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Day in the life of a vet physio at the NARCH conference 2023

Come with me to the national association of registered canine hydrotherapists (NARCH) annual conference where we discussed all things orthopedic surgery with the vets from Fitzpatricks referrals, game based training and gait analysis.


So I wanted to share with you the common injuries and conditions that can be treated with surgery prior to their rehab and the most common injuries/disorders of each joint. Knowing more about the injuries and disorders and their treatment can help you feel less overwhelmed should you dog ever be unfortunate enough to suffer an injury.



Let’s take a look at common forelimb (FL) conditions:


A common developmental condition of the shoulder is OCD where a flap of cartilage develops in the shoulder joint. This flap can be removed surgically if only small, but for larger flaps an artificial joint surface plug is used to fill the hole left, sort of like a pothole being filled. OCD is usually seen in dogs aged 6-18 months old.


A common developmental condition of the elbow is elbow dysplasia (ED). ED is used to describe a whole host of elbow conditions but today we will focus on one of the most common medial coronoid process diseases where there is increased pressure on the inside of the elbow joint. This increase in pressure leads to an increase in the bone density making it more brittle and therefore more likely to fracture. If these fractures occur the fractured portion of bone is removed surgically, in dogs without fractures surgery can still be performed to reduce pressure.


A common injury of the carpus (wrist) is a hyperextension injury where the carpus has more movement than it should. This can occur in active or older dogs who overuse the FL or land heavily on it. Some cases can be treated conservatively but in more severe cases a surgery can be used to fuse the carpal so it no longer moves.



Let’s take a look at the most common hindlimb conditions (HL):


Fractures are one of the most common HL injuries and can occur in the leg or in the pelvis. These fractures are often fixed surgically to help align them and give them more support whilst healing.


Another common injury to the HL is to the cruciate ligament in the stifle (knee) joint. The majority of these injuries are caused due to degeneration of the ligament. These injuries can be treated conservatively or with a number of different surgeries. The one preferred by most orthopedic specialists is the TPLO but be sure to ask your vet which they prefer and why. Unlike in some humans the ligament is not replaced as it has a high failure rate.



After spending a morning in the theater we took a look at gait analysis with lots of case studies for us to dissect. I wanted to give you all an overview of what 3 correct paces are in the hope that you will have a look at our own dogs.


So lets take a look at each gait:


Walk- 4 beat LH, RF, RH, LF with spinal Flexion and extension


Trot- diagonal pairs with reduced spinal Flexion and Extension


Canter- 3 beat with increased dorsoventral spinal movement



Then we took a look at how we can incorporate game based training into our daily lives with our dogs.


This training's aim is to help improve our dog's confidence and to build a better relationship with them, but don’t worry it doesn’t take long, only a few mins at a time. Some of my favorite ideas from this session were to use a sensory/balance pathway in young/healthy dogs to challenge their confidence and spatial awareness. Another of my favorites is the 2 FL paws on stance which helps dogs change state.


Have you tried these with your dog?


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