About Exercise Physiology-Based Veterinary Rehabilitation, Rehabdeb, Rehabilitation and Conditioning for Animals, and Move2Live
Check out our Moving2Live interview about exercise physiology-based veterinary rehabilitation! Rehabilitation and Conditioning for Animals is now live on the Moving2Livewebsite. You may find a direct link to the podcast here: http://bit.ly/M2L-Rehabdeb
The interview discusses my background and exercise physiology-based veterinary rehabilitation. You may also find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify and other platforms by searching “Moving2Live.”
What is Exercise Physiology-Based Veterinary Rehabilitation and Rehabilitation and Conditioning for Animals?
Rehabilitation and Conditioning for Animals provides science-based functional rehabilitation. This includes wellness conditioning, nutrition counseling, and athletic training. This approach works for all ages and stages of companion animals, in collaboration with veterinarians. Our goal is to also engage community and worldwide participation in programs that benefit the human-pet experience.
My programs are based on over four decades of my having participated in and having worked deeply in human sport science, nutrition, and functional recovery. All of those same basic operational principles translate to care of our pets. These programs are additionally based on my experiences working hands-on with veterinary specialists. Through this I gained knowledge of diagnostic approaches and medical treatment options. I put that knowledge with decades of historical knowledge in order to create simple plans for you and your pets!
This has trained me to combine navigation of difficult issues with a vast library of recovery info to help you further with your pet. I’ve participated in medical, neurological, and surgical specialty evaluations of patients. This additionally helps me to translate what is going on with your pet to you. A pet injury is often a whirlwind of confusion for pet companions!
I design these programs so that almost anyone may use them at home, therefore veterinary clinics may use them as well.You may do all rehabilitation on pets in the home or regular veterinarian’s environment in most cases.
Get the Word out and Get in Touch!
You probably already know how the internet works regarding “getting the word out”. Please spread the word if you have benefited from this rehab. It’s a great idea to share the interview with co-workers, friends, and family! You never know who needs the help or who knows someone else who needs rehabilitation and conditioning for animals.
Follow the exercise and recovery information I have on this website and/or in my books. Afterward if you would like advanced exercises to complete the rehabilitation, you will then need to contact me for a consult. There is a contact form at the bottom of this page <<Click on link . Use this form to contact mto schedule a paid phone or in-person consult with me for rehabilitation for your pet.
I hope you are well, stay well, and help others to be well-
A quick bit of info for you after your pet has had surgery.
I do work on lots of cats and a variety of other animals. If you want to know more about cat specifics now, please search for cat in the search box. I’m still working on developing the cat information pages.
For more specific info on a particular condition, please refer to the menus at the top of the page. If you do not see what you are looking for, please use the search box on any page.
If the injury is a torn knee ligament, then pleaseclick here to read more info about that condition. After that, please go to the instructions on this page!
“My pet just had surgery… …and now that I’ve gotten them home, I realize I’m not really sure what to do!!”
First and foremost: pay attention to the discharge instructions your veterinarian has given you if your pet just had surgery or you have received instruction about an injury. Please pay special attention to the part about no running, jumping, or playing. You and your pet will be doing good work for recovery if you exactly follow my booklet instructions.
If your veterinarian did not say so, please note there should not be any flying over couches, no galloping on stairs, no jumping into or out of cars and trucks, no jumping onto couches or your bed, no jumping off of couches or beds, no twisting very fast in tight circles, no sliding on ice or slippery floors, and no freedom in and out of doggie doors. No owner jumping out from behind things to scare the dog into running crazy funny around the house like you sometimes like to do.
No running really means no running…
…to the door when the doorbell rings, no running away from Halloween costumes, no running from one end of the house to the kitchen every time the fridge or a plastic bag is opened, no running to you when you yell to ask the dog if it wants to go outside, no kitty running from anything right after surgery, and no running inside after the ball, which is very similar to no running outside after the ball. No, no swimming until at least eight weeks after surgery and then only if no lameness is present at a slow walk.
