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Hillbilly Hydrotherapy

In mid April, just two weeks prior to the AKC USA AWC Team Tryouts, Frodo and I went from being super prepared and ready to rock and roll to…rehab. Frodo suffered a traumatic tear of his CCL on a Thursday, April 13, and had a TPLO Friday, April 14. In the flurry of activity that followed, as well as me being shell shocked about the injury, the surgery, the rehab, and being knocked off that high place of being ready to rock and roll at tryouts, Chispa didn't poop for nearly a week and ended up at the emergency clinic herself. During this time, she had a persistent lameness that was troubling me. Xrays revealed it was not shoulder OCD – something nobody wants, but in the grand scheme of things is fixable. Further digging, and a CT scan revealed fragmented medial coronoid processes on both elbows. So, a month after Frodo's TPLO, Chispa had bilateral arthroscopy on her elbows, and fragment removal on the left elbow. The fragments were in situ on both elbows, and it took some prying to get the clinical (left) fragment out. Because of the difficulty on the left, and given that the right fragment, also in situ, did not seem to want to budge, the right elbow was left alone. No joint incongruency was detected in either elbow. I have no idea if she'll be able to do agility, but I suppose I will give it a go, and see where we end up. Frodo's prognosis is much clearer; he'll probably be back in action in just a few months, more energized than he's ever been before, and certainly, I'll be more eager than I've ever been to get back in the ring with him.

In the meantime, I have two dogs who need rehab. I live way out in the country, and have access to a lot of great information, so the only thing beyond that is to just do it. I'm not in to driving in to downtown anywhere to get dogs to an underwater treadmill, but I do recognize the importance and benefits to hydrotherapy, whether it be ice packs, heat packs, swimming, or walking in water (cold or warm). I have an appointment with a rehab specialist in Seattle mid-June, but until then, I'll be DIY-ing it with the information I've got.

If your'e curious as to the rehab protocol I'm following with Frodo (who is at the 6-week mark this week and has his follow up Xrays!!), it's a combination of these two:

Top Dog Health – TPLO Guide – This guide is a free download, and I also get weekly emails with videos of each exercise. I'm pretty impressed with how thorough it is. It's fairly conservative, and I've been moving a little faster than this guide spells out, but then again, Frodo was in top condition prior to the injury, not overweight, and I have access to a lot of fitness equipment and information – this guide as well as the next one is clearly aimed at a pet audience. I'm sure that veterinary professionals and rehab professionals are cringing right now, but I'm ok with that – and for sure you can reserve the right to blame my use of this and other DIY resources on any rehab failures we may encounter 🙂

MedVetForPets – TPLO Guide – I can't remember how I found this one, but it's also pretty thorough, and includes more exercises with a little faster progression. I like that I can look at the two together and get a rough idea of how to proceed.

Now, I recognize that these PDF files are not a substitute for an individualized rehab plan, and so, like I mentioned before, Frodo, Chispa, and myself will be heading up to Seattle in mid-June to spend some time with a rehab certified veterinarian who also does agility to get some plans for moving forward.

Hillbilly Hydrotherapy

That brings us to Hillbilly Hydrotherapy. With Frodo, since there was no previous ligament disease, and it was a traumatic event, his prognosis for healing is excellent. Getting back to full activity is mostly a matter of building back muscle, once the Tibia has healed. And, building back muscle to the point we were at prior to the incident will be determined by how much muscle wasting occurs while that Tibia is healing. So, I knew I wanted to get him walking in the water as soon as I could. I knew I wanted to be able to do it without driving an hour each way multiple times a week, daily if possible. With Solar, who had a soft tissue injury in 2014, I just used an inflatable above ground pool and walked in circles with him, but I didn't like how he could swing his rear out and pivot, rather than tracking with front and rear together.

When I saw this set up posted by somebody on FB, I knew I wanted to build something like it myself, with a few modifications. Here's my setup (click the image to enlarge):

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 9 comments
Kelee - last year

This is amazing, thank you for sharing!

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ValerieTaylor - last year

Wow! Nothing hillbilly about this design. So impressed. The design, the work putting it together. Wow.

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Adrienne - last year

This is such an ingenious creation! I do water therapy myself (as a human, haha) and I was looking up water therapy posts and came across yours. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was for Frodo and Chispa! I’m glad I took the time to read your post, because I also got to watch your video of it in use. Perfection!

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Pookie - 7 months ago

I think you are a genius!!

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Pookie - 7 months ago

I think you are a genius!

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Mariann Foster - 7 months ago

I’ve been trying to come up with something on my own for my 7th month old puppy that was diagnosed with severe hip displasia. Because he’s so young and not showing me signs of pain, I’ve been walking him in a large stock tank in my Wyoming garage. He’s shown huge improvements and now we are not sure if he ever needs surgery. I know I will get to wait until he’s done growing now to see how he does. I just purchased a baptismal heater today because I don’t know anything about plumbing. This helps me so much! Thank you for sharing. I’m going try to set up the inner stock tank idea like you have. It’s it absolutely necessary to caulk it down, or will a enough weights old that inner stock tank there and keep it from floating? Thanks so much! (By the way, the nearest hyrdotherapy place for us is a 5 our round trip, so I also can’t see how I could do that everyday)

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