Laser therapy and rehab can add years to the lives of dogs affected by Degenerative Myelopathy

If you knew there was therapy that could extend your dog’s life by 3-4 years, would you do it?

Degenerative  myelopathy or  DM is a non-painful disease of the spinal cord similar to ALS in people.  If you’re a dog parent with a dog suspected of having DM, you already know the prognosis is poor and the life expectancy is short. This disease causes a dog to develop a clumsy kind of movement in his hind end and lack of body awareness (proprioceptive ataxia).  The condition progresses to rear weakness (paresis) caused by damage to the spinal cord.  Sadly this eventually causes paralysis of the back legs and moves forward in the spinal cord, affecting the forelimbs.


I remember when I was first told my beautiful girl likely had this disease.  Initially, I was in denial but I couldn’t ignore the signs. 

One of the most frustrating things about this disease is  the lack of a known treatment.   Up until recently, intense daily physical therapy was the only known therapy that could slow the progression of DM, extending life from a few months to about a year (Kathmann et al., 2006). The complete exercises can be found in the study provided in the references at the end of this article.

 A new retrospective review study now gives hope to dogs and dog parents! This study examined intensive rehabilitation combined with one of two laser therapy (photobiomodulation) protocols. 

🌟Retrospective Observational Study and Analysis of Two Different Photobiomodulation Therapy Protocols Combined with Rehabilitation Therapy as Therapeutic Interventions for Canine Degenerative Myelopathy🌟

Lisa A. Miller, DVM, CCRT, CVA, Debbie (Gross) Torraca, DPT, MSPT, OCS, CCRP, and Luis De Taboada, MSEE

Continue reading “Laser therapy and rehab can add years to the lives of dogs affected by Degenerative Myelopathy”

 A new retrospective review study now gives hope to dogs and dog parents! This study examined intensive rehabilitation combined with one of two laser therapy (photobiomodulation) protocols. 

🌟Retrospective Observational Study and Analysis of Two Different Photobiomodulation Therapy Protocols Combined with Rehabilitation Therapy as Therapeutic Interventions for Canine Degenerative Myelopathy🌟

Lisa A. Miller, DVM, CCRT, CVA, Debbie (Gross) Torraca, DPT, MSPT, OCS, CCRP, and Luis De Taboada, MSEE

Continue reading “Laser therapy and rehab can add years to the lives of dogs affected by Degenerative Myelopathy”

P.O.L.I.C.E. for Injury Recovery

🐶 Have you recently found yourself thinking “what am I suppose to do now, my vet is only taking emergency cases?” 😟

When your dog hurts, it sucks. 🥺 Having limited access to help adds to the frustration. 😫 So what do you do?

The answer? P.O.L.I.C.E.! 👮‍♀️⁉️🤷‍♀️

❌Not that kind of police!

This acronym is a comes from the physical therapy and injury recovery world.

✅Early (this is actually Elevation but I prefer Early and will explain why)

⚠️ Now it goes without saying that if you dog has a catastrophic injury, you should have them seen by a vet as quickly as possible. These guidelines are for non emergency injuries.

🐾PROTECT – Create a safe environment and protect the injury site. This may include creating non slippery surfaces, hazard avoidance (stairs), a wrap or a bootie, etc.

🐾OPTIMAL LOADING – Once you know that there is no fracture or catastrophic injury, movement is best, but not too much too soon. Gentle passive to active range of motion (P/AROM) with gradual (days to weeks) introduction to functional activities is usually appropriate. You may require a harness or a sling to assist with this gradual process while protecting the injury.

🐾ICE – This is a controversial one because research shows that too much cold can actually slow the healing process. If there is a lot of swelling and pain, a cold pack wrapped in a cloth may assist with pain management along with prescribed medications. Sessions are 10-15 minutes max and discontinue after a couple days.

🐾COMPRESSION – While icing, you can add compression with vet wrap, an ace bandage or even a long sock or scarf. Not too tight! And check ever couple minutes.

🐾EARLY – This is usually Elevate, which can be tricky with a dog. But, Early refers to doing this protocol sooner than later. Early intervention after an injury has been shown to provide faster recovery.

🐶These recommendations apply to dogs and people!😊

P.O.L.I.C.E. is the updated R.I.C.E. (Rest Ice Compression Elevation). Optimal Loading encourages movement. Movement keeps the injured area mobile, reduces stiffness and may help with a faster recovery. 🙌

If your dog has suffered an acute injury, a visit to your vet or canine rehab therapist is a necessary first step. He or she may recommend the P.O.L.I.C.E. method to help treat your dog’s injury. Following this method may help your dog return to normal activity quickly and safely. 👍

🙏Stay safe and healthy!🐶

#doginjury #selfisolating #covid19 #doghealth #caninerehabilitation

Get Them Upright!



