“There are a number of situations where dogs could benefit from physical rehabilitation, but the common reason is to improve recovery following surgery, usually orthopedic surgery — or surgery on bones and joints — and neurologic surgery — typically back or neck surgery,” said Dr. Jacqueline Davidson, a clinical professor at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
Other reasons that a dog could benefit from a rehabilitation program include recovering from injuries that did not require surgery, such as leg, foot, or nerve injuries; increasing mobility and quality of life for obese or older patients; or improving a working or sporting dog’s performance.
“The most important aspect of a program is a veterinarian who has the knowledge and skill to develop and perform an effective treatment program,” Davidson said. “The veterinarian prescribing the program will first do an assessment to determine specific issues and take measurements where possible. For example, they might measure muscle size before and after the therapy has begun to monitor for improvements and determine whether the program is effective.”
Certified veterinarians may also recommend supplemental treatments, each with their own benefits, that can be added to the recovery program as well.
Because treatment programs can vary, Davidson strongly recommends owners first visit with a veterinarian to discuss whether physical rehabilitation can improve their dog’s quality of life.
“Owners can consult with their veterinarian about rehab if they feel their pet is not getting around as well as they used to, seems to be less active, or is favoring one leg,” Davidson said.
At home, owners can support their dog’s recovery by walking them, as this can improve such daily activities as walking to their food dish or outside to pee.
Rehabilitation is a broad field that can include different programs and treatments specific to your furry friend’s condition, so working with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action can provide the most rewarding outcomes: pain relief, comfort, and improved well-being.
Pet Talk is a service of the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to [email protected].
• Cat owners should know that if a cat goes without eating for a few days in a row, there is a risk that the cat could develop a potentially fatal condition called hepatic lipidosis. To break that term down, “hepatic” means relating to the liver, an organ that performs vital functions necessary to life, including removing waste products and foreign substances from the bloodstream, regulating blood sugar levels, and creating essential nutrients. “Lipidosis” means an abnormal accumulation of fat.
According to Dr. David Williams, overweight or obese cats have a greater chance of developing hepatic lipidosis
“Hepatic lipidosis seems to be a peculiar metabolic response of cats, particularly those that are overweight, to a reduction in food intake,” says Dr. Williams. “Once the cat gets hepatic lipidosis, the cat will not usually start eating again on its own.”
While hepatic lipidosis itself is not painful to the cat, the original cause of the anorexia, or period of not eating, could be painful. For example, pancreatitis is painful and could result in anorexia in a cat. Cats may stop eating for a variety of reasons, both medical and behavioral.
Possible signs of hepatic lipidosis include jaundice (yellowing of skin), lethargy, weakness, vomiting, and behavioral changes.
To diagnose hepatic lipidosis, doctors often perform blood tests to identify liver function and to determine other underlying diseases. A definitive diagnosis requires a liver biopsy, according to Dr. Williams. A liver biopsy can be done through the skin, or internally if an abdominal procedure is being done.
Many factors need to be considered for a thorough treatment approach to hepatic lipidosis. The standard treatment is to feed the cat using a feeding tube that has been surgically placed into the esophagus or, less commonly, the stomach.
• Most dogs aren’t picky when it comes to food. They’ll happily scarf down whatever tasty morsels they can find. But what if your hungry pup gobbles up everything in its path, including food meant for your other pets?
It’s not necessarily harmful for your dog to sneak a bite from your cat’s bowl here and there — though of course, your cat might not be too pleased to find their food bowl empty.
But feeding your dog cat kibble or canned wet food regularly won’t meet their nutritional needs in the long run.
Kibbles are kibbles, right? Wrong. Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs, so their food isn’t interchangeable.
“Cat food has everything that a dog needs, but not in the correct balance. These imbalances could lead to severe problems, especially over time,” says Dr. Adam Currier, a veterinarian at Fuzzy Pet Health.
For example, cat food typically has more calories, fat, and protein than dog food, Currier says. This is because cat food contains a higher meat content than dog food, and meat is calorically dense.