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A window into the world of animal physiotherapy and rehabilitation

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Will my dog’s muscles go back to normal by themselves after injury or surgery?

Muscle Atrophy after surgery

Answer: NO THEY WON’T!

This is such a common question I am asked during a physiotherapy session with a canine patient. It is a common misconception that muscles just grow back to normal size by themselves after injury or surgery. Unfortunately for the patients, this is just NOT the case.

Muscle Atrophy

Muscle atrophy, or wastage, starts early on in the process of injury or disease. It may initially go unnoticed, particularly if your dog has a longer coat. If your dog becomes acutely lame or has surgery on a limb, the atrophy will be more noticeable, more quickly and will actually get a little worse before it gets better.

Muscle atrophy occurs for a variety of different reasons. It can occur in response to pain, for example if your dog injures their stifle (knee joint) or has some arthritis this will cause pain. The pain in the local region causes the muscle fibres to not fully switch on and so weakness and atrophy result.

indexAnother reason for muscle atrophy is disuse. If your dog has been limping and not using a limb, for example if they have had a mild injury, some arthritis, or are confined after surgery or injury, then the muscles are used less than normal and atrophy results. We may see generalised disuse atrophy of the whole body in a dog that has prolonged restricted activity or crate rest, or specific atrophy of an affected limb or limbs that have been injured or had surgery.

Because dogs get around on 4 limbs, if they have a small amount of discomfort in a single limb, they can transfer weight around to unload the painful limb much easier than we can on only 2 limbs. In the early stages this can go unnoticed, however if we palpate the limbs, we may find a difference in muscle size – indicating some atrophy in the affected limb.

When disuse and pain are both present, then atrophy can be pronounced.

Muscle Inhibition

A compounding problem to muscle atrophy is muscle inhibition. Inhibition is essentially the partial or complete shutting down of a muscle. What this means, is the nerves that normally are sending and receiving signals within that muscle are sending distorted messages or have stopped sending messages altogether. This issue can arise from factors such as swelling, inflammation, joint laxity or instability and pain.

It is extremely common to see muscle inhibition in the quadriceps group after knee surgery in both dogs and humans, and in the triceps muscle group in dogs after elbow surgery. So when your dog has surgery for a ruptured cruciate ligament (ACL), they will get generalised muscle atrophy of the affected limb from pain, and some disuse atrophy due to lameness. They will also very typically have muscle inhibition of the cranial (anterior) thigh muscles due to pain, swelling and inflammation from the initial injury and then the surgery itself.

imagesThis results in an imbalance of muscle forces around the joint- so other muscles will tighten and can become overused, in an effort to try to compensate for the inhibited ones. Unfortunately, these safety mechanisms of the body are not the best thing for it- such compensatory patterns lead to joint movement limitations and can cause misalignment within the joint and altered movement patterns. To further the problem, weak muscles become weaker whilst the strong muscles become stronger, and unfortunately trying to strengthen inhibited muscles is not possible because they are not receiving normal neurological inputs.

How Do I Treat Inhibition And Muscle Atrophy?

If a dog is left to recover after surgery with just crate rest and a progressive walking program, the muscle inhibition and atrophy will persist. Sure, some muscle will grow back once lameness subsides, but the muscle won’t ever get back to normal of it’s own accord. In addition, the altered motion patterns and compensation that develop with inhibition won’t rectify themselves. The result is a limb that is not moving as well as it could, affecting strength and motion. So the body must compensate by transferring the weight around elsewhere within the body- leaving other areas vulnerable to injury.

We can address this with a specific structured rehabilitation program targeted to meet the individual needs of the patient. So it is worth considering- why would you spend thousands of dollars on a surgery for your dog to stabilise a joint and then not follow up with rehabilitation that maximises their functional outcomes?

Treatment Techniques

Muscle inhibition must be addressed first- so any pain, swelling and inflammation need to be managed. This may be done through medication, ice and exercise restriction. We can then specifically target the affected muscles with either sensory inputs, such as soft tissue therapy techniques, or by stimulating the nerve with dry needling or neuromuscular electrical stimulation.

estimThrough targeted stimulation we can assist the muscle that has been inhibited to start to fire up again. At the same time, we can help to decrease any tightness present in the other muscles surrounding the affected joint through manual therapies and stretching and strengthening of specific muscles. Techniques chosen for each individual dog are based on our assessment findings , which enable a tailored program to be devised.