This bookis specifically addressing surgery after a torn knee ligament. Until I am able to publish the books I am working on that deal with soft tissue surgeries, hip issues, other knee issues, elbows, spinal issues and more, this book will be very helpful to you for the first four weeks of recovery if your dog has had one of these other surgeries.
This book has the information, restrictions and advice I would give after almost any surgery. If you follow the restrictions and the practical applications in the booklet, your pet should do well and recover progressively if there are no additional issues. These restrictions will match a lot of what your vet surgeon gave you to follow after surgery.
My recommendations are based on decades of information we have in human sports medicine recovery. These methods matches up very well how your pet thinks and moves and behaves. This program matches up scientifically with how the body recovers.
These instructions incorporate steps for functional recovery, so there is a LOT more structured and guided info in the book. The links to the book I made for this page will take you to Amazon. You may order the book from any bookstore using the ISBN.
I also have info elsewhere on this site about cats and surgery. Cats aren’t small dogs. Unless your cat will walk on a leash, which some do very well, I recommend looking at this page for now.
So, the following book will help you calmly and methodically approach recovery from your pet’s surgery. The book will guide you to establish a functional base of activity. You have to build a good base to help recovery and to of avoid additional injury. This is only the base. I have more strengthening programs and other drills for you to do to return your pet to a rambunctious lifestyle.
A good recovery plan helps guard against future or further injury, especially in the opposite limb! I am very happy to report that people and dogs that follow both this and the non-surgical program for 12 weeks do not end up with the other knee ligament tearing. It’s all a matter of balancing the work. I design programs based on decades of experience with exercise physiology recovery principles. My programs also help encourage people being connected to their pets!
Find a few more homework info pages by following the links in the menu at the top of the page. Also use the search feature.
2) In addition to thoroughly reading any of that info (some of which now includes exercises available in book form), please watch > this video < twice, and begin to do this massage daily for a month:
Please watch the video to see my recommendations on method of use for massager unit AND so you will hopefully have success introducing the massager.
There are written instructions under the video on the linked page. Here is what the massager looks like, and if you click on the picture, you may buy it on Amazon if you choose:
3) If your pet is still limping 5-7 days or more after surgery, please read this > pain post < all the way through!
There is more on the topic of pain within the books-
Check out other resources under the “Rehab Resources & Tools” link in the menu under the website title at the top or by clicking here–
If you would like advanced or personalized exercises, then please contact me for a consult. There is a contact form at the bottom of this page <<Click on link . Use this form if you would like to schedule a paid phone or in-person consult with me for rehabilitation for your pet.
(Original Post March 17, 2015. Updated July 29, 2019)
Intense Exercise, Muscle Soreness, Recovery, and Anti-inflammatories
Rehab Deb’s Comments: One of the most important bits of this report is something I’ve been reading in more and more research: nsaids (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) delay or stop the healing process. I have also read several reports regarding the same outcome using ice. Nsaids in animal medicine include Previcox, Peroxicam, Deramaxx, Rimadyl, Metacam, etc…and for humans include Advil, Ibuprofen, Motrin, Tylenol, Aspirin, Aleve (sodium naproxen), etc…Does this mean to cut them out altogether? NO…it means think about the application, and possibly combine smaller doses of several pain relievers, depending on the issue, rather than higher and continuous doses of nsaids or only nsaids.
This is only one suggestion.
Ultimately the pain relief drugs for your pet should be discussed with the medical practitioner who prescribed the meds or will be prescribing them in the first place. There are other reasons to minimize nsaids and instead use Tramadol and/or Gabapentin and/or other analgesics to alleviate pain for the short run. The primary reason would be to better encourage building muscle to support damaged joints.
Many practitioners are aware of the benefits of using these other drugs, and while they may not know about this more recent news regarding nsaids delaying healing and muscle growth, it should be easy for anyone to find research papers in addition to those listed on this website.
Article from Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s Fitness and Health E-Zine May 6, 2012
HOW TO RECOVER FROM MUSCLE SORENESS CAUSED BY INTENSE EXERCISE:
Muscle soreness should be part of every exercise program. If you don’t exercise intensely enough on one day to have sore muscles on the next, you will not gain maximum fitness and you are also losing out on many of the health benefits of exercise. The benefits of exercise are much greater with intense exercise than with casual exercising.