This will help! 🙏

These are stressful and uncertain times for everyone😔, and if you have a dog that has a condition like degenerative myelopathy (DM) causing paralysis, you may be feeling very unsure or even helpless when it comes to what you can do with your furry friend, on your own. 😢

Personally, I have been through DM with my dog Sammie and have worked with others whose dogs have rear weakness/paralysis. This alone is emotionally taxing and now you are self isolating and may have limited access to your vet or rehab professional. 👎

To make it more challenging, you may have a cart (dog wheelchair) for your dog but are not able to get your dog out in it right now due to restrictions in place related to Covid-19. 🤷🏾‍♂️

 Fret not! 🖐

 I have some easy to implement recommendations for you!

Even if you aren’t able to get your dog out for regular walks in their cart, get them up into their cart at home, on a non slippery surface! There are so many health benefits for your dog to be up in their cart. 😃

SENSORY/TACTILE STIMULATION with the paws touching the ground
STRENGTHENS MUSCLES that are not currently affected by the condition

It’s basically a use it or lose it scenario, or at least slow it down.

With DM, it is a progressive condition 😔, HOWEVER, sensory stimulus, encouraging muscles that still have a contraction to work a little, and promoting circulation have all been proven to extend the life span of dogs with DM. 😃

FEED upright! Raise your dogs water and feed bowls so they can reach them.
BRUSH and/or MASSAGE them while they are in the cart.
Do BASIC EXERCISES your were taught and/or passive range of motion for the hind legs. Gentle active range of motion for the neck may be appropriate too. This encourages some gentle weight shifting in the front end and keeps the neck strong and mobile.
ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES such as puzzles or scent games. These can be done statically, your dog doesn’t need to move around to do them. I place a ottoman in from of the dog and hide a treat under 1 of 3 little cups and she finds the treat (see the picture posted)
Prescribed REHAB MODALITIES. You may have a PEMF device or muscle stimulation machine that you are using with your dog. You can do this while they are upright.

😃I even had one client whose dog liked to watch TV while in his cart! And another who got so relaxed she fell asleep on her pillow stool. ❤️

Non slippery surface and decluttered space
May require a pee pad under their hind end Remember, being upright can stimulate the bowels! So you may want a poop bag too.
May require a stool or pillow as a head rest


👍Always do exercises within your dog’s capacity. Conditions like DM slowly progress forward so you may notice changes in your dog’s ability to do these things.

Every dog is different and how long they are upright is going to depend on a number of factors. These include overall health and strength, as well as progression of their condition. In addition, certain activities may not be appropriate for your dog and these are general recommendations.

👍Short periods in the cart, for example 10 minutes, can be very advantages.

You never want to keep your dog in their cart longer than they want to be in it. If they seem restless, uncomfortable, and/or start to whine, it is time to get them out.

If your dog is used to walking in their cart and you have them primarily standing still doing a game, etc., they will fatigue faster then when out walking. If possible, let them move around little. If not, go for shorter durations (i.e. 10-15 minutes) more often, in the cart.

🙏Stay safe, stay healthy and stay upright!🐕

#degenerativemyelopathy #covid19 #dogparalysis #dogcarts #selfisolating

The Arthritis Pain Dilemma

Your dog looks stiff and is having issues getting around and going for regular walks.  They may have a diagnosis of osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, a form of arthritis that worsens overtime.  You’re advised to do less activity with them and that they may need some medication to manage the pain.


Continue reading “The Arthritis Pain Dilemma”

Quick tip for putting on PAWZ balloon bootties

Easy application of PAWZ boots to protect your dog’s feet in the winter!

Trying to protect your pups feet from the winter cold and harsh salt? This is an easy application of ballon booties made by PAWZ.

Walking your dog is important for their overall mental and physical health. Protecting their feet from salt can help maintain mobility. If you have ever used PAWZ waterproof boots, you know they are great protection but can be a pain to put on. Well here is a awesome tip that was shared with me by a friend.

TIP: Stretch the balloon boot over a cup and then slide your dog’s paw into the boot/cup and like magic, the boot is on ??

For more tips, tricks and to learn how canine rehab can help keep your dog active and happy, follow me @UpwardDogRehab

#dogwalk #caninerehab #dogphysio #physiohelps #healthydog#tuesdaytip

When rest and medications aren’t helping…. What next?

Have you ever had the experience with your dog where he/she pulls up slightly ‘off’ after certain activities, nothing shows on x-rays so you follow the usual regime of rest and anti-inflammatory drugs, and your dog doesn’t improve? You gradually get back to the activity and he/she seems to get better and then a few weeks/months later it happens again?

Frustrating! 😡🥵


Soft tissue injuries affecting the muscles and tendons are very common, especially in active dogs. These injuries can be acute (traumatic event occurred) but more often are repetitive use injuries that have been micro injuries building over time, causing the tissue to slowly breakdown. In a healthy tendon, all those little tissue fibres are aligned providing the best strength and performance. With small repeated injuries, followed by inactivity, the tissues become weaker and less flexible. This creates a downward spiral as the dog starts to come up lame more often.