Once inhibition is addressed, we can start specific muscle activation and strengthening exercises. In order for a muscle to strengthen and grow in fibre size, we must follow the principle of overload- meaning the fibres must be stressed or overloaded to make them adapt and strengthen. This must be done very carefully after surgery so as not to jeopardise healing and repair.

Home exercises begin very gently and are progressed based on assessment of progression. Hydrotherapy- particularly underwater treadmill- is a great way to overload muscles without overloading the painful or healing structures. Swimming and walking are more endurance than strengthening exercises- they work on low load and multiple repetitions; so there will be some return of muscle strength with these activities but alone they are inadequate to get a muscle back to its normal strength.

images2Once healing has taken place, we can really ramp up strengthening exercises and resolve muscle atrophy fully. When we can establish that muscle strength and size have been fully restored, it is only then we should progress a canine patient back to regular exercise. This will give them the best chance for maximal recovery and lead to optimal performance in life and any exercise they pursue.




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Acupuncture for your Dog- Get the Facts

IMG_3259Guest Post by Vet Acupuncturist

Dr Sara Baldey

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It has been used in both people and animals for thousands of years.  Acupuncture utilises the body’s own ability to heal itself to establish health and balance in the patient. This is mediated through the stimulation of various body systems: the nervous system, endocrine system, circulatory system and lymphatic system.

What Are The Benefits Of Acupuncture For Your Dog?

There are many benefits to acupuncture that are attributable to its therapeutic effect. Some of these benefits are listed below:

Endorphin release: this is a natural hormone produced in the brain which alleviates pain and creates a general sense of well-being in the individual.

Cortisol release: this is a natural anti-inflammatory hormone. Cortisol is also known as a “stress hormone” (meaning that it is naturally released by the body in response to stress) and enables the body to better cope with stress.

Block pain signals in the body: pain signals can be blocked at many levels of the nervous system. This can occur at the local site of the pain, at the level of the spinal cord and at the level of the brain.

Decrease inflammation: the nerve stimulation induced by acupuncture leads to biochemical signalling pathways that act to regulate and decrease inflammation in the body.

Stimulate immune system: certain acupuncture points have been shown to boost the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells circulating in the bloodstream.

Increase blood flow to local areas: acupuncture points draw blood to problem areas, thereby promoting healing in those areas.

Which Dogs Can Benefit From Acupuncture?

Acupuncture can be used to treat a wide range of health conditions, though the majority of patients use acupuncture to treat musculoskeletal problems. It is a safe and drug free therapy, beneficial for many patients including those with:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic pain
  • Spinal or neurological conditions
  • Back and neck pain
  • Poor mobility

acupuntureHow Do The Acupuncture Services Work At Dogs In Motion?

Acupuncture can be used as sole therapy or alongside modern medicine to achieve a synergistic result in the patient. At Dogs In Motion, we always promote a team approach to managing your dog.  This includes you, your dog, your dogs vet and members of our Dogs In Motion Team.

At Dogs In Motion have a qualified Veterinary Acupuncturist as part of our team- Dr Sara Baldey from ‘Acutherapy for Pets’. Dr Sara consults on Saturdays and dog owners are able to self refer, or can be referred by their regular vet. Sara will communicate with your dog’s vet about their current health problems and treatment plan.

For those considering acupuncture for their dog, we recommend ensuring that only an appropriately skilled and qualified practitioner performs veterinary acupuncture services.




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Don’t Let Arthritis Cramp Your Dog’s Style – Part 2

merlin jumping off pier 2Top Tips to Beat Arthritis

This is the second blog in the series on top tips to help your dog beat arthritis. Arthritis does not only affect older dogs. If we over-exercise our dogs, or if they carry excessive weight, or have had a joint injury or surgery, even as a young dog, then chances are, their joints are experiencing more wear and tear than normal and could have arthritis.
In Part 1 of the blog post we discussed the early telltale signs that your dog may have arthritis. I then outlined the Principles of Treatment to give you the best management for your dog.

