Homework Exercise Review for Elderly Sheepdog with Hind-End Neurological Problems
Here is the short write-up of my recommendations/reminders for Abby’s functional rehab and the process I believe will improve her neuro-muscular capabilities and strength.
Some of this will be stuff I’ve mentioned several times over the course of working with Abby, however it bears review, and most of the time, when I reevaluate a program, often we need to go back closer to a beginning point and press forward methodically in order to achieve expected gains.
I can’t emphasise enough how beneficial the vibrational massage is, even if you do it every other day instead of every day for now. For a refresher, please watch the 10 minute video here:
And do it as best possible without cutting corners. Pertinent questions are also covered in the video, as well as methodology and benefits. Make sure you change out the batteries as soon as they seem dull, because the best benefit from this massage is realised from the vibration, which stimulates circulation, lessens tension, and potentially improves nerve conduction. I recommend, for now, doing the massage at the end of the day, at bedtime or thereabouts.
For the next week, please walk Abby twice daily, super slowly and consistently, without stopping, for 15 minutes. There are very many reasons why I use this method, and they all contribute to the gains we are trying to achieve. Super slow walking encourages use of all limbs to the best of their ability. Abby has already been able to walk multiple times daily, super slowly, for five and ten minute sessions, having built up slowly. Using the same exercise protocol for a week allows more time for the body to adjust to the work load, and it should go well, because these are introductory workouts, to build a base.
For the following week, please walk her 2×20 minutes in the same manner, if the 15 minute walks are completed well. She should be able to complete these walks without dragging a hind limb and without sagging or falling down. Otherwise, she needs to return to 10 minute walks and do them multiple times daily to ensure success. I am not after complete fatigue and maxing ability at this point; I am after building successful progress, which I believe her body will adapt and accomplish.
I really would like her to wear two supportive hard braces during these walks, and I realise you have only one. She hyper-extends her tarsal joints, and in order to use her hind legs properly and to subsequently use the muscles better/properly, the supportive brace that prevents hyper-extension while she is doing her slow drills would be additionally beneficial. (Orthovet Splint) Use the one you have on her R hind, since that leg has the most deficits and is the weakest. She hyper-extends because of nerve weakness and defecits.
After the week of 2×20 min slow, relatively flat walks, please add in cavalettis, obstacles, to improve her proprioception. This may be accomplished in many ways and several locations around your environment. I have photos on my rehab FB site that depict a trained sporting dog doing cavalettis using an extension ladder. I have a video on this site of a cat with neuro problems using a lineup of remote controls across a bar top. I have a pic on my FB site of another older dog using obstacles in the back yard. When time allows, I will attach some of those pictures to this post.
Abby needs to do the cavalettis every other day and during one of the walk workout times. You should warm her up walking for 5 minutes then do obstacle repeats for 10-15 minutes. I suggest you use about 5 items in a row, spaced about half an Abby-length apart, and between 4-6 inches high for now. If we could get the old cat to do the work, I’m pretty sure we can get Abby to do it! If she is too stubborn for you, I will be glad to take a rehab session and work with you and her on this drill.
After a week of this drill, keep doing it as prescribed, and add in hill repeats every third day as one of her twice-daily workouts. I suggest walking out the front door, around to the back yard, and then up and down the hill on the far side of the house for 10-15 minutes, very slowly. I was able to get her to do this work this past summer when I came for rehab checks.
During the hill phase, it may be more beneficial for Abby to receive laser therapy on the hill work days. This should have the effect of stimulating nerves and cellular process and often improves work ability in the older and neuro-challenged animals. In her condition, I see reason to have twice-weekly laser sessions for at least a month.
I think it would be great if you were able to just start where I suggest, as if we were beginning from scratch, and let’s see the progress that comes from scripted protocol and collaborative effort. She won’t improve from this point if she keeps doing the same walks and leads the same life she has been leading…the body stagnates, and the same happens for humans as well. Our brains aim toward conservation while our bodies are able to do more. I believe, based on my experience that is also based on years of research, that we will see strength and muscle gains if you start here again. I suggest we review in one month after these exercises have been completed. I will then revise the protocol and change the challenges.