For the Silver Muzzles, Rehabilitation for Our Aging Patients

by Colleen Lum, LVT, CCRA

Rehabilitation for our aging and end of life patients

Nikita - 10March2015Sometimes we make it to that stage where comfort and overall quality of life is our biggest priority with our older pets. Ensuring that they have more good days than bad are still able to be a part of the family and enjoy doing what they love. In these cases, rehabilitation can help keep them in that place of comfort. So often you may see videos of a dog that had a stifle surgery working on our equipment or a neurological patient taking its first steps in the underwater treadmill.  But the reality is that a large portion of our patients are our aging pets that are having trouble getting up or slowing down on their usual walks. And even for some of those pets, our goal is making them comfortable during whatever time we are blessed with them.

I was in this exact place at the end of the year 2013 and my joining Pawsitive Steps couldn’t come at a more perfect time. His name was Scout and he had suddenly transformed from a bouncy, crazed Golden retriever Labrador mix puppy, to an ambling, gentle old soul. I swear I can’t remember when the white mask started to show, or when he stopped wandering in the field, tail wagging, full of burs and sticks. We affectionately referred to him as our “old man dog”.

As I learned about the ease of pain that laser therapy could provide for our aging patients and the low impact exercise that the underwater treadmill offered I decided to bring him to work with me to be looked over. He had muscle atrophy and limited range of motion in all of his joints and an obvious lameness noted in all four limbs. I felt horrible for not noticing how he had aged, and that his joint pain had been present for some time, but when you see your pet every day, it’s not always easy to see the gradual changes in them.

Digger - 15th bday - 1Dec2015 (1)Scout wasn’t a fan of baths, and his only love of water could be observed in the ditch in front of my parent’s house. So, needless to say he didn’t care for the underwater treadmill very much. His favorite thing was when he was able to sleep while being treated with acupuncture and laser therapy.

For months he would accompany me to work every Friday, and during those months we noticed improvements. No, he wasn’t running across the field or chasing the neighborhood cats, but he was getting up easier. His walk was less rickety and he didn’t pant so much. Our goals were simple, realistic, and obtainable; we wanted him to be comfortable for as long as he was with us. And he was.

At the end of the day, we all want what is best for our pets. Their only fault is the short amount of time we have with them.  But there are things we can do to help make their quality of life the best it can be until then. Whether it’s maintaining the strength to get up from their bed, or just being able to walk up the two steps leading to the house, we can offer pain relief for arthritic joints and low impact exercise for gentle strength training. They are a part of our family as much as they are a part of us.

To read more about how about how rehabilitation can help your aging pet, follow this link.