Wallace is an Old English Sheepdog, who at 14 months decided he didn’t like his daily walks. Next, he refused to go up-stairs and found it difficult getting up after exercise. Obviously, his owners were very concerned and took him in for X-rays. The diagnostic testing revealed Hip-Dysplasia. A treatment plan was developed for Wallace that included dietary supplements, anti-inflammatory and pain medicine, and he was also referred for hydrotherapy by his veterinarian for conservative management.Whilst hip dysplasia is a progressive disease, the condition can be influenced by external factors. The main feature of the disease is excessive, uncontrolled joint movement leading to unwelcome muscular-skeletal changes, abnormal wear and subsequent osteoarthritis. Hydrotherapy is a planned, managed and controlled therapy program, utilizing the dynamic and static properties of water. To ensure safety and positive treatment outcomes, hydrotherapy must be carried out by appropriately trained and qualified specialists with the expertise and competency to support improvement in properly designed and correctly operated hydrotherapy equipment. Best practice encourages the hydrotherapy practitioner to be hands-on throughout the process, support the patient and use the feedback of direct touch to monitor and adapt treatment response.When Wallace was first observed, he exhibited an altered gait pattern, intermittent reduced weight-bearing load on his hind limbs and weakness of gluteal muscles. After assessment, a rehabilitation treatment plan was created. The aims were to:strengthen the affected muscles, improve and maintain soft tissue flexibility, improve and maintain range of movement (ROM), enhance gait pattern and create new muscle memory. This ‘tailor-made’ approach is critical. No two patients are ever the same, even if they present with identical problems. Each patient will respond with subtle differences which a good hydrotherapist will pick up and be able to adapt the treatment plan instantly to get the best from the patient.The hydrotherapy pool encouraged Wallace to exercise in a non-weight bearing environment which relieved pressure on his joints, diminished pain and discomfort, subsequently encouraging correct movement. Controlled and guided by the in-pool therapists, this built muscle and encouraged a better range of motion. The natural cushioning and resistance characteristics of the water meant Wallace had to increase effort and work output while undergoing hydrotherapy, resulting in increased muscle strength and bulk.In the underwater treadmill, water height was adjusted to precisely control the amount of weight bearing on joints. The therapist applied a range of different techniques to enhance gait, balance, coordination and support hind-limb muscle strengthening Within the Hydro Spa, the plan called for massage and basic stretching for pain relief purposes and to improve flexibility.Per the X-Rays’ shown here, you can see the complete transformation of the joint. At the time, Wallace was a young dog, still growing and developing. This was an ideal opportunity to address the problem and deliver a ‘near-perfect’ outcome. Because each patient presents with specific peculiarities in their conditions, and although the success rate is very high, there is still a chance this may not be the outcome for all dogs diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia. Surgical intervention may be the best long-term option. Ultimately, discussions with your veterinarian will help you decide on the best course of action and outcome for you and your pet.
By Sandra Wilson K9 Health Center, k9healthcenter.com