In Part 2, we continue to discuss the treatment options available to your dog to maximise their quality of life and longevity.


Principles of Treatment continued…


Joint Supplementation  green lipped muscle

Adding in joint supplements to your dog’s diet is a must if your dog has arthritis.

Krill oil comes from crustaceans that live in the clean waters of Antarctica. It is said to be cleaner than fish oil due to where it is sourced and the processes it undergoes to ensure quality and eco-sustainability. Krill oil contains powerful anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and also has 47 percent more antioxidants than standard fish oil. It has been shown to decrease joint tenderness and stiffness.

Green-lipped mussel such as ‘Technyflex’ contains eicosatetaenoic acid (ETA) which is a potent anti-inflammatory and has been proven to reduce symptoms of arthritis and improve joint function in dogs, while being gentle on the stomach.

Glucosamine sulphate is also a commonly used supplement for dogs with arthritis. It works to help rebuild lost cartilage and to cushion the joints. There are many dog specific brands available, such as Blackmore’s Osteocare in a convenient kangaroo chew.

Plants as Pain KillersRHVC-bottle-150g-400pxh

Tumeric has been around for centuries as an important Indian spice but has also more recently become popular for its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions due to it’s active agent curcumin. Tumeric has been shown to be effective at soothing joint swelling and pain. Speak to your homeopathic vet about whether turmeric is suitable for your dog and the correct dosage.

Rosehip has also increased in popularity for its effectiveness in managing arthritis in dogs without side effects. It has been shown to reduce pain and increase movement in arthritis joints. ‘Canine Rosehips Vitals’ are a reputable source of rosehips for dogs with specific dosage instructions for your dog’s body size.

Medical Managementvet-check-large-image

If you suspect your dog may have arthritis, or you would like to be sure, then head to your dog’s vet for some advice and assessment. Your vet should ask you a complete history about your dog’s mobility and exercise, watch your dog walk and assess your dog’s joint mobility. This is often sufficient to diagnose arthritis. They may also want to take some x-rays to rule out other causes of the discomfort.

Control of pain and inflammation are super important to the success of managing a patient with arthritis. Based on their examination findings, your vet will decide whether your dog requires prescription medication like a non steroidal anti-inflammatory, to make them more comfortable. This may just be temporary, but if your dog’s arthritis is severe, it may be a long term treatment.

Your vet may also recommend injections of a DMOAD – disease modifying osteoarthritis drug such as Pentosan, to help maintain joint health. This is typically a series of 4 injections done weekly for one month, then a regular booster is given  – often 3 or 6 monthly – after this, long term.

Once your dogs reaches 7 years of age they move into the ‘senior’ pet category. Make sure you discuss with your pet’s vet at their yearly check up about their joint health and if they need any medical management.


physioPhysiotherapy can play a vital role in the management of dogs with arthritis. An experienced animal physiotherapist will fully assess your dog’s body including their joints and their muscles for tender points, shortening and weakness – all common with arthritis. They will then devise a treatment program to meet your individual dog’s needs that will typically include soft tissue treatment to sore and tight muscles through massage and stretches, and strengthening exercises for weakened muscles, so as to support the joints. The treatment may also include hydrotherapy. Underwater treadmill can be extremely helpful to dogs with arthritis as it allows exercise in a semi-weightless environment so it is gentle on the joints, but is super – controlled so we can carefully increase muscle strength without making the joints sore. As your dog improves, exercises will be progressed so they get the most from their program.

Heat and Ice

Ice can be used on superficial joints such as elbow, and knee, when these joints are acutely inflamed. The ice can help ease pain swelling and inflammation. Use a commercial ice pack, a bag of frozen vegetables or a bag with crushed ice, wrapped inside a wet towel or chux, and wrap around the joint for 10 minutes twice per day. If your dog doesn’t tolerate the ice, then don’t persist.

If joints are not acutely inflamed, but are stiff, and the muscles around them are sore, then a heat pack can be helpful. This can be helpful for the back, neck, hips, knees, shoulders or elbows. Apply the heat pack – just warm- to the affected muscles or joints for 10 minutes twice per day. Again, just as with the ice, if your dog does not tolerate the heat then don’t persist.


Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for dogs with arthritis. It can be used to reduce acute pain and inflammation as well as reducing muscle spasm around painful joints. Acupuncture should only be administered by a trained acupuncturist.

Massage to the sore muscles

Regular massage to the muscles surrounding the affected joints can help your dog to move more freely. How often this needs to be performed depends on your dog’s activity level and how severely affected they are. Look for a qualified canine massage therapist, or your animal physiotherapist can also provide these treatments.

Gait aids

IMG_4977If arthritis is very severe then a walking aid may help your dog to still get out and about and enjoy life, but not make their joints more sore. A dog pram can mean you can still get your own exercise, or exercise a younger, fitter dog, while your arthritic dog rides along in the pram. Once you get to the park, your dog can hop out for a shorter walk around and a sniff, so still getting good quality of life, then pop back in the pram for the ride home. Beats being left at home alone! A wheelchair can also provide a similar solution. If your dog’s hind limbs are affected with arthritis but the front limbs are still fine, then a rear wheelchair can allow your dog to go for their regular walk / run with the rear limbs protected in the chair.


A harness can make it much easier to move your dog around. Sometimes they just need a little assistance to get up from the floor, or up the steps, or into the car. A great brand of harness that we use in the clinic on a daily basis is the Help ‘em Up Harness.


Well that’s it for Part 2 of this Blog Post. I hope you found some useful tips to help your dog, or a friend or neighbor’s dog. Remember we are always here to help. If you would like to see one of our qualified animal physiotherapists to assess your dog or provide you with a program for managing your pet’s arthritis successfully at home, please give us a call on 03) 9553 0896 or send us a message. We now also have virtual consultations available if you can’t make it to the clinic.

Michelle Monk, Animal Physiotherapist, Dogs In Motion Canine Rehabilitation



Don’t Let Arthritis Cramp Your Dog’s Style – Part 1

merlin jumping off pier 2Top Tips to Beat Arthritis

As an animal physiotherapist, arthritis in dogs is one of the most common problems I see. Arthritis doesn’t discriminate. Dogs of all shapes, sizes, breeds and age groups can be affected. For many it is as a result of an injury or surgery to a joint. For others it can be through prolonged wear and tear. In this 2 part blog post I will discuss some tips you can put into action straight away to maximise your dog’s quality of life and longevity when they have arthritis, and how physiotherapy can help them feel and move better.

Early telltale signs your dog may have some arthritis

Arthritis is a progressive degenerative disease affecting the joints of dogs, causing swelling, pain inflammation. This can be debilitating to dogs if left untreated. However if we can detect signs of it occurring early on, we can take steps to make sure our pets live long happy, healthy and pain free lives.

As our pets age they will naturally slow down, but slowing down may also be due to discomfort in the joints. Slowness to rise from lying down, reluctance to get up off the bed or jump on the couch may all be early signs of arthritis and warrant a check up with the vet or animal physio. If your dog has an actual lameness on one or more limbs then a vet check is essential.

If your dog has had a joint surgery at some time such as surgery for cruciate disease, medial patella luxation, hip or elbow dysplasia, shoulder instability or OCD, chances are very high, that these joints will have some arthritis as the dog gets older.

If your dog was super active as s younger dog, chasing the ball flat out every day, running for long distances or flat out with other dogs at the off leash park, then these are also prime candidates for earlier onset arthritis.

Principles of Treatment

So once we have a diagnosis, or even a suspected diagnosis of arthritis, there are many things we can do to keep our dog comfortable, happy and healthy.

As an animal physiotherapist, my aim is to maximise longevity and quality of life in dogs. This requires a thorough assessment of the whole dog, their environment and the goals of their owner. Then development of a specific program that meets the needs and fits into the life of the dog and the family. If its not easily achievable then the program wont be followed, but if we want to make a difference to our dog’s life, there has to be some level of commitment to them as owners of these valued companions – you may have to put some effort in, but hey aren’t they worth it? In my clinic, we discuss and address each of these principles for each individual patient.

Check out these principles below – many you can easily apply straight away.

