Curing Your Pet’s Cabin Fever
By Dr. Margaret Meier, DVM, CVSMT It’s finally spring, and although this winter was mild, we are all excited to get outside and get moving more. If we aren’t conditioned adequately, however, this increased activity can result in an injury that keeps us “cooped up” longer! The same holds true for our furry friends, especially if they have put on a few extra winter pounds. As we all get out and about more to cure our cabin fever, it’s important to work on a proper conditioning schedule to prevent these injuries from occurring. What can we do, though, if our pet gets a muscle strain, ligament sprain, or even a fracture? How can we help them get back into the game of living life to its fullest?
First and foremost we need to manage the pain and inflammation caused by the injury. Signs of pain in dogs include “hyperventilation, increased heart rate, dilated pupils, reduced appetite, and changes in behavior such as reluctance to jump, hesitating to go up stairs, displays of aggression, or changes in their elimination habits.”1 Some of the tools you, along with your veterinarian, might choose include prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), nutraceuticals such as glucosamine/chondroitin, applying ice packs or superficial heat to the area, and passive range of motion exercises for the affected joint(s).
Once the pain is under control, it is important to work to prevent further muscle weakness and atrophy. You should always start slowly with daily walks on the leash of five minutes and gradually increase to twenty to thirty minutes per walking session. Your veterinarian may also recommend strength training exercises such as “sit to stand,” walking on uneven surfaces or slopes, or even asking your pet to sit up and beg. The schedule of activities, and their duration or repetitions, should be discussed with your veterinarian to best meet your pet’s individual rehabilitation needs. Nutritional support during the recovery process is also essential. Diets high in good quality protein help the body repair injured muscles and increasing essential omega-3 fatty acids can have anti-inflammatory benefits. Nutraceuticals that support joint health can help target repair of injured cartilage as well as ligaments and tendons. I recommend Standard Process supplements (standardprocess.com) based on specific muscle response testing to develop a custom nutritional support plan for your individual pet’s needs. Finally, the alternative therapies of acupuncture and spinal manipulative therapy (VSMT) help your pet return to normal activity, and decrease the risk of further injury. We all have injured ourselves and found that we’ve had to move differently (i.e., limp) to avoid the pain. This abnormal gait leads to vertebral subluxation complexes (VSCs) that inhibit the normal function of the body’s nervous system, delaying the healing process. VSMT specifically treats VSCs thereby allowing the nervous system to orchestrate movement correctly. Acupuncture can be used to treat muscle pain, swelling, stiffness, and weakness both at the localized site of the traumatic injury and at compensatory locations elsewhere in the body. We are honored to offer both of these services at Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo Valley. Give us a call today to see if these alternative therapies will get your pet back to running the course of life at full speed! Dr. Meier obtained her certification in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy at the Healing Oasis Wellness Center in Sturtevant, WI. In 2007 she was certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in animal chiropractic, and in 2012, Dr. Meier was also certified by the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association. 1. Gaynor, J., and W. Muir. Handbook of Veterinary Pain Management, 3rd ed., St. Louis: Elsevier, 2015, p. 82.