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Physical Rehab Services


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Physical Rehabilitation

Manual Therapies/Massage
Hydrotherapy/Underwater Treadmill
Therapeutic Laser (Cold Laser)
Therapeutic Exercise (Range of Motion, Strengthening, Balance)
TENS/EMS (Electrical Neuromuscular Stimulation)
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Physical Rehab Evaluation

Physical Rehab Evalutaion

Most people bringing their animal companions in for a rehabilitation evaluation are not sure what to expect. Here are the general protocols we follow during a typical rehabilitation or functional assessment.

by  Debra Voulgaris, DVM, MA, CVA, CCRP
Cert. Tui-na Practitioner

What goes on during a rehab evaluation?

The rehab assessment consists of a 90 minute evaluation, which includes:

  • Medical history review/goals of client
  • Gait analysis
  • General exam
  • Muscle girth
  • Palpation of neck, back, pelvis, limbs
  • Orthopedic exam
  • Neurologic exam
  • Discussion of examination findings, diet, supplements and lifestyle
  • Therapeutic plan

Medical History Review

As soon as you enter the exam room with your animal companion, I start observing your animal’s movement and we start discussing your reasons for bringing your pet in for a rehab assessment. We talk about your concerns, current medical issues, including any medications and supplements they are taking. We also want to know about pertinent medical history such as any traumas, surgeries, any history of cancer, seizures or allergies etc. It is helpful to have any previous medical records faxed or sent prior to the exam if possible.

Gait analysis

We then assess the animal’s gait. We observe first in standing position, then at a walk, trot and run (if appropriate). We watch from the front, back and sides. We have them sit, stand, get up, lie down. Is this easy for them? Are they sitting squarely and correctly?? Is there a limb that is in abnormal position? Are they limping? Is there rotation or circumduction of limbs while ambulating?? During which phase of the gait seems most affected?? Are toes scuffing the floor?? Are they having trouble or are they slow to get up from a sit or from laying down. We are trying to determine where theproblem is, if this is an orthopedic issue or is it neurologic. Sometimes, it is both. We then grade the level of lameness or weakness on a 4 point or a 5 point scale.

General exam

A full physical exam is performed. We look at parameters that indicate the status of your animal companion’s health. This is very important in order to put together and effective therapeutic plan.

Rehab: Muscle Girth MeasurementMuscle girth

We measure the muscle mass circumferences of all four limbs with a tool called a ‘Gulick’ tape measure to determine how your animal companion is distributing their weight. Left and right limbs (contralateral) should be equal in limb circumference. If there is asymmetry in muscle mass between left and right limbs, this indicates an unequal distribution of weight. The injured limb will show signs of muscle atrophy and be smaller in muscle mass relative to the other limbs. The limbs that are not immediately affected are often being over used and stressed, setting the stage for future injury. This is an invaluable tool for assisting in the determination of pain or discomfort as well.

Palpation of head, neck, back, pelvis and limbs

During palpation, we manually feel the entire body: neck (cervical spine), back (thoracic and lumbar spine) pelvis and limbs, in addition to associated musculature, ligaments and tendons. Being skilled at palpation is important as signs of discomfort or injury can be subtle and often, it is up to the skill of the practitioner to be able to pick up on discomfort or abnormalities that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. We are trying to determine areas of discomfort, swelling, atrophy, heat. A vast amount of information can be gleaned from this alone and with an experience specialist, can be invaluable to understanding the entire picture for your pet’s health.

Orthopedic exam

This is a part of the musculoskeletal exam that assesses the joints of the body. We measure the passive range of motion (PROM) of all joints with a ‘goniometer’. This is a tool that measures, in degrees, the end points of extension and flexion for a particular joint. Joints can have normal range of motion, restricted in extension or flexion or hyperextended. We evaluate joints for signs of swelling, pain and stability and test for ligamentous and tendon integrity as well. We also palpate for glide – is the joint gliding freely or is there a feeling of interference preventing joint translational movement. If radiographs (x-rays) have been taken, bringing them to the consultation would be very helpful. If radiographs are not available, we may request that they be taken if they will be of benefit to our diagnosis and or therapeutic plan.

Neurologic Exam

Here we assess nerve function. It is not uncommon for clients to come in thinking that the reason there dog has trouble getting up or jumping is due to arthritis, only to determine that it an neurological issue and not from joint disease. We test numerous reflexes that help us determine if there is a neurologic component to the mobility issue. It also helps us to determine where the problem is. Spinal cord compression, which is a very common finding, can cause weakness in limbs and it is important to know where in the spinal cord the issue is. Once we determine the location of the ‘lesion’ we can better target our therapy.

Discussion and Therapeutic plan

Once the exam is over, we then put all the pieces together. Dietary modification and nutrition is discussed, as it a vital component for overall health and recovery. Supplements are recommended, specific to your pet’s needs, as they can help decrease inflammation, pain and set the stage for better healing, comfort and quality of life. We then design a therapy plan that will benefit your animal companion and be realistic for you. We offer numerous modalities such as acupuncture, therapeutic ultrasound, cold LASER, hydrotherapy, therapeutic exercises and more. We also discuss what your can do at home to help assist in the healing process. Your involvement is integral to your animal companions healing.

It’s a busy 90 minutes!!! But well worth it and Fido will thank you!


Animal Specialty Group

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