Avoidance of aggravating factors running in sand

Trying to reduce activity or exercise that impacts the joints will reduce the chance of them being aggravated. Dogs are really poor at self limiting – they will keep running even if the joints are sore.

Walking and trotting on the leash are typically quite safe exercises but if your dog likes to run madly around off leash chasing the ball or other dogs, then the repeated twisting, turning and sudden stopping and starting may make the joints sore and inflamed. But if you think your dog would really miss out if you took away the ball chasing or socialising with others, then at least cut these activities significantly down.

It really is a balance of activity they really love, versus crippling pain of arthritis that limits their quality of life. Some modification will prolong longevity and quality of life.

Exercising in the sand can also be quite stressful for arthritic joints. If you, as the owner, have a sore knee or ankle, or even a sore back, trying walking in the soft sand and you will soon see how difficult it is and how painful your joints can become. If you live near the beach and this is where you walk your dog, at least walk on the firmer sand if possible, and if the sand is always soft, swap some of your dog’s walks to the path or grass to give the joints a rest.

If your dog has arthritis in the front limbs, then jumping off the furniture or out of the car on a regular basis can flare up these arthritic joints. The same stresses are experienced with running downstairs. Either prevent this from occurring, or use a ramp or pet-steps and assist your dog wherever possible. Use of a harness such as a ‘Help em Up’ Harness makes life easier for both you and your dog for in and out of the car, and for assisting your dog to get up if this is a real struggle for them.

If the hind limbs joints are affected it’s the reverse: try to avoid the jumping up on the furniture or into the car, and racing up a staircase.

I once had a patient – a boxer – with moderate elbow arthritis. No medication from the vet would help and the owner was very distressed at his dog’s continual lameness and inability to exercise without pain On questioning, it was discovered she went to and from work each day in the owner’s ute and jumped in and out of the back twice a day. We eliminated this by adding a ramp and voilà… lameness resolved.

Regular Moderate activity

I have alluded to the type of regular activity that’s unsuitable above. So what can you do with your arthritic dog? Essentially we are looking for a similar time for exercise each day (say 30 minutes) and similar impact eg 20 minutes on leash and 10 minutes pottering around off leash sniffing. There is no hard and fast rule here as each dog is different, but of course the longer the exercise period and the more intense the impact, the more stress on the joints. So if your dog is quite lame, shorter sessions on leash are advisable

Try to avoid the ‘weekend warrior’: 10 minutes per day during the week and 1 hour per day on the weekend if the joints are arthritic. This can really flare them up quickly. Moderation and regularity are the key.

A couple of shorter walks per day of 20 minutes duration will also be easier on the joints than a 40 minute walk, if you can fit this into your schedule.


Swimming is a great alternative to walking and running. Just like for us humans, using swimming as part of our exercise regime, there are many benefits to be gained from this activity if your dog likes to swim.

There is no impact, so for the most part swimming is good for arthritic joints.

Purpose built dog pools are the best – heated all year round and entry and exits purpose built. Home pools can also be great in warmer weather if you can help your dog safely in and out.

Swimming at the beach, dam or lake is also fine if you can limit the running and jumping to get in and out. If your dog likes to chase the ball into the water, then standing knee deep yourself, so your dog remains in the water and swims back to you, rather than getting out of the water and running back in, is much safer for them.

Sometimes swimming can flare up arthritic joints. This can be either due to the duration of swimming, or the joints affected. If your dog has severe elbow arthritis then vigorous swimming can sometimes make this worse. So if you plan to try this for your dog, start with a small amount and use a buoyancy vest for support. Then increase slowly each swim session as long as lameness doesn’t increase. For most other types of arthritis swimming is fine. Always fully supervise your dog. If you are swimming in the water with your dog, beware that they may try to swim onto you and scratch you if they are nervous.

Use of a harness can assist them in and out, and a buoyancy vest can reduce fear and fatigue, and allow them to swim longer without tiring.