You must damage your muscles to make them grow and become stronger. When muscles heal, they are stronger than they were before you damaged them. All athletes train by “stressing and recovering”. On one day, they take a hard workout in which they feel their muscles burning. Eight to 24 hours after they finish this intense exercise, their muscles start to feel sore. This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Then they take easy workouts until the soreness is gone, which means that their muscles have healed.
DOMS is caused by muscle damage:
Muscles are made up of fibers. The fibers are made up of a series of protein blocks called sarcomeres that are lined in a long chain. When you stretch a muscle, you stretch apart the sarcomeres in the chain. When sarcomeres are stretched too far, they tear. Your body treats these tears in the same way that it treats all injuries, by a process called inflammation. Eight to 24 hours after an intense workout, you suffer swelling, stiffness and pain.
The most beneficial intense exercise program is: * severe enough to cause muscle pain on the next day, and * usually allows you to recover almost completely within 48 hours.
Active, not passive recovery:
When athletes feel soreness in their muscles, they rarely take days off. Neither should you. Keeping sore muscles moving makes them more fibrous and tougher when they heal, so you can withstand greater forces and more intense workouts on your hard days. Plan to go at low intensity for as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away. Most athletes try to work out just hard enough so that they recover and are ready for their next hard workout in 48 hours.
Timing meals to recover faster:
You do not need to load extra food to recover faster. Taking in too much food fills your muscle cells with fat, and extra fat in cells blocks the cell’s ability to take in and use sugar. Sugar is the main source of energy for your muscles during intense exercise. Using sugar to drive your muscles helps them to move faster and with more strength. Timing of meals is more important than how much food you eat. Eating protein- and carbohydrate-containing foods helps you recover faster, and the best time to start eating is as soon as you finish a hard workout.
At rest, muscles are inactive. Almost no sugar enters the resting muscle cell from the bloodstream (J. Clin. Invest. 1971;50: 2715-2725). Almost all cells in your body usually require insulin to drive sugar into their cells. However during exercise your muscles (and your brain) can take sugar into their cells without needing insulin. Exercising muscles are also incredibly sensitive to insulin and take up sugar into their cells at a rapid rate. This effect lasts maximally for up to an hour after you finish exercising and disappears almost completely in around 17 hours.
The best time to eat for recovery is when your cells are maximally responsive to insulin, and that is within a short time after you finish exercising. Not only does insulin drive sugar into muscle cells, it also drives in protein building blocks, called amino acids. The sugar replaces the fuel for muscle cells. The protein hastens repair of damaged muscle. Waiting to eat for more than an hour after finishing an intense workout delays recovery.
What to eat after your intense workouts:
Fatigue is caused by low levels of sugar, protein, water and salt. You can replace all of these with ordinary foods and drinks. If you are a vegetarian, you can replace your protein with combinations of grains and beans. You can replace carbohydrates by eating virtually any fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. A recovery meal for a vegetarian could include corn, beans, water, bread, and fruits, nuts and vegetables. If you prefer animal tissue, you can get your protein from fish, poultry,or meat. Special sports drinks and sports supplements offer no advantage whatever over regular foods.
Many older studies have shown that massage does not help you recover faster from DOMS. Recently, researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario showed that deep massage after an intense workout causes muscles to enlarge and grow new mitochondria (Science Translational Medicine, published online Feb, 2012). This is amazing. Enlarging and adding mitochondria can help you run faster, lift heavier weights, and even prevent heart attacks and certain cancers.
NSAIDS delay DOMS recovery:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, may help relieve pain, but they also can block muscle repair and delay healing.
Most research shows that a hot bath is not much better than doing nothing in helping muscles recover from exercise (European Journal of Applied Physiology, March 2006)
(RehabDeb’s comment: On the other hand, Epsom Salts Soak/Bath works well for humans and the dogs and cats I’ve encouraged toward that therapy. Of course, this is more than “just” a hot bath…)
Cold or ice baths:
A recent review of 17 small trials, involving 366 participants, showed a minor decrease in DOMS with ice water baths. They found “little quality research” on the subject and “no consistent method of cold water immersion” (Cochrane Library, published online February 15, 2012). Cold water immersion can reduce swelling associated with injury, but has not been proven to speed the healing of DOMS.
