The Pet PT Pit Stop: “Dear Diary” - A Practical Method to manage your Dog’s Care Plan

by Susan E. Davis, PT “pull in for a helpful refuel!”  

It’s all about guiding and empowering you to help your dog avoid injury, provide practical solutions and achieve rapid restoration of health and function!   

You’ve probably figured me out by now, that is, if you’ve read some of my articles or book. I have an obsession with helping dog owners gain knowledge and empower them to be proactive in their dog’s health care. It must be the force behind what inevitably connected me to your blog author, Jana Rade and a host of others such as Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Carol Bryant, etc.

It’s a trait shared by many physical therapists: that desire to help patients take an active role in their treatment. 

We want you to be successful in achieving your goals.

When I transitioned from human to veterinary care, I quickly realized that now I would have two patients per case: the dog and their owner!

So much for getting away from people--people are still attached to dogs! But that’s part of the challenge and excitement. There are exceptions such as a client who called me recently. She expressed financial woes and the inability to afford weekly PT sessions.  I replied: “no problem, I can come for just one session and teach you a home program to carry out with your dog!” I knew there was trouble when she exclaimed, “well I don’t know…. How much time is that going to take me every day? I may be too busy!”
But most of my clients are eager to learn any and all methods to help their dogs through the recovery and rehabilitation process.

A tool I often recommend is a hand-written diary or computer spreadsheet of information, to organize the care plan and document various daily factors. 

This helps track trends that may be present relating to weather, home environment, etc. The diary gives an overview of the dog’s status and helps predict when to expect improvement and achievement of goals.

It is most useful in clinical situations where there has been extensive illness or disability. 

Recently I recommended this for 2 canine patients: one having just come home from inpatient veterinary hospitalization for fever, tick-borne infection and pericarditis, resulting in extreme weakness and loss of mobility.

The other case involved Degenerative Myelopathy which had recently worsened and advanced into the forelimbs.

In both cases the owners were frantic with worry and needed a practical way to organize the management of daily care. 

I set the clients up with a structured diary in Excel spreadsheet format.

They entered the data throughout the day, then we reviewed it each time I came for PT. They also printed it out to take to their veterinarian for follow-up visits.

Having personally experienced acute illness involving hospitalization with my dachshund Penelope, I relate to dog owner anxiety, worry and stress.

I find the diary an effective tool to provide a measure of control and help cope with the enormity of the situation.

Here are some sample data points to track:
  • Date
  • Time
  • List of care activities: such as exercises, walks, sensory stimulation, wound care, dressing changes, medication administration, etc.
  • Weather
  • Dog’s response and mood
  • Bowel/bladder status
  • Eating: amount and type of food
  • Drinking: intake of water
  • Miscellaneous events of the day such as family visits, outings
  • Trends: every few days make an entry of any trends, patterns or correlations that you find

Below is an actual spreadsheet for a client, showing some of the above-mentioned areas.

Maccabbee Schoenberg Care Plan and Daily Diary
Date Weather Walk/AM 1 Walk/AM 2 Exercises Stim Walk/Aft Exercises Appetite Stim Walk/PM Response Mood Misc
7/14/2014 Humid,
10 min
up hill
done 11:00am 5 min wi PT PT Normal play short moderate assist of 1-2 depressed PT wi S Davis NS Vet Tech pf
7/1/6/2014 Humid,
10 min
5 min
in yard
done noon done 5 min in yard skipped Good music 8 min in neighborhood hind quarter sling fatigued
7/17/2014 Warm 10 min 6 min noon yes 5 min in yard 3:00p, Good patterning 10 min in neighborhood better happy parents visited rode in car
18-Jul Warm,
6 min
8 min
1:00pm done 10 min wi PT 3:00p, Good brushing 10 min in park no sling needed excited, anxious PT wi Sue Davis
7/20/2014 Stormy none none 10:00 AM playing wi ball 8 min street raining Good music 12 min street a bit limpy a little painful but willing
Trends: does better in the evening tolerating longer walks

A care plan diary can take on many formats, but the best one is that which helps you manage and optimize your dog’s health.  It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give our them!

Editor's note: I had been using a diary (well, I call it a chart) for years. First for Jasmine, and now for Cookie. I find that to be an indispensable tool. I like using colored fields and symbols for an easy at-a-glance overview of trends.


Susan E. Davis (Sue) is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 30 years of practice in the human field, who transitioned into the animal world after taking courses at the UT Canine Rehabilitation program.  She is located in Red Bank, New Jersey.

She has been providing PT services to dogs and other animals through her entity Joycare Onsite, LLC in pet’s homes and in vet clinics since 2008.

She also provides pro bono services at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, NJ.  Sue is the proud “dog mommy” to Penelope, a miniature Dachshund with “attitude”.  For more information see her website , or follow on Twitter @animalPTsue.

Sue is also the author of a fantastic book on physical therapy, Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation For Animals: A Guide For The Consumer.  

Physical therapy can do so many great things for your dog. Understanding all the possibilities physical therapy can offer will change your dog's life. This book definitely belongs on the shelf of every dog lover.

Articles by Susan E. Davis:
Functional Strengthening Exercises: the What, Why and How
One Thing Leads To Another: Why The Second ACL Often Goes Too
Compensation: An Attempt To Restore Harmony
Paring Down to the Canine Core
Canine Massage: Every Dog ‘Kneads’ It”
Photon Power: Can Laser Therapy Help Your Dog?  
Physical Therapy in the Veterinary World  
Reiki: Is it real? 
Dog Lessons: Cooper  
The Essentials Of Canine Injury Prevention: 7 Tips For Keeping Your Dog Safer 
It's Not Just Walking, It's Therapy! 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I)
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
Range Of Motion: It’s A Matter Of Degree…
The Weight Of Water And How It Helps Dogs 
By Land or By Sea? A Comparison of Canine Treadmills 
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part I)
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part II) 
Scar Tissue: Is it Too Much of a Good Thing? 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ramps! 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Indoor Duo Dog Exercises!
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Best Practices After Your Dog’s Surgery 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ideas to Chew on - Can Physical Therapy Help with my Dog’s Digestive Problems?
Wrap It Up: Using Soft Supports For Your Dog
When Do I Use Heat versus Cold? : A Tale (or Tail) Of Two Temps! (Part I) 
When Do I Use Heat versus Cold? : A Tale (or Tail) Of Two Temps! (Part II) 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Safe Summer Boating Tips for your Dog 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Hip Dysplasia - What’s a Dawg Mama to Do?
PT Pit Stop: Wheeled Carts Keep Them Doggies Rollin' (Part I)
PT Pit Stop: Wheeled Carts Keep Them Doggies Rollin' (Part II)
Staying in the Loop with Targeted Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy
Addressing Frailty Syndrome in Geriatric Dogs 
The Pet PT Pit Stop: "Where's The Evidence?"
Physical Therapy is Great, Except When It Isn’t 
Top Dogs and their Toplines at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Part I)
Top Dogs and their Toplines at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Part II) 
What's in a Dog's Gait? 


  1. Is your chart on your computer or an iphone app? I've been trying to figure a really good, visual chart that's easy to use to track training sessions!

    1. Sue's is a spreadsheet so I imagine on a computer. For myself I actually keep one in my design software, so also on a computer. (I like using colors and icons for easy at a glance trends overview (I linked to what that looks like in the editor's note).

      I think iphone would have it way too tiny to actually see anything on there ... ? I'd say it has to be either desktop or at least iPad. Not aware of any actual apps (though there might be some); both Sue and I just make them the way we like them using software we're comfortable using.


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