Veterinary Neurology of the Chesapeake | Jay McDonnell, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM | Annapolis & Towson, MD
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The exercises demonstrated in the videos below are only to be done under the recommendation of a veterinary physician. The patient should only receive these exercises if they have a diagnosis and referral. 

 

At-Home Rehabilitation


These exercises aid in the recovery and maintenance of many neurological conditions by improving strength, blood flow and sensory awareness. 

 

Please remember that this can be a long process, and at times your pet may object to the therapy. We encourage you to remain optimistic and to be firm with your pet when necessary.

 

Stretching Range of Motion (Front Legs)

The goal of PROM is to stretch and manipulate the limbs, in their normal range of motion, to prevent them from contracting, and to increase blood flow and improve/maintain joint flexibility.

 

  1. Lay your pet on his/her side.
  2. Hold his/her front limb closest to the ground, behind his/her elbow, to prevent your pet from getting up. You can use the same arm to drape over your pets neck to prevent him/her from lifting it to try to rise.
  3. Flex and extend each of your pet’s toes. Hold each position for 15-20 seconds.
  4. Flex his/her leg towards his/her body by bending your pet’s elbow and wrist. Apply gentle pressure and hold for 15-20 seconds.
  5. Extend his/her leg by applying gentle pressure behind his/her elbow and in front of his/her wrist. Again hold this position for approximately 15-20 seconds.
  6. While keeping your pets arm extended, as previously explained above, stretch his/her arm up. Your pet should be in the same position as you would be if you were raising your hand. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds.
  7. While keeping your pets arm extended, as previously explained above, stretch his/her arm back. Your pet’s arm should be in the same position as your arm is when your arm is to your side. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds.
  8. You can do several repetitions of this exercise spending approximately 5 minutes on each limb. This should be performed every 5-6 hours.

 

Stretching Range of Motion (Back Legs)

The goal of PROM is to stretch and manipulate the limbs, in their normal range of motion, to prevent them from contracting, and to increase blood flow and improve/maintain joint flexibility.

  1. Lay your pet on his/her side.
  2. Hold his/her front limb closest to the ground, behind his/her elbow, to prevent your pet from getting up. You can use the same arm to drape over your pets neck to prevent him/her from lifting it to try to rise.
  3. Flex and extend each of your pet’s toes. Hold each position for 15-20 seconds.
  4. Flex your pet’s leg towards his/her body by bending your pet’s knee and ankle. Apply gentle pressure and hold for 15-20 seconds.
  5. Extend your pet’s leg by applying gentle pressure in front of his/her knee and behind his/her ankle. Again hold this position for 15-20 seconds.
  6. While keeping your pet's leg extended, as previously explained above, stretch his/her leg up towards his/her head. Your pet’s leg should be parallel to his/her ear. This is a normal position for your pet. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds.

 

Deep Knee Bend

Deep knee bends are used to strengthen the pelvic/rear limbs.

 

  1. Support your pet under his/her hips and put him/her in the normal standing position. Make sure that your pet’s feet are positioned properly and not knuckled over.
  2. Slowly let your hand fall. Your pet will momentarily hold his/her body up before slowly collapsing into your hand.
  3. Again raise your hand and support your pet in the normal standing position and repeat.

 

Sit to Stand

The “sit to stand” exercise is used to strengthen the pelvic/rear limbs of an ambulatory patient.

 

  1. Hold your pet and stand a few feet away from another individual.
  2. Have the other person call your pet.
  3. As soon as your pet goes to him/her, he/she should be rewarded and then commanded to sit again.
  4. You may then call your pet and then command him/her to sit again.
  5. Keep repeating until instructed or your pet is fatigued. A fatigued pet may be more wobbly and may scuff his/her feet.

 

Hill Walking

Walk your pet up a hill to strengthen his/her back limbs and down a hill to strengthen his/her front limbs. We recommend starting out slow with only a few minutes of walking, and slowly increasing by a minute or two every week. A sling may be used if your pet is wobbly and weak in his/her pelvic limbs. Your pet should remain on a leash to prevent extraneous activity.

 

 

Expressing the Bladder

Some patients are unable to urinate independently and may need to be manually expressed every 8 hours, as demonstrated below. As their neurological function improves, they will regain the ability to independently urinate.

 

  1. Ensure your pet in standing with their rear legs underneath them. A second person may be needed to hold your pet up right.
  2. Place your fingers on the abdomen. Feel for the bladder within the abdomen. It should feel like a large “squishy” water balloon. The size varies depending upon the size of the patient and the fullness of the bladder.
  3. Once you feel the bladder, attempt to “trap” it between your fingers and your pet’s pelvis.
  4. Express the bladder by exerting gentle, continuous abdominal pressure. Be relatively gentle and patient to allow your pressure to overcome and fatigue the urethral sphincter. Don’t let up once your pet starts to urinate, keep exerting constant pressure until the bladder has completely emptied.

*Please notify us if you notice a color change, a strong odor to the urine, or cannot express the bladder for more than 12 hours.

 

Sling Walking

 

  1. Place the sling under your pet’s waist.
  2. Pull up on the handles and support your pet’s weight so that he/she is in the standing position.
  3. You may now support his/her pelvic limbs while he/she is walking. Your pet should still be leashed at this time to control his/her front half. If your pet is not moving his/her pelvic limbs, his/her feet should not be dragging on the ground, which can cause trauma to the paws. Boots can also be worn to avoid this.

 

Board Certified Veterinary Neurologist Dr. Jay McDonnell | Annapolis & Towson, MD