International Association of Animal Therapists
Case Study


Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

On 2nd March Alffey a nine-year-old Cocker Spaniel suffered IVDD, grade five. This was not caused by a significant trauma that the owners were aware of and Alffey had been active all day. After a walk and approximately an hour rest Alffey started to show signs of loss of balance and coordination.

He was taken to the vets immediately and then referred to an orthoepic specialist practice where he was diagnosed. Alffey’s owners were advised the prognosis was poor due to him not having any deep pain sensation. He had lost control of is bladder and bowls and was increasingly showing signs of paralysis symptoms. The owners requested the opportunity to give Alffey every chance and therefore opted for surgery. Alffey came through the surgery successfully and was advised rest.

Physiotherapy started on 28th March - My plan with Alffey was to start passive movements and try and create and nerve stimulus to hopefully create some reaction even if only small. The stimulus worked and he started to gain feeling through his paw pads.

Alffey received physiotherapy treatment with me twice a week for an hour each session. The sessions included massage and passive movement along with electrotherapy. Electrotherapy was used to heal the surgical incision and to aid the anti-inflammatory responses.

On 4th April we started to stand Alffey aided. Placing his feet but with no weight bearing through his limb, ensuring minimal pressure to his back. Using equipment such as physiotherapy peanut made this process easier and the equipment should be left with the owners to ensure this exercise is continuing daily. Electrotherapy was used to stimulate nerve activity throughout the body.

By 11th May Alffey was attempting to stand unaided. His tail movement had increased, and muscle mass was beginning to improve. When the vet allowed it, walks were started using harness equipment. First aiding front and back legs and then reducing to back leg harnesses. Using active games that increased Alffey’s adrenaline levels were useful. Excitement over shadows and butterflies in the garden encouraged Alffey to stand more often and for longer periods.

As the standing increased I introduced the use of a wobble board, however with all of this work and progress it took another year before Alffey was able to walk unaided. He continued to improve and walked successfully unaided to go on walks, increasing hill work to help strengthen him.

Although Alffey regained his movement, he has never regained his bladder or bowl control and his bladder must be expressed manually. This has led to several urinary tract infections along the course of the rehabilitation.

Alffey’s rehabilitation and the enormous effort of his owners resulted in an incredibly happy able-bodied dog, however, it is important as a practitioner to manage owners’ expectations and never promise results like these as so many complications can arise along the way.

A case study conducted by IAAT Member Emma Green (member number 1316)

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