Effective Exercises After IVDD Treatment
by Rosanne Krupka Peters, DVM, CVA, DACVIM (Neurology)
and Robert J Porter, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a very common problem neurological, surgery and physical rehabilitation practitioners see in practice. Even more so is the patient with a lesion at or around the T/L junction (mid-back). This can affect many breeds but we tend to see more Dachshunds, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels more than any others.
Some of the more common symptoms seen in these dogs are weakness, ataxia (incoordination), and proprioception deficits (scuffing toes and knuckling the foot under while walking) Another common symptom we see that directly affects function is extensor rigidity which means that the legs will tend to be held stiff and straight. This is common when we have problems in parts of the spinal cord in the neck to middle back area (upper motor neuron).
While increased extensor muscle tone can make it harder for a patient to flex the limbs, it can sometimes help us exercise patients a little easier because it better allows for weight-bearing. This allows us to better target desired functions like standing and walking.
The video below follows a MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers patient, Bogey, through about 5 weeks of therapy.
Bogey presented to MedVet Mandeville with no pain sensation in his rear limbs, was brought to surgery and regained sensation within about a week, though was still unable to walk or stand.
Physical rehabilitation started approximately 2 weeks post op, and included underwater treadmill and targeted sit to stand exercises using positive reinforcement training techniques on FitPAWS® Canine Conditioning Equipment. As I have written in the past, the SAID Principle helps guide me in picking effective exercises for patients and athletes, and these two exercises fit very well into this concept. Bogey’s short term goals were to be able to stand and walk, and that’s precisely what we worked on in therapy.
Underwater treadmill exercise allowed Bogey to walk without falling, the buoyancy of water aided in stabilizing his gait and supported the weight that he could not. This also set Bogey up to succeed while practicing walking as perfectly as possible.
Sit to stand exercises targeted the other functional goal for Bogey. In my experience, this really helps hone in on teaching a patient how to eccentrically contract their quadriceps again. When I train a patient I only use positive reinforcement. I see no real benefit in forcing a dog to do much of anything, they never learn that way, and when healing animals or people recover from neurologic disease, I find it essential in their understanding of their own movements.
Another thing I am very particular about is when I reward a patient during this activity, as well as how much of a reward I give.
- My general rules are:
- Reward for every action
- Reward for attention, especially when starting a new session
- Reward for standing on the FitPAWS® Balance Pad (front feet)
- Reward for stepping off the FitPAWS® Balance PadFitPAWS® Balance Pad (front feet)
The most important time to reward is when they learn to release their quadriceps and get into a sit. Sometimes I let the patient nibble on the reward until they finish an action, then jackpot them for the action I was looking for.
Bogey continues to improve and is now “more active, fit and walks longer than he did before his injury,” says his owners.
Making exercise safe and challenging with the “2 On To Up” exercise
In my last blog post I outlined how the SAID principle can help us pick effective exercises for our canine athletes. So how do we continue to evolve these exercises and continue to challenge our four-legged fur balls of energy?
When I start cross-training a dog, I like to think about simple variables of exercise to fit the dog’s mental and physical skill and strength levels. There are 7 main variables of exercise, and plugging one or more into an exercise that you and your dog have mastered can offer up a much-needed challenge that can satisfy the needs of you both.
1. Speed/ intensity
4. Range of motion
5. Plane of motion
6. Body Position
A good example of this type of progression, using variables of exercise, is my “2 On To Up” exercise.
Check out Onyx performing the 2 on to up exercise at the intermediate level on the FitPAWS® Peanut.
Benefits of the 2 On To Up exercise:
- Target lower core muscle groups
- Engage eccentric muscle loading (elongating contractions) used to decelerate movement in real life and sport
- Active disengagement of hamstrings group
- Improved body awareness and strength
- Easy to teach and can evolve and continue to challenge an athlete
- Low impact exercise
The 2 On To Up exercise starts with an athlete that can easily get all 4 legs on a prop, like the FitPAWS® Giant Disc. If needed, starting with just a simple board or foam pad can do the trick if working on the perfection of the action/behavior is needed before making it harder.
The next step is to teach the dog to step off the prop, leaving rear legs on the prop and forelimbs on the floor, just like a 2o2o position for an Agility contact. Then, the actual “2 On To Up” exercise is to be able to back them up, placing all 4 limbs back on the prop. It is important to note that the dog must be standing while performing this exercise. If they sit during this action, they are only weight-shifting their front end up, not targeting their lower core musculature like we want.
Once the 2 on to up exercise is mastered on a prop low in height, you can start to progress by simply using a taller/ larger prop, like a FitPAWS® Donut. By using a larger prop you are changing the intensity, body position, range of motion, and resistance of this exercise.
You can continue to progress to larger and larger props, just like in the above video of Onyx, where she has to pull herself up with her lower core and hind limbs. For all of you worried about “tight hamstrings” this is one of the only exercises that also allows an active stretching of this muscle group.
If we want to progress the 2 on to up exercise further, we can take the actions already learned and move to the land treadmill.
**Please use the DogTread® front fence (included) when the FitPAWS® Giant Rocker Board is on top of the DogTread® Treadmill.
The progression of a canine athletic exercise plan is essential in creating an optimum training environment, allowing the athlete’s tissues to adapt and strengthen, resulting in more precise movements.
Pogo is now working many of the muscle groups that she uses in decelerating actions in real life, but doing it safely, and controlled to best cross-train her for her real life sports.
We can even take this to a higher challenge and use a K9FITvest® to add even more resistance, facilitating the building of strength and body awareness.
Variables of exercise can be very inspiring to help you progress or tailor an exercise to your athlete’s cross training program. Try plugging them in to what you are doing today, and post a video on http://www.facebook.com/fitPAWS. We would love to see your athlete in action!
The SAID Principle of Exercise and Why it’s Important in Cross Training
by Robert J. Porter LMT, CCRP
People have been exercising dogs for hundreds of years, and there are many techniques available to keep your dog in shape. But, with all that’s out there, what really helps your dog be the best they can be?
Whenever I start a new exercise program for a dog, I first ask what the dog does in their everyday life. Does he have a job, run agility or herd sheep? Or, does he lie around all day, making occasional sudden bursts out the back door toward a squirrel who inadvertently makes it into his yard? An exercise program should be tailored to compliment the everyday actions that a dog does.
For an exercise to be effective, it should work the dog more than the handler, and it should be targeted to the actions seen in that animal’s daily life. If we are cross-training for a sport, then we should also consider exercise that mimics the actions seen in the sport, but lessen the intensity or speed, while still challenging the athlete so their body can adapt and build strength.
This is where the S.A.I.D. principle of exercise comes in.
SAID stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. This basically means that we will get better and stronger at what we practice, but in very specific ways. For example, walking and running in straight lines may be great exercises for general, cardiovascular fitness, but how can we help the agility competitor become stronger in their jumping abilities?
To better target the jumping action, I would pick an exercise that mimics the same ranges of motion seen in jumping, but with less intensity, still providing a challenge for the dog.
Check out the video below of SuperPan jumping over a simple set point jump. Watch how squats mimic the take off actions of a jump.
The squat is a great example of mimicking the take off of a jump, but what exercises could help with landing?