Photo by Notlob86
Yesterday, we were lucky enough to enjoy a perfect spring day—sunny, clear, warm, and fragrant with blooming flowers. After all the rain we’ve had, it was nice to be able to take a leisurely walk with our golden retriever, Angus.
As he happily trotted along smelling everything in his path, I remembered that around this time last year, he couldn’t walk at all. He had blown one knee out and within days the other one gave out as well. He was too big to carry so I had to help him move around by looping and lifting a towel in front of his hind legs.
After a trip to the veterinarian’s office we got the bad news that both cruciate ligaments were torn. Surgery was recommended because of his size but it wasn’t going to prevent arthritis from setting in down the road. After evaluating the pros and cons of putting an older dog through major invasive surgery, we explored other treatment options.
We knew that with or without surgery, we needed a way to rehabilitate his muscles and provide enough exercise to keep his weight down. After doing some research, we found a great physical therapy clinic with cutting edge equipment and methods. They put Angus on a water treadmill program and we took him in three days a week. Basically, they put him in a tank and filled it with warm water up to his shoulders. That took the weight off his legs and he was able to walk slowly on the treadmill installed in the floor of the tank. His first sessions only lasted about 7 minutes, but over the months, he worked up to 45 minutes. He built the muscles back up in his legs which helped to support the knees, and the warm water helped to alleviate arthritis symptoms. After about four months, he was a new (and very soggy) doggie. Even the doctors were amazed at his progress.
While the water therapy approach alone may not work in all situations, it seemed to work wonders for Angus. If surgery is required after all, water therapy may help with the post-op healing process. And of course, a consultation with your veterinarian should always be your first step in finding the appropriate treatment for your treasured pet.
Angus will never be completely recovered—we will have to keep his weight down, make sure he gets regular exercise, and watch for signs of arthritis. But he is otherwise a happy, healthy, and very mobile dog enjoying walks through the neighborhood once again.
Do you have any stories to share about caring for an injured pet?
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