VET’S DIARY: A hop, skip and a jump in time for Christmas

Hazel Potter and Pip.
Hazel Potter and Pip.

With the ending of another year, Alnorthumbria Vets reflect upon some of the most memorable stories and procedures that have taken place across their practice this year, writes Hazel Potter.

This is the story of how physiotherapist Hazel Potter, and the team at Alnorthumbria Vets, got one little terrier back up and making mischief in time for Christmas.

In March, Pip, a 10-year-old Sealyham terrier, was referred for physiotherapy following spinal surgery.

She had initially presented to Alnorthumbria Vets with progressing hind-limb weakness, ataxia (a bit like being drunk!) and back pain. Further investigations, including x-rays and an MRI scan, demonstrated damage to her discs within her lumbar spine. This was putting pressure on her nerves causing the weakness and difficulty walking and balancing.

She underwent hemilaminectomy surgery, relieving pressure on the spinal cord.

Pip attended her initial physiotherapy session with me soon after discharge from the vets, all within a week of undergoing the surgery. At this stage she was paraparetic, meaning her hind limbs were partially paralysed leaving her unable to walk or stand on her own.

Physiotherapy treatment commenced immediately, which included using a muscle stimulator to activate the hind-limb muscles.

Assisted exercises and walking practice, with the use of a harness, allowed strengthening and re-education of the muscles required for movement.

Pip’s owners were exceptionally committed to her rehabilitation and at home performed the exercises provided, every day, including applying the muscle stimulator.

With this dedication given to her care, she made rapid progress and was soon able to stand unaided, as well as walk with minimal assistance. As anyone who has had physiotherapy themselves knows, they like to keep challenging you, so Pip’s exercises were progressed and made more difficult

This included addressing her reduced proprioception (the awareness of where her legs were in space) and so helping improve both her walking and balance. To complement the physiotherapy she also commenced hydrotherapy, further strengthening her muscles and promoting normal movement patterns required for walking.

The end result is that Pip is now walking (and running) independently, climbing up and down stairs and in fact now standing on anything, if the end result means she gets some food! Just in time to reach those baubles off the Christmas tree!

Hazel Potter is a chartered veterinary physiotherapist, based in Alnwick, Northumberland, providing equine and canine physiotherapy and rehabilitation across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and the Borders. Hazel holds regular clinics at our Alnwick and Morpeth surgeries as well as our equine clinic.

Hazel will also be hosting a seminar in 2015 for Alnorthumbria clients on the importance of physiotherapy and the everyday exercise you can do with your dog.