Environmental modification

Making sure your home and car are set up for your pet with arthritis can also reduce pain and flare ups. Make sure you have non slip flooring for their main traffic area – a runner or several rugs, even yoga mats can make a huge difference to easy of movement about inside your house for arthritis joints, not to mention getting up from the floor. This can prevent not only slipping and injury, but also reduce the need for your dog tensing its muscles around the joints as he tries to cross the slippery floor. If putting rugs and runners down doesn’t suit your decor then your dog could benefit from a great pair or set of 4 Ruffwear boots.

For bigger dogs who can still step easily on and off the couch, then making sure there is a non slip rug below is essential. For the little ones, they either need to not jump up and down or buy or make your dog a small ramp or steps to ease the load on the joints.

If you have a dog door, then you may need to place a ramp over steps leading to and from the door, and make sure its non slip. You may also even need to increase the size of the dog door if your dog has to really crouch or jump up to get through.

Good Bedding = a Good Night’s Restsupportive-bedding

This is an essential and often overlooked component of not only management of dogs with arthritis, but for general health and well being of all dogs. Just like us, your dog is going to benefit from a firm supportive mattress that’s easy to get on and off. Many dog beds on the market these days are either like fat cushions with no support, or really thin foam  that bottoms out and offers very little support once your dog lies on it.

Raised dog beds can also be a challenge for stepping on and off, as well as offering very little support. Certainly not for periods of long rest. Think of sleeping in a hammock or poorly sprung mattress with a sore back- how would you feel if you did this all night?

The best test of a bed is for you to kneel on it. If you can feel the ground below then its not supportive enough. Of course your own bed is a great supportive mattress, but your dog needs to be able to get safely on and off.

For larger dogs then an inner-sprung cot mattress can be great and easy to place a cot sheet and a mattress protector if needed, over it for easy cleaning.

Commercially available memory foam beds such as the Memory Sleeper are also a top quality bed with easy cover removal and come in a range of sizes for all dogs.

A good bed ensures joints and muscles are supported and cradled and that your dog can recover during the resting period, and make getting up the next morning easier.

Weight Controlon scales

If joints are sore, then carrying extra load through being overweight significantly affects not only pain, but contributes to acceleration of deterioration of the arthritis.

Weight control in dogs is just the same as in people. In order for weight to be lost, the dog must burn more energy that they consume. If your dog is not losing weight then they are eating too much for the energy they are burning. You need to alter the balance through reduction in food, or at least fatty food and snacks, and increasing exercise where possible. If exercise is limited by pain, then you could try swimming, or underwater treadmill.

Adequate nutrition

It is important to ensure your dog receives good nutrition to assist with reduction in inflammation, along with repair of cells. There are so many differences of opinion on what is the ‘best diet’ for dogs. This may be based on convenience – leading owners to choose pre-packed processed foods, or on recommendation from the vet – if your dog has particular health conditions that require a specific food, or personal choice – leading you to home prepare of cook your food.

For me, it makes sense, as it does with us, that minimal processing and fresh and if possible organic ingredients are going to be best. I feed Organic Paws to my dogs and raw meaty bones, chicken wings and necks.

Arguments from vets around home-prepared food   – which are certainly warranted – are usually based around ensuring the diet is balanced and can meet all the nutritional needs of the dog.

Do your research (just as you would for your own diet) – there’s so much information available online. A really great resource is ‘Dr Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats’.

At the end of the day, think about the source of the animals – are they GMO? Were they full of preservatives and chemicals, do we even know this? Do you care?

Well that’s it for Part 1 of this Blog Post. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week where I discuss supplements for arthritis, veterinary management, physiotherapy treatment, acupuncture, massage, passive range of motion, mobility aids, heat and ice, rubs and liniments,harnesses and braces.

Michelle Monk, Animal Physiotherapist, Dogs In Motion Canine Rehabilitation


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Wheelchairs for Dogs: When should you consider one?


Wheelchairs for dogs have really improved in recent years and there are many more brands to choose from now. These can be a great addition to your dog’s recovery from surgery or injury; and for some dogs whose rear limbs don’t work well (but the rest of their body is fine) they can be life changing, enabling them to still go for a walk and have independence to toilet unassisted.

