Why You Should Consider Dog Rehab BEFORE Surgery

In October of 2014 my husband and I noticed our Bernese Mountain dog, Bethany, began limping. It was evident the issue was the front left shoulder. We went to our regular vet where we were referred to an orthopedic surgeon (DACVS) who specializes in soft tissue injuries.

At our appointment the doctor conducted an examination and took x-rays, determining she most likely had a tear in her ligament. We were given a couple of options: surgery or rehabilitation.

Dog Rehab and Go With the Basics Before Operation

The surgery had a long recovery period and there was a chance it wouldn’t work. Bethany was a 6-year-old puppy mill breeder dog that had been rescued and already had been through so much. The thought of putting her through an extensive surgery didn’t feel right. It was then that the doctor started discussing rehab. I’ll be honest, up to that point I had no idea there are rehabilitation facilities for dogs.

Since Bethany was an older dog and was never going to be running agility, our hope was just to have her comfortable and give her a good quality of life, the orthopedist felt rehab was a very good option. It’s non-invasive and worst case scenario it doesn’t work and then we take surgery into consideration. We made an appointment to go get a consultation.

The rehab facility is dedicated to decreasing pain, increasing function and improving the quality of life for your pet.

The first thing is the initial consultation and evaluation of you and your pet. An individual plan is designed, based on multiple measurements, your goals and time. This includes a home exercise and care program, an outpatient therapy program or inpatient care.

There are a number of treatment options: cold laser, electrical stimulation, therapeutic ultrasound, thermal, cryotherapy, therapeutic exercise, aquatic therapy, and massage therapy.

We had a choice to sign up for a series of sessions in a package or individually. We chose the series of six sessions which entailed going once a week for a half hour treatment. The last session is a combination treatment and reassessment to see if your dog has achieved the goals set at the beginning of treatment.

Our course of treatment was a custom brace to keep Bethany’s shoulder stable, aquatic therapy which consists of the underwater treadmill, cavalettis, and cold laser. At home we had daily exercises to do with her along with thermal heating, heat packs.

At the end of Bethany’s treatment she had made tremendous progress but we still had a ways to go so we signed up for another 6 sessions. After a lot of hard work she graduated at the end of the six weeks. She was like a new dog and we did it all without her having to go under the knife. The difference was truly amazing and we were so happy we chose rehab over surgery.

Two years later I am back at the same rehab facility with my other Bernese Mountain dog, Goliath. He has two compressed discs in his lower back, a shoulder issue, and arthritis in both back legs. He is 8 years old and not an ideal candidate for surgery unless it was an emergency. Knowing the difference it made for Bethany we didn’t hesitate about getting him into rehab. He is halfway through his six sessions and already making huge strides.

Rehab can be used to treat orthopedic and neurological conditions.

It can also help with weight management and athletic conditioning. Or used as your pet has surgery to help with the recovery time.

If there comes a time when your dog has an injury and may need surgery I highly recommend checking into rehab first to see if it is an option. Surgery doesn’t always solve an issue and sometimes can make it worse. A rehabilitation facility may be the perfect solution for you and your dog.

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lisa hoefingerLisa Hoefinger

Lisa Hoefinger- I have worked in dog rescue for a number of years. I’m currently owned by two Berners and a Chowberger. In case you’re wondering, that’s a chow leonberger mix. My two Berners, Goliath and Aggie, are rescues from the Bernese Auction Rescue Coalition (BARC). My chowberger, Kensy, was pulled from death row and we have volunteered as a pet therapy team with Happy Tails for the last 6 years. Because one can never have too many dogs I also run my own pet sitting business, so we always have a guest or two. I’m the owner of The Good Dogma Company and I was the publicist for the first book written through a dog’s eyes, Bad To The Bone: Memoir of A Rebel Doggie Blogger by Bo Hoefinger, to be published by a national publishing house (Kensignton Books). He now spends his days working on Bo Knows Online while I spend my days surrounded by dogs and blogging on a variety of topics.


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One Response to Why You Should Consider Dog Rehab BEFORE Surgery

  1. Kim Brooks says:

    I was reading 20 Ways to Help Dogs In Your Community Today. One of the ways said, “If your dog is a good fit, sign up for a pet therapy program.”, also in 4Knines. It erroneously linked to THIS article – I seriously doubt that this is the kind of therapy it meant. I have done pet therapy with two different dogs and plan to continue. You might want to change the link.

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