Most vets and canine rehab therapist say that for dogs with DM that rehab is only maintenance. There is some truth to that in the fact that DM will still “win” in the end. However, Sierra’s rehab has been REHABILITATIVE, meaning she is building muscle strength, endurance, coordination and improved functional skills for walking and playing.
The swimming is going really well. I am now timing her, rather then measuring her swimming by laps. We are doing 10min 2x/week. When we get to 20min 2x/week then I will add another day. I am just not sure how long the weather will hold out for me. I am not sure I can find a place to swim her through the winter.
I can still see a right sided weakness in her hind limb. It is apparent when she swims, walks and stands for long periods of time. I am able to do AAROM in the water to gain more range. This also seems to cue her to generate more force with this extremity.
It appeared that she had a setback that corresponded with the antibiotic use for her infected foot. The infection in her foot was mild and the swelling had begun to go down prior to starting the antibiotics. However, taking antibiotics with meals three times a day was a challenge for all of us. She didn’t want to eat and I was force feeding her the medicine more often then not. After the course of antibiotics I have seen a gradual return of her hind limb function. I am not sure what the interaction was for her between the antibiotics and the DM, but it sure did scare me.
• Rehabilitation Tips
o It is important that all exercise be performed in moderation. Fatigue will only increase your weakness and rob you of energy that you need for your daily routines and the activities your pet enjoys.
o Passive range of motion exercises can be performed standing or in gravity eliminated position (such as laying down)
o Utilize light massage, regular exercise, and keep your dog mentally active. These are extremely valuable in maintaining muscle function and bringing about remission of symptoms. Deep tissue massage can stimulate muscle spasms.
o Swimming is the best activity, or other exercises in the cool water, because increased body temperatures can decrease the function of the nerves involved and make symptoms worse.
o Acupuncture has been effective for many dogs with DM
o (from : http://neuro.vetmed.ufl.edu/neuro/DM_Web/DMofGS.htm)
Rehabilitation is best achieved by an increasing schedule of alternative day exercise. Running loose on the owner’s property is not adequate; regular periods of programmed continuous exercise are the most important. It is equally important that the patient with DM be allowed to rest on the day when exercise is not programmed. This will allow strained muscles and tendons to heal and increase the build up of muscle strength. The dogs do not have to be confined, only that they are not encouraged to do strenuous exercise on the “off” day. I recommend starting with 5-10 minutes of walking or swimming every other day for 2 weeks. Then, increase the length of exercise time to a goal of 30 minutes twice a week and a long walk of 1 hour once a week.