A ‘tendinopathy’ is a general term used to describe injury/dysfunction of a tendon. In overuse injuries of tendons, there is little to no inflammation present. The technical term for this breakdown of the tissues is ‘tendonosis’. This lack of inflammation is one of the reasons anti-inflammatory medications don’t have much effect. More to that point, a recent people study by Bittermann et al., 2018 found that anti-inflammatories may even slow down the normal healing process! (See references listed below).

Please note, I am not saying pain management isn’t important. It’s very important! This is an explanation as to why anti-inflammatories may not be giving your the effect you are looking for with your dog.

And what what about strict rest???

Tendons don’t have great blood supply. What improves blood supply? Movement! Circulation helps bring in nutrient rich blood to promote healing while removing waste products from injury sites. Yes, the body produces ‘waste’ products. Cells die and new ones grow. Circulation helps get rid of the bad renew the good. 🐾

But wait, there is even more benefit to movement…

Are you familiar with the phrase: “use it or lose it”? It’s a real thing! Regardless of species, the body responds to the activity/force put through it. Controlled and gradual increases in activity help to realign and strengthen those muscle and tendon fibres! 💪 On the other hand, lack of controlled and gradual activity/force results in weaker tissues. Basically, they get weak and can’t do their job very well which then leads to more problems. ☹️

At this point you may be thinking “so what now???” Don’t worry, we are about to talk about what has been show help with those stubborn ‘tendinopathies’!


One small disclaimer before we continue. All this information and suggestions are just that, information and suggestions. If your dog is coming up lame, please get him/her checked out by your canine health professional right away. Having the right diagnosis enables recovery. Then, if you are dealing with something that comes and goes, and sounds like what has been described here so far, consider the recommendations below.


Recommendations for chronic overuse injuries:

✅Avoid rough and uncontrolled activity such as rough play with other dogs in the beginning.
✅Initially, discontinue the activity that you think may have brought this on (this isn’t forever, just initially).
✅Adequately warm up and cool down your dog. Warmups can be about 5-10 minutes of light activity similar to the activity you are about to do, but very easy going. Cool downs may look the same and include some light stretches as well as using the necessary tools to help regulate body temperature (blankets in the winter, cooling beds/water in the summer, etc).
✅Continue light to moderate activity that incorporates strengthening exercises for the affected area. Gradually increase activity over several weeks.
✅Incorporate body awareness exercises.
✅Massage and gentle stretching after activity may help to improve blood flow and aid in tissue healing. Static stretching is NOT recommended as part of warmups!


Research has found that ‘eccentric’ exercises are a one of the best ways of helping strengthen tendons. This technical term is a type of muscle contraction where the muscle works against gravity to help slow down the body. For example, going down stairs is an eccentric movement for the muscles in the front of a dogs shoulders and thighs.


What activity and how much should you do with your dog? It depends…. Sorry but this isn’t an easy answer. It requires proper assessment and guidance of a professional trained in canine rehabilitation. Consider the above guidelines. If you do suspect a tendon issue, I do really encourage you to seek out a canine rehab therapist that can guide you through a progressive exercise routine to get your dog back to top notch condition!

Did you know we have a video on Facebook that goes into lots of detail on this??? Check it out by clicking the icon below

LInk to Facebook live on soft tissue injuries

Thanks for reading and happy training!


Overload vs Overtraining: The difference between fitness & injury

Sleeping dog after big fetch session. Canine conditioning/canine rehabilitation and Overload vs Overtraining

If you are anything like myself and the millions of pet parents out there, your dogs are active family members.  We take them hiking, swimming, running, and to the beach. Maybe you have an athlete or working dog in which case the expectations of activity and performance are even higher.  So let’s talk about how to help them stay active family members.

Continue reading “Overload vs Overtraining: The difference between fitness & injury”

Posture & Pain:

“Since dogs can’t talk, how do you know when they have mild pain or discomfort?

Sometimes the signs of something brewing are much more subtle and knowing what to look for is part of keeping them living long, active, and healthy lives. Even your dog’s stance reveals potential problem areas and discomfort.  How they carry their head, the placement of their feet under their body and the position of the tail all give signs of their physical wellbeing.  

Continue reading “Posture & Pain:”

Does a dog have a collarbone?

Dog anatomy fact, canine rehabilitation

A dogs shoulder consists of 25 muscles responsible for movement and stability! 😲⁣

In people, the collarbone (clavicle) 🦴connects the arms to the trunk (torso). This helps us push, lift and swing the arms. Dogs don’t push and lift with their front limbs. Their body is designed for running, jumping, and turning – locomotion. Dogs lack a fully developed collarbone and instead have a small cartilaginous structure (softer than bone). This design allows for enhanced speed and agility. Continue reading “Does a dog have a collarbone?”