes upwards by placing the pads of his paw on your palm and pushing up
Leg Extension Range of Motion
- Brace on top of his pelvis and move his leg back by pushing on the front of his thigh
Exercise 1: Challenge Balance (2x a day for 30 seconds)
This exercise can be done when the dog is laying down (not on his side) and in the sit position for the first two weeks, eventually we will move to when he is standing. When he is laying down you want to gently push on his him alternating sides, so that he has to shift his balance for roughly 30 seconds. Then complete it when he is in the sitting position. Complete the same things in the standing position as well focusing a little more on the hips. This will recruit deeper muscles in the core which will decrease the incidence of injuries usually associated with osteoarthritis or other soft tissue issues, and spinal pain.
She informed us that when the scabs from the incision fall off we should tap and rub the area gently. She informed that desensitization is a technique of exposing the pet to a stimulus that would normally cause an undesirable reaction at an extremely low level, so that there is no response. As the pet becomes less reactive, it is desensitized through exposure to gradually more intense levels of the stimulus.
Overall, the entire experience was one that made me extremely hopeful. I walked away with extremely important and vital information to help make sure that Rocky continues to improve each and every day and feels good while doing it. One thing that I learned and thought was the most helpful was the importance of de-stressing his muscles at the end of the day. Massages help to improve muscle tone, especially since Rocky’s body is working super hard during the day to make up for one less leg to help carry him. Massage is also good overall to bring Rocky to a state of relaxation and calmness. The only thing I can ask for is that Rocky is happy and comfortable in life and Susan helped me to realize that he definitely is.
Physical Therapist Information
- Clinic: Fit For A Dog, Havertown, PA
- Website: http://fit4dog.com/
- Therapist: Susan McIntyre