Myth: Putting My Dog In A Wheelchair Means He Will Never Walk Again. Unfortunately this is an all too common comment we hear from pet owners and vets. Wheelchairs are seen by some as ‘giving up’ or a ‘last resort’ after rehabilitation has failed to get a dog walking again. This is nonsense! As a physiotherapist, it is my aim to remove pain and restore mobility and quality of life. If you had a broken leg, I would give you a set of crutches to make you mobile. If you were wanting to go longer distances, or both your legs were affected, I would give you a wheelchair so you could still get out and enjoy life. You would certainly still be going to rehabilitation, with the aim of getting you back to walking independently.  Assistance of gait actually forms a very important part of the whole rehabilitation process. So I am pro-wheelchairs, but rehabilitation MUST still be performed.

augieSome Considerations: Is A Wheelchair Right For You and Your Dog? 

While I am pro-wheelchairs, they certainly won’t suit every dog or every owner. To begin with, dogs can’t be left in wheelchairs for extended periods of time. They are really only used when ‘going for a walk’, or for supervised periods in the yard. In most cases they can’t lie down, or if they do work out how to lie the front half of the body down, undue stress is then placed on the spine. Dogs must always be supervised in case they get their wheels stuck or tip over and injure themselves further.

The dog must be able to manoeuvre the chair around. If the wheelchair is for weak hind limbs then the front limbs must be strong enough to move the chair around, with minimal arthritis in the front limb joints.

You must be able to lift the dog in and out of the chair: If it is a large dog, then you must be physically able to lift your dog in and out of the wheelchair 1-2 times per day. Use of a harness on your dog can certainly help with this. In our clinic we recommend the ‘Help ’em up harness‘ for this purpose.

Wheelchairs For Neurological Conditions

If a dog is severely affected neurologically and we expect recovery is going to be prolonged, then this dog may be crated or penned for many, many months, only getting to walk when we assist with a harness. Putting them into a wheelchair means they can go for a walk, enjoy life and have a more ‘normal’ existence, while relieving the owner from carrying the dog on the walk. Legs may either be up in stirrups for protection, or if there is some motor function in them, down on the ground so they can still ‘walk’, with or without boots for foot protection.

Many of my patients with spinal surgeries in the middle of the back have actually improved when they have gone into a wheelchair, as we have helped to support them in an upright position, allowed them some freedom to be a normal dog again and go for a walk. Again rehabilitation is still very much necessary but a wheelchair can be an invaluable tool for these patients during recovery. We can even perform many of our standing exercises in the wheelchair.

 Wheelchairs For Arthritis

Not only dogs with neurological conditions should be considered for wheelchairs. If your pet has arthritis that really affects their mobility and ease of going for a walk, then a wheelchair may make life much easier for them. They may still potter around fine at home and in the yard, but if going to the park would typically make their affected limbs sore, then you could consider a wheelchair for your dog. Again, think about if you had a really sore knee, or your granny had a really sore hip, as a physiotherapist I would prescribe a walking stick, crutches or walking frame to keep the person mobile while unloading the painful limb- not tell them to stop walking! It is not ‘cruel’ to put a dog in a wheelchair- it’s actually cruel to deny them a better quality of life and reduction in pain if we have the means to do it.

Handicapped2-0041Wheelchairs For Orthoaedic Surgery

Similarly, we certainly can consider a wheelchair after orthopaedic surgery or injury, to unload a painful and healing structure, while still allowing the dog have a normal walk. At what time frame this could occur after injury, and whether affected limbs can be weight bearing or need to be held off the ground, does vary from dog to dog. This would need to be assessed for suitability by a physiotherapist.

Wheelchairs For Amputees

A dog with an amputated limb will typically ‘manage’ getting around quite well, but not without extra load placed on the other limbs and spine due to the massively altered body posture. The load that is placed on the remaining front or rear limb depending on where the amputation is, will be greatly increased, causing this limb to be more susceptible to injury. A wheelchair can be a valuable addition to an amputee for their exercise sessions to allow them to run and play without loading up the opposite limb excessively, and thus helping to protect it from injury. Exercise duration can also be increased with the reduced load on the other body parts.

So if you think a wheelchair may be worthwhile to help your dog to get around better, check out our wheelchair page on the website or give us a call at the clinic on 03) 9553 0896 and we can discuss the needs of you and your dog.

