Veterinary Rehabilitation and Hydrotherapy

Heather Alexander – congenital spinal deformity

History

Heather was a  whippet rescue bitch. Following an acute onset of lameness, veterinary investigations revealed a spinal-cord compression and kyphosis posture affecting the thoracic spine. The decision was made to proceed with surgery, so a dorsal hemi-laminectomy was performed. The nurses at Anderson and Sturgess veterinary referral centre carried out the basic postoperative physiotherapy. Karl Jones was contacted by the surgeon James Grierson soon after. He assessed Heather at Kennel & Paddock to devise her rehabilitation plan.

Assessment

At assessment, Heather was unable to stand unaided, and showed an increased extensor tone in her hindlimb muscles with any effort. This increased tone made even simple movements difficult for her to perform, and her overall movement pattern and mobility was incredibly uncontrolled. Range of motion of her joints was largely quite good, although there was a degree of tightness into hip extension, due to a combination of increased quadriceps tone and limited stifle mobility. Muscle wasting was also evident throughout her hindlimbs and paraspinals.

Treatment

Heather’s treatment included electrical muscle stimulation to multiple muscle groups; soft-tissue massage; passive mobilisations to the scapular region, hindlimb joints and lumbar spine; together with soft-tissue stretches. Functional exercises included active-assisted sternal lying; and sit-to-stand practice/weight-transference exercises using a gym ball. The owners were taught simple exercises, massage techniques and positioning to aid Heather’s recovery.

Within a month, Heather found a new novelty to look at and wondered what kept following her around: it was her tail. She became noticeably stronger with normal functional daily activities, and began to stand independently for short periods. The owners reported several moments where Heather independently stood in her cage or off her blanket whilst sunbathing. Her exercise programme was advanced accordingly, with her owners participating fully in her ongoing rehabilitation schedule.

Two months post-op and Heather was able to walk independently, although balance and proprioception remained a problem. Due to Heathers’ poor hindlimb placement, she scraped her claws, which caused her to claws to bleed.  Her owners persevered diligently with the prescribed exercise programme, and Heather’s progress continued.

Outcome

Heather’s mobility has residual limitations, but she can physically do most things, and appears happy with life once again.

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