Denny and Charlie (and the rest)
It started with OnePug...

Denny’s Rehab Therapies

Monday, 27 February 2012 12:47 by robbi

There was probably a time (long before I ever knew the joy of pugs) when I would’ve scoffed at acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments or even laser therapy for dogs. If you’re not emotionally invested in an animal, it probably does seem silly. But if you think about what you would do to help your child walk again – probably anything – and you realize how much we love our dogs, then you will understand. We will do anything we can to make sure they are as healthy as they can be.

As I’ve posted before, Denny has been having some real challenges with his walking. His back is sloping downward and he has difficulty picking up his back legs when he walks. We have been doing loads of research to see what we can do to help. It’s been a bit complicated, since we haven’t had an iron-clad diagnosis. MRIs seem to show some compression due to scar tissue formed since his surgery – but is it enough to account for his deterioration? While a DNA test has ruled out DM, could it be another un-named degenerative disease of the spinal cord? We have posed these questions to several doctors. Some have actually seen Denny, some have just discussed the case with us. Nobody seems to agree on anything. So as you can imagine, if we can’t get a definitive diagnosis it becomes much harder to determine the appropriate treatment.

In future posts, I’m going to detail some of the information about some of the other treatments we have been discussing with the doctors. But for now, I’m going to share with you some photos and information about some things we are trying. We have found a wonderful “rehab vet” who does all sorts of therapies to help dogs, cats and even horses regain function. So far, we have tried acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, laser therapy and underwater treadmill. I’m going to break these down a bit:

Acupuncture: Okay, I admit, this one seemed a little weird to me. I kept reading really positive things about it from other dog owners though, so I thought why not? It’s fairly non-invasive and I couldn’t really find any risks. Now Denny is our Eeyore – he is a worrier and not particularly thrilled with vets, so I wasn’t sure how he would react. I needn’t have worried. I cannot explain it in practical medical terms (without using all that chakra-chi kinda nonsense) so all I can say is that Denny was very relaxed throughout and actually seemed much calmer by the end. I guess the only real downside with acupuncture is that it is not a “quick fix.” It takes several sessions before you can see any improvement. So I guess the jury is still out on this treatment. I think it is helping but I can’t see any definitive proof. However, I know it’s not hurting and Denny actually seems to enjoy it now. I will post updates as this therapy continues.

Pincushion Pug

Chiropractic: I didn’t know if Denny was a candidate for this. Especially in light of his recent surgery, I thought maybe manual manipulation of the spine wouldn’t be necessary. I have no qualms about chiropractic; my brother had an accident years ago and without chiropractic care he simply would’ve been doped up on painkillers – this cured his back pain, not masked it. So I had no objection to Denny trying it if the Vet thought he should. It takes literally seconds for the vet to work her way up his spine, Denny enjoys it very much, and he really did seem “looser” after it. So far he has had 2 treatments of this. I’m very pleased and would happily have him continue this as long as needed. Did it help with his walking? Not sure. We saw some improvement with him after his last visit, but he had a combination of a couple of things so I’m not sure what to credit. We will continue this one.

Laser therapy: Our dear friend Cindy swears by cold laser. For herself. With a badly infected PICC line in her ankle causing her doctor to threaten her with amputation, she used a cold laser on a daily basis to help her heal. I’m very happy to say her ankle is fine and her foot is where it should be. She credits the cold laser and who am I to disagree? I had wanted to try this to reduce the swelling in Denny’s spinal cord that the MRI found. I discussed this with every vet we’ve had contact with and none of them agreed on this. Stem cell doctor said don’t bother, surgeon said he didn’t think it would help but do whatever we wanted, the PugHearts vet said it’s the best thing since sliced bread so get going! In fact, when I told him that Denny had his first treatment, he insisted I schedule him for at least twice weekly visits. Our rehab vet was very happy that we were on board with this. Did it reduce the swelling? Who knows – the only way to know that would be to do another $1000 MRI. Did it help Denny? YES! This is by far his favorite treatment. He LOVES it! The little guy just kinda melts into a puddle of fur when this thing is on his back. The theory is that the laser wavelengths penetrate the skin and “massage” the tissue below, redistributing the cells within thereby reducing swelling or relaxing muscles. All I know is this little guy actually runs across the room to the tech when she comes in with the laser. And I will happily take him to as many laser sessions as he wants. Again, this is used in conjunction with other treatments so it’s hard to tell which one(s) are helping. We will definitely continue this one.


AquaPaws (underwater treadmill): This is kind of a no-brainer. Nobody disputes that underwater exercises are beneficial. The ability to move muscles without fighting gravity allows a range of motion that is difficult on land. Elderly people, people rehabbing from surgery – thousands of people every day use this therapy. The only risk is that you can push yourself a little too far because it feels so easy, thereby overdoing your workout. As long as a trained tech is calling the shots, it should be fairly risk free. Now remember that Denny does not like water. He hates our pool and doesn’t even like getting his paws wet from damp grass. However, we strapped a lifejacket on him and put him on the treadmill (with the tech holding him the entire time to make sure he was safe.) He did very well. The tech reported that he showed he had retained his “muscle memory” and was able to walk fairly normally. That means the muscles are still working in his legs and if we can get his back sorted out he won’t have any loss of function. The exercises also mean his legs/hips are working out, getting stronger which will help him maintain his posture better to support his back properly. He has now had 2 sessions. They are definitely his least favorite treatment, but he has done well (the bribery/treats help motivate him.) Is it helping? Not sure. He only had his second session today. It makes him very tired on the day; he slept all day last Friday. But his walking was definitely improved Saturday. Again, this therapy was combined with laser so I’m not sure what to credit. But as I see no downside to this, we will continue this one as well.

Richard took some video of the treadmill session, so I’ll get him to post that soon.

Next post, I’m going to elaborate on some of the other therapies we have been considering.