Canine Rehabilitation: Kenny’s story

November 12, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Canine Rehabiliatation, similar to human Physical Therapy, is becoming more prevalent. Just as in people there are modalities such as laser, electrical stimulation and specific exercises to help dogs recover from injuries and surgeries. More expansive facilities even have swimming pools and underwater treadmills.

If your dog has a severe injury that if you had the same type of injury that you believe you would have to have physical therapy to recover, then yes your dog can have canine rehab to help it recover. To find a veterinarian in your area that has had training in Canine Rehab go to –


This past week a great story from The Huffinton Post tells a tale of one lucky Doberman benefiting from the power of the Internet and the power of Canine Rehab after an unlucky event occurred at a rescue facility paralyzing him.

Here’s the video – what an awesome story.

Kenny – A Paralyzed Doberman Learns To Walk Again – PLEASE SHARE

Mobile and tablet users- click here to watch: Visit to find out more about Kenny’s story. and visi…

Performance Dog Play

December 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Should I let my performance dog play with other dogs? My dog may suffer an injury.

This is a common concern for canine athlete owners and trainers; injuries in general are concerns, so why take a risk with an athlete that will have to perform? The thought about not letting them play with other dogs to reduce the chance of injuries is common however is it right? In one study performance dog play with the human handler is important especially right before an event. It helps with keeping the dog focused during the event. But how about dog on dog play? Should you let your prized performance dog play with that other dog?  – You want the short opinionated answer, yes you should allow your performance dog to play with other dogs.

Let’s go through my reasoning for allowing performance dogs to play.

First – your fear here is injuries,right? Why are you letting your dog do an athletic event in the first place? It is much more likely to be injured in its sport than playing with another dog. The most common type of injuries in performance dogs are repetitive stress injuries – shoulder instability, carpal strains, cruciate ruptures, and tendon/ligament strains/tears.The most frequent type of injuries that veterinarians see are broken bones from car accidents and other equally severely traumatic events and then the next most common has to be cruciate ruptures. In canine sport medicine practices cruciates and other tendon/ligament injuries are the most common – the repetitive stress injuries. Besides lacerations to ears and the skin on other areas of the body, dog play does not cause very many injuries and the injuries that it does cause are not likely to affect performance.

Second – dogs are pack animals. The nature of a dog is to be and interact with other dogs and that includes playing. Apologies to my single dog family homes for the next statement, but dogs that are not allowed to interact with other dogs are more likely to have behavior disorders. So for the mind of the performance dog, it would be best to allow the dog to have its natural tendencies and then control/moderate the activity. Dog play is going to help the dog in other aspects, such as relaxation (we all know – all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy), develops coordination and muscle development utilizing different muscles than the normal routine of training which will help balance, and can learn from the other dog such as restraint and impulse control.

Lastly – is your dog a superstar, and no, not in your own mind? Is it one of the top dogs in the nation? Are you going for your second national title in your chosen canine sport? If you are, then you are in the top 1% (and I am being generous) of canine performance dog owners. So then why do all these owners do it, when only a select handful make it to the top? Very few are making money from it, even some of the top are spending money not making it. It must not be about being the top or about making money, it has to be about something else. For the majority, it is about having fun with the dog. OK, then how about it? You are going to prevent your dog from having fun, because you have a fear that it is possibly going to injure itself so that it will not miss out on the opportunity to perform something else that is fun but is more likely to cause injury? How does that make any sense?

Let the dog be a dog and let your performance dog play! There is much less of a chance of injury playing than in the sport itself, it helps the behavior and mind set of the dog and its fun!

Do you really want to prevent performance related injuries, then stop worrying about your performance dog playing with other dogs and condition your dog against the repetitive stress injuries by purchasing (and then using) one of  Dr. Chris Zink’s Canine Sports Production books,  Clean Run’s Canine Fitness and Conditioning videos,  or Dr. Debbie Gross Saunders’ Strengthening and Stretching the Performance Dog  videos. You will have a happier and healthier performance dog!


A Case of the Week: Cassidy’s brachial plexus and radial nerve damage

November 24, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

cassidy brachial plexus radial nerve damageCassidy, a year old Australian Shepherd, was picked up by animal control and brought to the Humane Society of Jackson County, IN in late August. She had an injured left front leg that was swollen and dangling at the time. 3 veterinarians said it was nerve damage and only time would tell if the leg would regain use. Cassidy has brachial plexus and radial nerve damage sometimes called brachial plexus avulsion and is a common injury in dogs that are hit by cars.

