Canine Rehab

This is a subject very close to my heart and something we went through with our dog Finn recently.

From the time he was able to exercise, after getting all his shots as a puppy, my wife and I committed to taking Finn for a walk twice a day, every day. The only time we varied from this routine was when the weather was too extreme, as to be physically damaging to our and Finn’s well-being. So, our 2021 exercise schedule with Finn started like any other year. And it continued until late Summer when something changed for the worse. Going from walking 2-3 kilometres minimum twice a day, Finn began to struggle and could barely walk more than 100 metres before he would start panting and needed to stop and either sit or lay down. Recognizing that this wasn’t something he could simply shake off or you could put down to “having a rough day”, we sought advice from our veterinarian at Chestermere Vet Clinic. It was at this point that we started to understand that a) the problem could be caused by a number of things and b) there was an array of options open to us to help with his recovery. As with any member of the family, we took the approach that we would do whatever it took to bring him back to full health, particularly as he was only seven years old and therefore not an old dog.

Initially, the clinic did blood work to see if there was something lurking in him that could be treated through medication: nothing unusual showed up. This was followed by x-rays to determine whether his skeleton was causing issues: nothing unusual showed up. At this point, before we started working our way down a list of possible options, the clinic suggested we visit two facilities: 1) the Calgary Animal Referral & Emergency Centre, where a specialist would likely be able to narrow down possible causes more effectively and 2) the Canine Fitness Centre where Finn would receive help for his skeleton and muscles. This would consist of such things as physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture and use of an underwater tread mill. We were now in a world that we had been completely unaware of before Finn’s problems began. When telling friends, who didn’t have dogs, of the treatment Finn was having at the Canine Fitness Centre, you could see their jaws drop and questions like “dogs can have physiotherapy?” or “acupuncture for dogs, are you kidding me?” became quite common place.

In the meantime, the specialist at the Animal Care Centre was leaning towards a neurological issue, which then spurned another list of potential causes. Working closely together, the specialist then consulted with our veterinarian to compare notes and prioritize next steps. During this time, Finn was also having laser treatment twice a week.

Following the neurological route, a blood sample was shipped off to the University of Missouri for testing and later, after nothing untoward was found, a different blood sample was shipped off to a college in California to test for Myasthenia Gravis. Results came back negative for this as well.

During all this time, we were closely monitoring Finn’s ability to walk on a day-to-day basis and increasing or decreasing distances he was walking to fit with the body language he was displaying. 

Then, something not short of a miracle happened and we felt our prayers had been answered. In the middle of December, I had set out for a walk in the off-leash park with Finn and, again, watched closely how he was walking. Instead of stopping after a short while, he seemed like he was enjoying his walk more than he had been in the previous few months, so we kept walking and soon found ourselves doing a “normal” length walk, like he always used to! Not wanting to pre-empt anything we carefully monitored his progress and are relieved to report that after seven weeks, his issue has not returned, for which we are forever grateful. I suspect we may never find out what the issue was or how it healed itself.

My point in relating our experience of the last few months is to highlight the need to consult with the professionals in a timely manner if your dog is suffering. There are many resources available nowadays and many people willing and able to cure your dog. Use them!

About the author

Steve King

Steve King

Steve King was President and Founder of Community Therapy Dogs Society, a volunteer with Lions Foundation of Canada and a dog trainer.

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