Polly 7-Week Post TPLO Surgery Update
I figured it’s time to give you all an update on how doggie is doing. After all Polly is whole reason we’ve ended up here in Sun Valley ID. If it weren’t for her we’d never have discovered this place, and if it weren’t for her we’d certainly never have thought of spending a whole month here. It’s strange how life takes these turns for you -> you go through a crisis that pushes you in a direction you never planned, but ends up (in the end) being a fabulous discovery. In our case it’s the classic story of “the dog made us do it” which has transformed (all things said and done) into a very nice tale (tail? hahaha).
But I digress from the subject. So, how IS doggie doing?
Slow, But Progressive Healing
Overall healing has been slow, but progressive and admittedly it’s been a bit hard to watch. TPLO surgery involves the breaking of a bone, so you basically have to go through bone healing before you can start building the leg back up to it’s pre-break activity. It takes 8 weeks minimum for a bone to heal and even then it’s not 100%. In the meantime all you can do is slow, controlled walks (20-30 mins, 3-4x per day), and exercises that help increase range of motion and re-build muscle mass (which has wasted away from the injury) in the operated leg. The goal is to build that leg back up so that the dog eventually walks “normally” (using all 4 legs evenly) again.
It’s an agonizingly slow process where you see both progression and multiple set-backs (dog gets sore, you rest up, things improve and dog gets sore again). It’s also a struggle when you have a dog who’s very active and used to vigorous 3-5 mile walks on a daily basis. Going “slow” is not really Polly’s natural pace.
We Have To Outsmart Doggie
In Polly’s case we’ve had the extra challenge of trying to outwit her smarts too. When Polly got injured she immediately compensated with her other legs and learned to hop around on 3 legs very effectively. Being the smart doggie that she is, she retained her memory of that injury and knows her bionic leg “isn’t quite right” so she’s very reluctant (and dubious) of re-using it. That means we have to spend quite a lot of our rehab time “tricking” her into using the leg to re-gain her confidence in it and normalize her gait. A dumber dog would probably just use the leg, but in Polly’s case she needs to be encouraged and cajoled into using it properly. It’s like training her to walk all over again!
First Day Of Rehab – Acupuncture & Initial Analysis
We started rehab the day after we arrived in Ketchum. The Canine Rehabilitation Center here is a lovely little spot located in a small building just next to the place Polly had her surgery. It’s walking distance from the RV Park (less than 10 mins away) and offers pretty much everything you’d want for doggie rehab including both eastern and western techniques. It’s a really nice place and I immediately got a good “vibe” when we walked in.
Polly’s first session was with Dr. Heidi Woog, a wonderfully warm holistic vet who assessed her condition and gave her a first session of acupuncture. Having been brought up in Asia, I’m a huge proponent of acupuncture (Paul became a convert when he had his back injury in Bandon in 2012), so it was super cool to see the exact same techniques applied to doggie. Polly was SUPER nervous (she’s always been a very skittish dog), but she eventually relaxed and the acupuncture visibly relieved some on-going pain she’s had in her lower back since the injury (she would always “tremble” when I massaged her there, and that resolved after the acupuncture). Acupuncture -> 4 paws up!
Overall the doc was very happy with how well Polly’s leg was looking, especially her excellent range of motion. In fact she was so impressed she asked me what I’d been doing. Those of you who read my 3-week post-TPLO blog will know I started doing Range of Motion (ROM) exercises with Polly the first week after her surgery using a website & videos I found online. Apparently it’s very common for dogs to “seize up” in their TPLO leg, especially if they don’t start putting weight on the leg right away. Doing proper ROM exercises, which apparently very few people do, is the best way to avoid that. I have to admit I was pretty relieved to hear I’d been doing it right thing and that her leg was progressing well. Phew! Range Of Motion Exercises -> 4 paws up!
Given how well Polly was progressing and her general nervousness at being handled by others, the doc recommended we stick to 2x per week water therapy supplemented by home exercises with a final evaluation after 5 weeks of rehab. That means we’re staying in Sun Valley through the first week of August which is fine with us.
On-Going Hydrotheraphy (Underwater Treadmill)
We started hydrotherapy our first day too. For this we were handed over to the rehab technician, a lovely lady by the name of Amelia Smith and she’s the gal we’ve been seeing 2x per week since then.
Doggie hydrotherapy is a pretty interesting process. You put the dog into a large clear-walled tank/treadmill that is slowly filled with water until it reaches just above the dog’s stomach. Then the treadmill is turned on so that doggie is forced to walk through the water. The water resistance encourages the dog to use all 4 legs equally while helping to build muscle mass. It’s supportive and also a natural gait equalizer. Given Polly’s smarts and the fact that she needs to be “tricked” into using her bionic leg properly, I figured hydrotheraphy would be key to her rehab progress and that’s absolutely turned out to be the case.
As usual she was very nervous to start with, but through lots of treats and encouragement she’s gotten more comfortable with the process and she’s now happy to jump in and walk steadily inside the tank. We’ve progressed from only ~5 minutes our first day to ~15 minutes at her last session and it’s been one of the BEST things we’ve done for her. Each time we do it Polly’s gait visibly improves and each time we do it she walks more confidently afterwards too. We are LOVING the hydrotherapy! Hydrotherapy -> 4 paws up!
In addition to the bi-weekly sessions at the rehab center, we’ve been given several home exercises to do with doggie on a daily basis:
Paw Lifts -> lifting each paw one at a time for 15-30 secs. This forces her to balance on the other 3 paws. The goal is to progressively increase this daily until she is comfortable standing on all 3 paws with equal weight.
- Obstacle Pole Course -> We create “pole courses” at home using brooms, hiking sticks & wooden blocks (our jack blocks). We do regular “pole walks” and “circle over poles” walks. Both exercises encourage doggie to lift, balance on and use both legs.
- Sit to Stand Exercises -> Just basic sit to stand.
- Passive Range of Motion Exercises -> This is basically what I’ve been doing since 1 week post-op. Polly lies down on her side and I just take the bionic leg in my hand and gently extend & flex the leg in a circular motion. I’ll gently stretch her legs when she’s standing too.
- Massage & Light Therapy -> I massage the back leg muscles everyday and I’m also still using the Tendlite Red Light Therapy Pen everyday. She loves it and it seems to help her recover.
And Some Good Rest
In-between the rehab we’ve had to re-adjust our usual Wheelingit schedule to accommodate Polly’s physical limits. Before the injury we were walking ~5 miles a day with doggie. In fact most of our exercise revolved around her. With her limited physical abilities we’ve had change this up to do short walks with her followed by separate exercise for us. Also, so that the poor doggie doesn’t get bored we’ve incorporated more play (non-physical), mind games (training tricks) and “auto-hiking” (basically taking Polly in the car and exploring that way). It’s a change in the way we usually do things, but it seems to be working.
That wraps up our 7-week post surgery update. At the end of next week we’ll get our 8 week X-rays which should (hopefully) show that the bone is properly healed. Then we’ll have another acupuncture and evaluation by Dr. Woog to see how Polly has progressed. With all this we’ll be here until through at least the first week of Aug and after that we’ll see. For now doggie is calling the shots. Next up it’ll be the cat. We’re just traveling at the whim of the paws right now and we’re A-OK with that.SPONSORED LINK:
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