Dogs that follow either a home-based rehabilitation program or those who work with a Rehabilitation practitioner, such as a Veterinary Physiotherapist usually have better results following surgery.
Home Exercise Program for Dogs with IVDD – Surgical or Medical
- Crate rest or confinement.
- Take your dog out at regular, frequent intervals (6 – 7x per day) to urinate. Ensure your dog is in a harness and on a leash so as to avoid sudden movements that could cause further damage to the spinal cord. After urination assist your dog to stand, and help with balance. Use a sling if necessary. Maintain this for 2 – 3 minutes. If he/she falls over, assist back into a standing position and start again.
- If your dog is unable to walk then perform rhythmic stabilisations in the form of bouncing the hindquarters. Do 20 ‘bounces’ then rest. Perform 3 sets of 20 three times a day.
- Further rhythmic stabilisations can be done when your dog is strong enough. These take the form of rocking your dog from side to side. Move 20 times to each side and then rest. Do 3 sets 3x a day. Later add rocking from front to back.
- Passive range of motion is important for joint health. Bicycle movements can be done with your dog lying on his side, or in a standing position. Bicycling movements must be done on both sides, 10x each side. Repeat at least 3x a day.
- The flexor withdrawal reflex also contributes to range of motion. With your dog lying down, gently tickle beneath the paws, or squeeze the webbing should your dog not respond to the tickling. Your dog will retract his paw. Do this 3 to 4 times each side, at least 3 times a day. As your dog improves, offer some resistance when your dog retracts his leg.
- Any form of sensory and tactile stimulation is important in neurological rehabilitation. Brush your dog, especially on the legs and against the lay of the fur. Do this whenever you have an opportunity.
- Tail stimulations are an important part of sensory and tactile stimulation. Do these with your fingers on the side (10 times) and repeat with your fingers placed on the top and bottom of the tail (10 times). Perform tail stims at least 3 times a day.
- If your dog is able to walk then place in a sling and assist with regular short walks (at least 4x a day, starting with 3 minutes). Choose as many different surfaces as possible for increased sensory input. As your dog improves gradually increase the time.
Here are a few exercises you can perform at home designed to greatly improve the outcome of your dog's IVDD surgery and improve the rate of recovery.