Meet Charles J. Schnickelfritz - aka "Charlie" - our December Pet of the Month! Charlie is an 11 year old, Labrador Retriever, who had been treated for a re-occurring soft tissue sarcoma at his R carpus (wrist). Surgical attempts to remove the tumor were not successful, so R front leg amputation was performed in July 2015. Prior to his amputation, Charlie enjoyed lots of activities with his family and they wanted to keep the "puppy side" going for as long as possible. Charlie started chemotherapy and rehabilitation therapy at about the same time. On physical examination, we found that Charlie had myofascial back pain and arthritis (DJD, degenerative joint disease) in his L carpus, his tarsal (ankle) joints and several toes. Additionally, he had bilateral thigh atrophy due to needing to adjust to being a "tripod", or three-legged dog.
Forelimb tripods can live long wonderful lives, but it is a big lifestyle change and can lead to some other issues for these pets. The gait of a front limb amputee forces them to "jump" or "lunge" forward to advance the single remaining limb as they walk. This puts a lot of traumatic force on the remaining front leg, especially the carpus/wrist. Dogs like Charlie are at risk for progression of his L carpal arthritis and potential "break down" or hyperextension of the joint over time.
Our goals for Charlie's rehabilitation therapy include:
· To strengthen his core muscles, especially his back muscles, to help minimize his myofascial back pain.
· To promote good movement of his spinal motion units through spinal manipulation, which is important due to his tripod gait.
· To strengthen his thigh muscles since much of his mobility is driven from the rear now.
· To support his L carpal joint due to the repetitive trauma that his tripod gait, unfortunately, creates.
· To minimize discomfort associated with Charlie’s arthritic joints.
· To maintain a healthy weight so that he does not have to carry extra weight over time.
· To monitor for any orthopedic or muscular problems along the way and address them early if they arise.
Charlie's rehabilitation therapy program includes therapeutic exercises, underwater treadmill use, massage, VSMT (Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy, aka "animal chiropractic”). Charlie has been fitted for a right carpal support as precautionary measure to help avoid complications with his arthritis (hopefully, he won’t need a more significant orthotic device in the future).