(RehabDeb’s comment: ice baths are proved to be beneficial and instrumental in reversing back spasms!)
Simple Vibration-Based Pet Massage Video for Rehabilitation
Simply Put –
This technique uses one particular type of inexpensive, hand-held massage unit technically sold for people but great for use in pet massage. This unit produces a low-to-moderate level of vibration and is usually pretty quiet.
The technique very practically covers main areas for relaxation, improving circulation, and encouraging healing. This massage technique conquers many areas in the amount of time required for benefit and therefore is a lot of benefit for time expense.
I have developed my methods over the years to try to give the best bang for the buck, time-wise. It’s disappointing to me finding out people have wasted resources doing sub-standard work. I know it’s frustrating for them and for the pet, plus the pet usually is not recovering well in those situations. Plus, money swirling down the drain on occasion…
My methods aren’t perfect, but I am a hard-wired problem-solver, and I have the knowledge and experience to support that. I am confident that this method will be a great use of your time and money and that your pet will benefit.
This is the only rehabilitation some of my clients are able to do themselves on their pets. That is usually the case when the client is not very mobile and cannot do walks or drills I prescribe. I have been surprised at the great positive feedback I have received in those situations; most often they find their pet is getting up and moving more after several sessions of this massage.
Please watch and listen to the massage video to see how to use this massager unit AND so you will hopefully have success introducing the massager. This video is not going to win awards, but the instruction is solid, and you will have the info you need if you do what it says.
Since it vibrates, you definitely don’t want to scare your pet before you get to show them how wonderful this massage is. Watch the video and listen to my words so that you introduce it without drama. Please don’t start by turning on the massager and shaking it at your pet. I have seen funny people do this. Not always funny to the pet, and you also might lose a useful tool!
In my experience, less than 1% of pets will act like they are not into the massager; the remaining pets either love it immediately or grow to appreciate it if you follow the plan. When they feel the benefits, lots of pets get used to the massage time and come “ask” for it. My Grace Dane used to love her massage, and when I turned on the massager, her cat, Calvin, would come running to get his, too! Yes, that’s them in my banner pic.
Please do not let your pet just get up and walk away during the massage –
Sometimes your pet may seem to get bored or, if it’s a dog, they may test the Alpha status by getting up and wandering off. This does not mean they do not like the massage.
When I am in-person to show the massage method to people, I have 100% success, but I’m also not the “pet parent”, and I’m not worried about whether I’m doing it right or if the pet likes it.
Keep the faith and use the technique ideas I give to you in the vid. Start with the massager turned off. Even if that is the only way you can ever use it, your pet will gain benefits. This unit with four feet on it keeps the body contact more even and balanced. If you use the system I recommend, massaging body parts in a certain order and for a certain time, you don’t have to worry about whether you are “doing enough” of the right thing.
We all (probably) know that we need touch and that touch is healing. Touch releases endorphins. Oxytocin is a good thing. Touching a little or a lot with emphasis will encourage circulation.
You want to relax your pet, reverse muscle tension, and increase circulation to the injured area. You don’t want to bruise your pet, injure a healing area, or waste time. When you use your hands, you will not gain the depth of circulation improvement that the consistent, low-level vibration gains.
The benefits far outweigh any other type of massage you could do, in my experience. That is because with this low-to-moderate level of vibration, using the tool I recommend and not a dozen others on the market, you will loosen up tight tissue and easily encourage circulation in a non-aggressive way. That is also because most people are not trained in massage and/or do not have hundreds of cases-worth of experience with a variety of injuries.
Using the unit with four feet on it keeps the contact more even and balanced. If you use the system I recommend, massaging body parts in a certain order and for a certain time, you don’t have to worry about whether you are “doing enough” of the right thing.
