Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Physical Therapy for Dogs: My Foreword for All Hands on Pet!

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 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. 

Susan wrote some wonderful articles for my blog and will soon be publishing her second book on animal physical therapy. It's been my honor to write a foreword for both of her books.

Physical Therapy for Dogs: Your How-To Guide on Home Physical Therapy Methods for Pets is coming this fall! Make sure you grab your copy as soon as it becomes available.


What do you think of when you hear the words physical therapy?

“If you keep making that face it will stick.” Have you ever been told that when you were a kid? Did your face stick that way? Did it? What if I said it only depends on the amount of time you’d make that face?

A body, whether dog’s or human’s, isn’t a machine with an immutable form and shape. Rather, it is an adaptive system designed to respond to challenges it faces. Muscles grow being put to work and atrophy when not used. Bones get stronger with the amount of g-force they are challenged to withstand. That’s why astronauts come back from the weightless environment with depleted bone strength. Even something as underestimated as posture can have a profound effect on function and health.

Any daily activity, or lack thereof, communicates to the body in which ways it needs to adjust. Such adjustments can be either beneficial or detrimental. And if the challenge exceeds the body’s capacity, it results in an injury. And all this time we’re talking about a normal, healthy dog.

If there already has been an injury, or a chronic condition that interferes with normal function, the overall impact is even higher. To function, the body will compensate for the weakened parts, taking on the additional strain elsewhere. Many of these compensations might not even be apparent until things break down. Similar to the Jenga (name of the game?) game, you can take out a whole bunch of pieces before the structure collapses.

Where does physical therapy come into all this?

Physical therapy is the taking of control over the outside stimuli to maintain or restore balance and health. Physical therapy is a way of talking to your dog’s body, telling it to “stop making that face or it will stick.”

For many years now, physical therapy has been my go-to strategy to help my dogs recover from injuries or surgeries. When the balance in the body is lost, it is ever-crucial to help restore it. No amount of drugs can do that in themselves. No surgery can have a successful outcome without it. Though pain management is a cornerstone of getting anywhere because as long as there is pain, the body will not be convinced to use the part that is hurting. Ironically, though, not using it is likely to cause more pain and you might find yourself in a vicious circle going nowhere.

Taking care of the pain, taking care of the parts of the body that had been carrying the additional burden to compensate, and helping the weak part regain function are all equally important. Where full health cannot be restored, physical therapy becomes about supporting the function as it were as well as helping the body cope with the challenges.

One thing I myself failed to realize until recently, is how important the role of physical therapy can be in prevention of injuries or chronic issues. It wasn’t until Cookie’s series of injuries when I realized that we should have been working with her body for it to be able to withstand Cookie’s spirit. Especially since, as we learned, she did bring baggage from her past in the form of an old pelvic injury and one hind leg being longer than the other.

She was young and enthusiastic, and healthy or so we thought. Without anybody noticing, one piece of the puzzle stack was being taken out after another until the structure crumbled. We used regenerative medicine and physical therapy to get Cookie well again, and we now use it preventively as well.

Rather than simply physical therapy, it might be better to think of it as physical therapy and modulation. It’s time we all start seriously thinking about how the body works and what physical challenges our dogs confront every day, whether in sickness or in health.

To a dog, movement is life. For my dogs, being able to go out, hike, run, play, or chase things, has always been what made them the happiest. While recovering from her injuries, Cookie did enjoy various tricks, games, and puzzles we did together. But it was obvious that no amount of such activities was as good as ten minutes of chasing after critters.

Regardless of your dog’s physical condition, physical therapy is a way to help them to enjoy as much as possible, and as well as possible. Physical therapy will help your dog to maintain or regain the joy of movement.


For more information see Sue's website www.joycareonsite.com , or follow her on Twitter @animalPTsue.

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? 
A Practical Method to manage your Dog’s Care Plan 
Wound Care 101 (Part I The Basics) 
Wound Care 101 (Part II Wound Management)
Prevention and Management of Hip Dysplasia in Puppies: Attention all Breeders!
Support and Braces
Vaccinosis - A Vexing Conundrum 
The Pet PT Pit Stop: Blame it on the Weather, Really!
Relief for Laryngeal Paralysis using Physical Therapy 
Is the Treatment Necessary? Is It Working? 
Preventing CCL (ACL) Tears (Part 1 of series on Cruciate Ligament Tears) 
“All or None, or Partial?” (Part 2 of  series on Cruciate Ligament Tears)
Full Ligament Tears (Part 3 of series on Cruciate Ligament Tears.)

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