In October she came to see me for treatment of the dangling leg since it was not seeming to be improving and in fact she was getting sores on the top of her foot. Her vet was considering amputation. Examining her it was obvious that she had suffered a severe injury to her brachial plexus and radial nerve and could not extend her leg as her triceps muscles and her digital extensor muscles were limp. She had also developed a common complication of this injury in that the opposing muscles the biceps and the carpal flexor muscles were contracted, since they have no opposing force to stretch them back out.

Most general practice veterinarians will give an anti-inflammatory (many times corticosteroid) and give the nerve time to heal and in many cases it does. If the brachial plexus or the radial nerve has been completely severed the dog will never regain use of its leg – the extensor muscles will remain flaccid and the flexor muscles will remain contracted. In cases in which the dog appears to not gain any movement back in the leg for an extend time such as in Cassidy’s case, most vets assume that the nerve is then severed and usually opt to amputate the limb; however some of these cases the brachial plexus/radial nerve just doesn’t heal with out stimulation. Neuromodulation is necessary to stimulate the nerve to regain function. It is sort of like you don’t use it so you lose it concept. Canine rehabilitation with neuro rehab is the treatment of choice for these dogs. The only problem, without trying to do electrodiagnostic testing, is that we will not know if it will work without doing the rehab and we have to try for 4-6 weeks without improvement to determine if it will not work.

In a case like Cassidy’s we have two goals – increase brachial plexus and radial nerve function and reduce flexor muscle contraction.

Therapies to reduce flexor muscle contraction –

  • Laser Therapy
  • Ultrasound Therapy
  • Manual Manipulation and Stretching
Therapies to increase brachial plexus and radial nerve function –
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Laser Therapy
  • Electrostimulation
  • Manual Therapy and exercises to coax her to extend

Cassidy’s first visit we did laser therapy and chiropractic. Electrical acupuncture the next week. The third week we saw no improvement so we started electrical stimulation and laser therapy weekly along with exercises to entice her to extend her leg. The very next week we noticed movement in her triceps muscles! Some progress which meant that the brachial plexus was intact and eventually she would heal she just needed some stimulation.

There still was no movement even with electrical stimulation to the extensor muscles that controlled her carpus (wrist). What is very interesting is that if the nerve does not function electrical stimulation will not contract the muscle no matter how high of an electrical current you place into the muscle. If the nerve doesn’t work, the muscle does not work period. However repeated electrical stimulation will entice the nerve to function. I was a little discouraged that we had movement in the triceps but not the digital extensors I was starting to fear that the damage to the radial nerve was too great and we were not going to get that function back.

The very next week Cassidy came in still the same and although she was really extending her elbow. Although weak she was extending it during play, but the wrist remained contracted and unable to extend. We could straighten the wrist out about 80% of normal manually but there was no movement in the extensors, that is until we placed the electrical stimulator on her. We have movement with electrical stimulation to her toes! Way to go Cassidy!

We are going to continue electrical stimulation and exercises to entice her to extend her limb for the next few weeks. Hopefully in the next month or two she will be back to normal. Her brachial plexus and her radial nerve damage will be repaired and she will have normal function an start rebuilding the muscle she lost from the last 6 months.

Canine Case of the Week: Bear and Cervical IVDD

August 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Canine Case of the Week is Bear a special dog with Intervertebral Disk Disease in the cervical spine. What makes Bear special is that he is also a cancer patient, OK he is a good dog too! Bear is one of my lucky patients that has been able to take advantage of the new information about acupuncture I have learned from the Chi Institute in my process to acupuncture certification.

Bear - Cervical IVDD case Bear is a 10 year old neutered male black Lab. He was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma of the jaw in December 2010. The tumor was wrapped around his lower canine and it bled every time he ate. When it was discovered that it was cancer Bear underwent surgery to have the front third of his lower jaw removed. He recovered fine from the surgery and no longer had bleeding every time he ate.

Shortly after his jaw surgery he started limping on his left front leg. Of course thinking the worse his owner brought him right away to a specialist and discovered that no the cancer had not spread but actually Bear had a strained tendon in his elbow. The specialist injected the elbow with corticosteroid and the limping improved. Unfortunately he developed a neck problem 2 weeks afterwards.