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Do Dogs Have Strokes Like Humans?

stroke pugThis is a very common question I am asked when treating physiotherapy patients at Dogs In Motion.

The answer to this question is indeed ‘yes’ however dogs do not have strokes as humans do. This is mainly because the normal causes of a stroke in people such as high blood pressure or high stress levels are much less common in dogs. Hence strokes are much more rare occurrences in dogs than humans but when they do happen, strokes in dogs most commonly are caused by interruption of oxygen delivery to brain tissue due to some underlying medical condition.


Diagnosis of stroke in dogs is often more difficult than in humans as signs are less obvious and symptoms are not stroke specific and may be attributed to a number of neurological conditions. For example one might expect some degree of paralysis in a dog post-stoke however this may not be the case. A dog may instead present with, for example, a head tilt which has a number of differential diagnoses. Definitive diagnosis requires detailed imaging of the brain such as MRI or CT scan. Recently vets have become more aware of the phenomenon of the canine stroke however due to the non-specific nature of symptoms it is possibly still under diagnosed.


If a diagnosis of stroke is made, then rehabilitation should commence as soon as the dog is medically stable. The aims of physiotherapy for a dog following a stroke are similar to those of a human patient. We are aiming to speed recovery of mobility and function. This is done through a variety of physiotherapy treatment techniques specific to each individual pet’s needs.

A thorough assessment must first be performed by the pet’s animal physiotherapist, and a treatment plan devised. Treatment techniques may include re-education of normal movements such as lying to sitting, sitting to standing, standing to sitting, and gait re-education. Balance and proprioception re-training may be required to restore normal balance and mobility, and strengthening of weak muscles will usually be required. Assistive devices such as harnesses, wheelchairs, protective boots and bedding may be required to assist during recovery

dog-swimmingHydrotherapy such as assisted swimming or walking in the underwater treadmill can be extremely beneficial to speeding recovery.

At dogs in motion, we specialise in neurological rehabilitation and can certainly help pets that may have had a stroke, return to function more quickly.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about strokes in dogs and their treatment.

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Green Lipped Muscle Powder- Is It Any Good For Dogs With Arthritis?

At Dogs In Motion, owners of arthritic dogs often seek advice regarding appropriate dietary supplements. Most will have received advice regarding the use of glucosamine or fish oils but more recently green lipped mussel (GLM) has come into vogue. So what is the evidence for the use of GLM in arthritic dogs?

GLM is known to have anti-inflammatory components and its powder is shown to contain glucosamine components and omega 3 fatty acids, all known to be beneficial in arthritis. As with most supplements, initial studies have been done in humans. Such studies have shown conflicting results dependent on the type of arthritis. Significant improvements were seen in clients with Osteoarthritis (OA) whilst GSM had a less positive influence on Rheumatoid arthritis clients (RA) in the majority of studies. In dogs, though arthritis is known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), it shares osteoarthritic traits in the majority.

Studies in dogs with DJD have indeed been quite promising. Dogs treated with GSM for between 6 weeks and 6 months have showed significant improvements in measurements such as joint pain and swelling as assessed by a vet. Measurements looking at joint movement did not show a significant improvement. It can however be argued that treating arthritis is in the main part about achieving pain management and that altering the physical changes within a joint through the use of a supplement are unlikely.

Some owners may question why GLM is not just included within their dog’s food. It has been shown that the heat treatment involved in food production markedly reduces the beneficial effects of the supplement.

Another common question is there any point using GLM in combination with the anti-inflammatories my dog is already on? The answer here is yes. There is evidence that GLM reinforces the activity of some anti-inflammatories but also markedly reduces gastric ulceration associated with their use, which whilst much less common in the dog is a possible side effect of long term use.

Finally evidence suggests the powder form is more effective than the extract. Many dosages can be found online but a study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2002 states that small dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds should be given 450 mgs of supplement per day. Medium sized dogs that weigh anywhere from 50 to 75 pounds should be given 750 mgs per day. Large dogs that weigh more than 75 pounds should be given 1000 mgs per day. It is advised to cater for your own pets needs by for example using a higher dose in the winter months and reducing same when your dog is doing well.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.