Dorchy’s Story – Spinal Surgery Rehabilitation

Dorchy is a 5 year old miniature poodle who was brought to Davies Vet Specialists in mid-November 2016 for investigation of hind limb paraparesis (weakness). Investigation showed an intervertebral disc extrusion (herniated disc) and Dorchy underwent decompressive surgery the same day. Dorchy was able to walk without support that same evening and was sent home 2 days later. Soon after this, Dorchy returned for a physiotherapy assessment. At the time Dorchy’s owner reported he found it difficult to weight bear through the right hind limb, however had been able to walk him unaided for 10 minutes twice daily.

The main findings by the physiotherapist was Dorchy’s reduced proprioception (awareness of limb position), stability, and over-use of abdominal muscles resulting in a ‘hunched’ posture; as are common findings following such a procedure. Dorchy’s owner was given a home exercise plan to target these specific concerns and Dorchy was scheduled for hydrotherapy treatment in the underwater treadmill to complement these exercises.  

Dorchy has since completed five weekly underwater treadmill sessions, which he rather enjoys! Dorchy is showing great progress in his gait training and core strengthening, which have been the main objectives during Dorchy’s treatment. Alongside the known benefits of hydrotherapy treatment, particular tools and exercises have been performed in the water that target specific muscle groups and Dorchy’s awareness of limb position. Dorchy has been completing hydrotherapy exercises using a forelimb plate to allow him to walk with only his hind limbs. A belly band to optimise muscle activation patterns and improve functional hip extension is used. The extension of his hind limbs with a reach forward for a treat helps to encourage Dorchy to lengthen his abdominal muscles and more effectively use his gluteal muscles around his pelvis. Dorchy has started completing some backwards walking sets to enhance joint position sense and balance work standing on a water float to help build stability and core strength.

Dorchy has shown great improvement in his functional movement patterns, and he is using his core muscle groups more effectively. Dorchy still has a little way to go and will continue to have hydrotherapy treatment over the next 4 weeks which he now gets very excited for! We will continue to build on the progress already made before his family go away on holiday, where they will have peace of mind about Dorchy’s continued progress.