Everyone used to think that a new amputee dog or cat could carry on with their old activities once the incision healed. But that thinking has changed. Today’s experts know that a Tripawd’s activities must be modified in order to avoid injury, and a veterinary rehabilitation therapist like Dr. Amy Kramer is the best person to show you how to do it. Today on Tripawd Talk Radio she explains all about the benefits of rehab therapy for Tripawds.
Why Rehab Therapy for Tripawds Matters
Rehab therapy (also known as “physio” in many countries) is an important part of the Tripawd journey. A rehab / physio expert can show you the best activities to keep your amputee pet fit and injury-free.
In this episode of Tripawd Talk Radio, we chat with Dr. Amy Kramer, PT, DPT, CCRT, from her practice, Beach Animal Rehabilitation Center in Southern California. We first interviewed her back in 2010 shortly after she helped establish the first veterinarian and physical therapist owned rehabilitation clinic in the country (if not the world).
Listen Now and Learn About the Benefits of Rehab Therapy for Tripawds
No time to listen? Check out these highlights of our conversation with Dr. Kramer.
How Does Life Change for a Tripawd?
The number one aspect of how life changes for a three-legged animal is they lose the ability to tolerate their same level of activity. “Things like their walk tolerance is going to be decreased, their ability to get on and off the bed or the sofa,” says Dr. Kramer. “They may still try because their brain doesn’t tell them any differently . . . and that puts them at risk for injury,” she explains.
Each animal’s needs are unique. An expert can help manage what a “normal” activity looks like for every Tripawd.
What are the differences between Tripawds who go to rehab right after amputation, and those who don’t go at all?
“The ones that don’t get therapy are more at risk for muscle strains and sprains and injury,” says Dr. Kramer. “I have a perfect example of a dog right now that had an amputation and didn’t do any rehab and went back to usual activity which was running around without any harness, without any assistance on her own and she tore her cruciate ligament in her remaining hind limb. Then she ended up coming to rehab because of that.”
When injury happens to a Tripawd, rehab therapy doesn’t just help heal the injury, it also helps in other critical areas such as building stronger core muscles.
How do cats benefit from rehabilitation therapy?
Cats have the same issues as dogs, says Dr. Kramer. “Rehab would be beneficial for a Tripawd cat just for the same reason in terms of maintaining the flexibility and really teaching the cat kind of in core strengthening (etc.).”
What kinds of rehab therapy exercises are helpful?
Laser Therapy to help with incision healing. “If the diagnosis was some form of cancer, we don’t always use laser, just for the fear of that maybe causing increased blood flow to the area and if there is still some cancer, we don’t want to help that spread,” explains Dr. Kramer.
Acupuncture to help with nervous system healing.
Ultrasound to decrease swelling and loosen tight muscles.
Manual therapies such as passive range of motion, balance games and other things that parents can learn to do at home. This kind of owner education is the most important benefit of taking a Tripawd to rehab therapy.
Underwater treadmill workouts. Why a treadmill instead of open-water swimming? Dr. Kramer says that swimming in a pool or pond is great for healthy animals who just need conditioning, but the underwater treadmill is better for dogs and cats with injuries that need treatment.
Once the pain of an existing injury is brought under control, and once the amputation incision is healed, an underwater treadmill can help a new Tripawd learn to walk with less hopping, which decreases their risk of muscle strains. In addition, an underwater treadmill can help build up some strength, tolerance and endurance to allow them to go on longer walks.
When is a wheelchair helpful for a Tripawd, and when is it not?
Deciding when a wheelchair is helpful for a Tripawd is different for every animal. Some pet parents do it too soon, some wait too long. According to Dr. Kramer, “it’s really about assessing the dog appropriately as to whether or not they are ready. If the dog is still getting around OK, can get up from the floor OK, is still able to go on potty walks and things like that, and it’s happy, those are not dogs that are ready for a wheelchair.”
Dogs who are ready for a wheelchair are those who are getting older and having maybe some other medical issues like arthritis in their remaining limbs. Meg is one such dog, and as her Tripawd wheelchair journey shows, work and patience is required from both the pet parent and the animal in order to use a wheelchair correctly. When the dog finally learns how to step instead of hop while in the chair, the device can be liberating.
“You put those dogs in a wheelchair and their whole demeanor changes and they are happy again because they can go out for not just a walk but a long walk,” says Dr. Kramer.
Yes, Even One Rehab Visit Can Help
When money is tight, new Tripawd parents wonder if one rehab visit can really help. Absolutely! Dr. Kramer says “during that first visit, they learn so much about their pet and things they can do.” A good therapist will work with every Tripawd’s budget and situation, and design a home exercise program that makes a big difference in how the animal recovers and functions.
We encourage you to visit your nearest practitioner today and get your Tripawd fit through the Tripawds Foundation’s Maggie Moo Fund for Tripawd Rehab!