Bear has had issues with his neck for a long time. He would be stiff and a little painful to the touch. His owner would give him aspirin and in a day he would bounce back, however this time was different. He did not bounce back and in fact became worse. He could not turn his head to the left without being in pain. Back to the vet Bear went. His cervical spine was radiographed and luckily no signs of cancer, but also no significant findings for a problem relating to his pain in the neck. He was diagnosed with Cervical Intervertebral Disk Disease or Cervical IVDD. An MRI could be done to confirm the diagnosis but with the expense, the fact that an MRI may not be as reliable as once thought for diagnosis of IVDD, the fact that Bear has gone through a lot already and most important the owner was not wishing to put Bear through another surgery and only wants him comfortable for how ever many months she has left with Bear, an MRI was not performed and Bear was given typical conservative pain management pharmaceuticals – muscle relaxers and pain relievers. He did this for a couple of months. It did not help enough and in May it became much worse. He could not raise his head comfortably and he was placed on more pain relievers. In June when nothing else seemed to be helping Bear’s owner called me.

My first visit Bear was mildy depressed but still happy to visit. He could not raise his head very well, looked uncomfortable and certainly could not turn his head left. He was not sleeping well at night. He was very painful when touching his neck or trying to move his head. I spent time massaging and doing chiropractic adjustments to help relieve some of his tension and pain. I also prescribed Gabapentin for the neuropathic pain since none of the pain relievers he was on were seeming to help.

A week later I revisited and readjusted. He was improved. His pain was mostly gone but he still could not turn his head to the left.

The next week I revisited again and now he could turn his head about 50% to the left and still no pain. I adjusted him again and was happy with the progress. However Bear had other plans with his new found reduction in pain.

The problem with giving a dog pain relievers, or doing modalities such as chiropractic or acupuncture is that they do relieve pain. The problem with relieving pain is that the area is still healing and can take 12 weeks to heal completely, but since there is no pain the dog will use the area like there is nothing wrong. If the dog feels better and does something it should not it can re-injure the area and start the whole cascade of events all over. That’s what Bear did!

He was happy feeling better and became excited one day. The owner knew that she needed to keep him calm and not do any activity with him, but Bear had other ideas and decide to play hard for a couple minutes and re-injured himself. When I saw him we were back to square one! He was in pain again and could not turn his head at all. We started over. I massaged and adjusted him and and was coming back the next week, after my trip to the Chi Institute.

Monday, after my course work at the Chi Institute I visited Bear He was out of pain but still could not move his head to the left. I had some small needles that I usually use for horse legs. I did some acupuncture for Bear’s neck and I have a laser machine and lasered a few acupuncture points as well. The treatment lasted about 20 min. After the treatment was over, Bear got up shook all over and whined at the door. He went out, went to the bathroom, came back in and went right for his toy box. The owner and I were quick to tell him – OH NO. She told him to go lay down. The owner and I could tell he was feeling very spunky and wanted to play. He felt very good. So I went onto my soapbox and told her how he needed to rest and definitely needed to be confined and not allowed to play. The problem with acupuncture is that they feel too good and can re-injure themselves. All the while I was talking (preaching) Bear was laying with his right side against a wall, obviously upset that he was told he could not play, and at one point the owner and I looked at him and he looked back at us. It only took a couple seconds for it to register that he was turning his head to the left to look straight back at us!

Here was a dog that had for months not been able to turn his head to the left and I thought I had made some big progress with the chiropractic treatments to get him to turn his head 50% of the way and now he was turning his head like nothing was ever wrong. He had no pain and had full range of motion from one 20 min treatment of acupuncture.

Today I visited Bear and he is almost completely normal. He is off all the medications except for the Gabapentin which he has started weaning off. He has a little limp in his left front leg but his neck shows no sign of pain and has about 90% range of motion. I treated him with electroacupuncture today and will visit him again in two weeks.

I have a new found respect for acupuncture and will be incorporating it more and more in my treatment protocols. I will be suggesting it to clients more frequently and eventually I can see that my practice will be a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine practice using herbs and acupuncture with some chiropractic and physical therapy added. Thank you Bear for the excellent results that were way beyond my expectations. With more treatments I am hoping to help him with his elbow pain and extend his life comfortably despite living with an aggressive cancer.