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Most of us don’t even realize how much an elderly animal has been struggling as the changes have come on slowly over the years.

Human physical therapy has been recognized worldwide as a very successful adjunct to recovering from injuries and surgery for many, many years. The results of human physical therapy are so obvious and well documented that it only makes sense to apply these same principals to our canine friends. I cannot think of a single person who, after undergoing a severe injury or surgery, was not advised by their doctor to seek out physical therapy to regain comfort and mobility and to relieve pain. Senior citizens receive physical therapy every day for strengthening weak muscles, re-developing balance, improving joint range of motion and for supervised exercise and weight reduction programs.

Just because your animal cannot tell you in a language we all understand that they feel weak and sore and that it hurts to move, doesn’t mean it isn’t so. Many animal owners think that as long as the animal is not yelling in pain or unable to walk, then it must be ok. What we need to remember is that animals are incredibly stoic, much more so than we are. That doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting just as much. Oftentimes they are.

But being the amazing creatures that they are, they rarely complain. I vividly remember bringing my first German Shepherd to the vet because it was clear to me that she was having trouble walking. He x-rayed her entire body and then said to me, “If I had the same amount of arthritis in my body that she has in hers, I would be unable to move. I’d probably be in a wheelchair or bed-ridden.” I was shocked that she could have so much pain and yet still manage to get around as well as she did. After putting her on pain medication, supplements and starting massage and swim therapy she became a completely different dog, almost like a puppy again. It was astonishing to me how badly she had been suffering and that I hadn’t realized it.

I hear this same response from my clients over and over again each week. Once we get started on a full rehab program (because either the vets have recommended it, or the owner felt that their animal needed some help) I always get a call, if not the next day, then in the first few days following therapy. The call is always the same and it runs along these lines, “Wow, Buddy seems really goofy today. He is running around the house with a toy in his mouth trying to get me to play with him. I haven’t seen him act like this in years!”, or something to that effect.

Most of us don’t even realize how much an elderly animal has been struggling as the changes have come on slowly over the years. It isn’t until we start bodywork and all our other modalities that we see how much soreness and tightness are locked in their old muscles. In many cases, once we start fixing some of these age-related problems, our animals’ personalities often change dramatically. They start playing more, rushing to greet you at the door after months or even years of not getting up when you come home, nudging you to give them the massages that you are learning how to give from your canine rehabilitation practitioner, grabbing the leash and looking at you hopefully for a walk, etc. Many times when I start working on an elderly dog for the first time I can feel this previously very tense dog exhale, relax into the bodywork and then they slowly turn to give me a kiss as if to thank me for making them feel better.

THAT’S why you spend the extra money!!! Because there is nothing in life so wonderful as making your old friend feel better.


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