More about Canine Physical Rehabilitation

Patients Make Great Strides in Recovery at New Canine Rehabilitation Facility


"Rex" is a five-year-old Rottweiler that was experiencing paralysis due to a slipped disc in his neck, which was compressing his spinal cord. Rex underwent surgery at The Ohio State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital to release the compression, but further treatment was necessary. The Veterinary Hospital's new underwater treadmill and Canine Physical Rehabilitation Facility is a vital component of the therapy Rex needs in order to build his strength and walk again.

Jonathan Dyce, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, DSAO, Diplomate ACVS, and Associate Professor of Surgery, is thrilled with the addition of the rehabilitation unit and the state of the art treatment he can now provide to his patients. After orthopedic and neurosurgeries, patients risk developing pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and bed sores if they do not regain mobility right away. Like with human physical therapy, animals benefit from mobility exercises that will prevent these post-operative complications. As opposed to a "dry" or "land" treadmill, the water in the treadmill tank, a soothing 94 degrees, supports the entire weight of the animal. They would not have the strength to support themselves otherwise. This is a vast improvement to the therapy we previously offered our patients, when we would rely on body massage and range of motion exercises. "The buoyancy of the water enables them to move better," Dr. Dyce explained. "Thus it improves recovery time." Depending on the patient, the under water treadmill can shorten the recovery time from months to weeks.

Registered Veterinary Technician Tracy Marsh is the dedicated technician for the new service and has started continuing education seminars to become certified in canine rehabilitation (CCRP). From day one of its initiation, Tracy has jumped right in, literally getting her feet wet when assisting with treadmill sessions for surgery patients. Because of his size, it takes two to haul Rex via harnesses to the treadmill. Amanda Waln, RVT, and Marsh climb into the tank with Rex and guide him into position as the water slowly fills, placing his feet in place as the treadmill starts to move. Dr. Dyce and Marsh notice that Rex plants his feet, especially the front ones, with much more ease and confidence than when he first started therapy two weeks ago. Rex heads to the treadmill daily for 10 or 15-minute sessions. During his treatment, he walks for 30-second intervals, rests, and then starts again. After the walking exercise is over, Tracy turns on the water jets so he receives an invigorating massage, and his expression is one of pure enjoyment. "I'm excited to be able to offer this service to clients," Marsh remarked. "Rex wouldn't be at the point he is right now if he had gone straight home. It is very rewarding work, and I really enjoy working with the patients."

In addition to the Ferno Veterinary Systems underwater treadmill, the canine rehabilitation facility houses a land treadmill, an agility course, balls, and other toys to encourage play and movement. Therapeutic ultrasound and laser will also be available. Although the majority of the patients will be recovering from joint or spinal surgeries, other patients that will benefit from the treadmill include the arthritic and the obese, as the facility will also be used in conjunction with the Veterinary Hospital's Healthy Weight Management program. In addition, strength and conditioning training for working dogs and rehabilitation of athletic injuries will be offered.

The Canine Rehabilitation project was facilitated by a generous gift from Mrs. Barbara Trueman. Other donors, including Leota and John Folsom and William Meeks, are recognized for their generous contributions toward the purchase of equipment.

"We are incredibly grateful to the supportive Friends of the Hospital," said Dr. Dyce, "Their generous donations have greatly increased our quality of care." Patients like Rex are also grateful, for the canine rehabilitation program at Ohio State will advance his recovery, just in time to enjoy some fun in the spring sunshine, as every dog should.

Rex's story was featured on Columbus television station NBC4 on March 25, 2008.

 Written by: Kristine McComis

To see a dog walking on the treadmill, connect to the video Do Something Great