This massage method is a very beneficial help to encourage circulation, relaxation, nerve conduction, cell stimulation, and other healing, so be encouraged to carry out the work. They usually learn to relax and enjoy the massage time, especially if you do it as I have outlined. Most will like it immediately.
Oh, I’ve Been Doing My Own Massage –
That’s a good idea and very thoughtful on your part! Chances are that you don’t have any particular training in massage or pet massage, and you might be confused about techniques. There are a lot of videos online about doing pet massage. Many of those videos are not coming from people with decades of experience resolving extensive injuries.
Many of the online videos describe good stuff to do, though, and you probably found out you can even get a certificate in pet massage therapy. Maybe you should, if you are interested and have aptitude. For now, for healing after surgery and injury, please do the method I describe for the first month, at least.
Your pet has likely been enjoying your touch, unless you have provoked painful areas. Our own human LMT might do that to us, press the pain, but don’t do that to your pet. Don’t force range of motion, either. If you use this vibration technique, you will merge many aspects of healing. You will be “doing it correctly” and not have to worry about causing further damage or wasting time.
But I’m a Licensed Massage Therapist –
I have a lot of clients who are licensed massage therapists. Yay! And after I discuss it with them, they always understand the benefits to this vibration level and technique if they have been trained in advance massage techniques. If you are licensed, you have beneficial knowledge to apply to your home rehabilitation program.
You will also understand that while your human clients will (maybe) give verbal feedback to you about your massage technique and what they think they need or want, your pet doesn’t speak in the same verbal language. Your pet will give signs to you, too, but you might not read them correctly.
I do not recommend that LMTs use the more aggressive massage units they would use for humans on a cat or dog or other smaller pet. I had one of these, but I finally broke it recently. It’s a big black thing with heavy-duty handles and lots of rpms. You know. It might have a second use as a jackhammer.
I honor your training and ask that you alternate the technique I recommend with your own technique every other day. I have received very positive feedback from LMTs over the 10+ years that I have seen clients through this massage technique.
Pretty Sure I Know What My Pet Likes –
We don’t usually know our pets extremely well in injury status. We project our distressed emotions on our pets, who, in turn, mirror them and wonder what they can do to help us, because we are so distraught. Our being distraught is normal, and their response as companion animals is normal, mirroring our distress and trying to help.
Not knowing how to read your pet’s cues is common, even among veterinarians, and even though we all usually tend to think we “know” our pets. We do to some extent. But when our pets injure themselves, we also tend to get very emotionally involved and upset.
I have had to work with my intuitive and empathic skills along with “book” knowledge to weed through the nuances of animal reaction over the years to gain more advances in rehabilitation. This is a deeper topic for a different post, but it comes up a lot in my first appointments with people, so, just a few thoughts here. I recommend you overcome your mixed emotions, follow the above massage video, and be confident that you are providing a new level of help for your pet!
Lie Down? Sit? Stand?
Yes, they may either lie down or sit or stand…but those that stand usually end up relaxing into lying down! If they are lying on one side, do the beginning session, move to the limbs (only doing it the way I describe), and then get them to turn over. I explain this in the video (I think).
Otherwise, I have used this method for pet massage since I first found the massage units in 2008 in a Target store in Austin, TX, USA. I saw the unit, had an epiphany, and started formulating the method based on knowledge and my own extensive experience. You may usually find the unit near the pharmacy department, sold for humans. It’s not in the pet department. I don’t think Target has carried the unit for many years. It used to light up, have 3 AAA batteries, and cost $4.99.
Most commonly I find the massagers in a CVS store locally. They seem to average $7.99, no longer light up, and take two AAA batteries. I recommend you change the batteries about every five hours of massage. Do that so the massage vibration remains closer to peak for this machine.
People have told me they have found the units in Walgreens, Fry’s, Wal-Mart, and Sears. Most stores call it a seasonal item, and they offer the units at Winter holiday time. One of the main reasons I decided to provide links to products I recommend was to show this massage unit.
Some units rattle, so check for that. The rattle won’t matter if your pet is mostly deaf.
(First Published Around 2011, Updated February 26, 2018)