Now that Tripawds Spokesdog Wyatt Ray is officially middle-aged, he gets twice-yearly wellness exams. Recently we checked into at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital for his semi-annual check-up. It was also was our chance to talk to get vet rehab and swimming tips for Tripawd dogs at the Texas A&M Small Animal Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center.
We asked their experts:
- How and why does water therapy benefit a Tripawd?
- Is a water treadmill different from swimming in a lake or pool?
- Why is obesity such a huge problem for three-legged animals?
Wyatt’s Awesome Aggie Wellness Visit
First, the Aggie vets checked out a funky skin condition Wyatt had. Turns out it was just seasonal allergies.
We love veterinary teaching hospitals for many reasons but especially because every visit is educational, with vets taking time to discuss everything about his health. At A&M, Wyatt was seen by two veterinary students and a vet professor! When it was all over, Wyatt got an A+, he’s healthy as ever.
After his checkup we toured the Texas A&M Small Animal Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center. Texas A&M has a comprehensive veterinary rehabilitation therapy program. Their skilled therapists who help animals with everything from surgery recovery to weight loss to geriatric care.
We met with Abby Rafferty, LVT, CCRP and her colleague, Marina Harrson, LVT, CCRP. It was our lucky day, because Marina’s very own Tripawd Cody was there to demonstrate the power of his amazing core muscles!
Vet Rehab Tips for Tripawd Dogs Who Love Swimming
Cody is a middle-aged dog who’s remarkably strong for just having his amputation a few months ago. Cody loves to “Sit Pretty,” which takes strong core muscle strength. Here he is with Abby:
“To be able to sit and lift up, they (Tripawds) have to have those good core muscles to balance,” says Abby, pictured above. “We can target those core muscles that allow them to have better stability and for these Tripawds it’s even better since they’re already having to over-compensate with one leg.”
One way that Abby and Marina help their patients get strong is through the use of a water treadmill.
Water Treadmill Versus Open Water Swimming for Tripawd Dogs
A water treadmill has many benefits and it’s not the same as putting a Tripawd dog in a lake or pool. Although freestyle swimming does have some benefit, it cannot provide the level of rehab (or safety) that water treadmill sessions with a certified rehabilitation therapist can offer. Marina explains in this video:
“This system is really good for alleviating some of their weight so they can use their weight in a normal fashion, strengthen their core, strengthen their remaining legs so they can deal with the loss of that fourth leg,” says Marina.
Swimming in a pool or lake is fun, but it’s not water therapy.
“The important thing about water therapy in general is they are still weight bearing. We never take away all of that bottom surface so part of their weight is still working towards building the muscle,” she says.
“Sometimes swimming can work if a dog is just trying to regain that muscle memory about how to move their legs but this (water treadmill) works really well to teach them how to walk again. It’s really hard to translate swimming back into walking, whereas this combines the best of both worlds with the weight reduction and still enabling to walk at the same time.”
The Importance of Weight Loss for Tripawds
Finally the meeting turned to one of the biggest problems in our community: obese Tripawd dogs and cats. We asked Marina her thoughts about this debilitating condition.
“One of the things that’s really important about having a three-legged dog especially if the amputation is on their forelimb (because dogs carry 60 percent of their weight on their front half) is to remember that your dog is carrying around a ridiculous amount of weight on their joints.
You’re putting stress on their muscles and they’re at a higher risk of developing joint diseases like osteoarthritis. One of the things that we can do to prevent obesity is rehab.”
Tips to Manage and Prevent Obesity
“Getting that weight off is really important for Tripawds!” Marina says. Her suggestions to prevent and eliminate obesity in all dogs include:
- Water treadmill workouts, which gets Tripawds working without the pain.
- Regular weight shifting exercises and use of cavaletti poles
- Weight reduction food plans, which are always available at your vet
- And finally, daily walks. Even if a dog needs sling support, it will help keep the weight off.
We always learn so much from our friends at veterinary teaching hospitals around the country. If you and your Tripawd are lucky enough to live near Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, give them a call and schedule your rehabilitation therapy consult today!
Learn more about Texas A&M Small Animal Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Therapy.