Although I had communicated with Susan E. Davis through social media, I had never really discussed the value of physical therapy and rehabilitation in animals with her until my introduction to this treatment modality on my own body a few weeks ago. Ms. Davis spent 30 years managing a human physical therapy center at which time she began to pursue her dream of combining physical therapy with her passion for animals. Susan now operates the Joy Care Onsite Physical Therapy business from her home in Red Bank, New Jersey where she treats animals who may have a myriad of health and anatomical issues. Ms. Davis performs her treatments and offers pet owners instructions at the home or physical location of the pet owner. Therefore, the pet does not undergo the stress and mental anguish of a car ride, and suffering an emotional trip to a clinic location. Forming a bond with the pet upon first interactions are paramount to getting the pet to relax and accept the therapy that is being delivered. And equally important is the comfort level of the pet owner who can observe the therapy in their own familiar surroundings. This brings great benefit to all concerned.
Ms. Davis, who has authored the book, “PHYSICAL THERAPY and REHABILITATION for ANIMALS: A GUIDE for the CONSUMER” has also written many articles on physical therapy in animals that were published in recognized magazines and journals. She has written articles on the subject for this web site. Be sure to read them. She treats conditions over a wide spectrum of complexity including arthritis, hip dysplasia, surgical rehabilitation, spinal deformity, herniated spinal discs, sciatic nerve dis-function and many more using physical therapy; therefore, bringing flexibility and range of motion to these animal’s joints and muscles. Susan treats all species of animals from dogs and cats to rabbits and goats. She has a unique understanding of the importance of harmony and balance in the posture and gait of animals. Susan speaks about the base of support (BOS) for animals which is the stance position of how the feet and toes touch the ground. A dog’s center of gravity (COG) is the point in the body where mass is equally balanced or distributed in all directions. In the dog, the COG is at mid chest just behind the shoulder blades. Likewise, in the dog, 60% of the dog’s weight is carried by the front legs and 40% is carried by the back legs. Therefore, a dog with a back-leg amputation seems to move about and do better than a dog with a front leg amputation or permanent injury. The issue of balance and coordination of all moving parts of animals, including humans, is depending upon all those moving parts operating in fluid motion. Once one part fails to do its part, the center of gravity moves toward that point and the animal compensates by bearing more weight on the non-injured leg in the case of a dog. This often, will cause problems with the good or working parts causing joints to become arthritic or muscles to weaken. Many times, it takes repetitive stretching and extension of these muscles and movement within the joints to correct the problem. A physical therapist will design and coach the pet owner how to maximize these exercises to gain the required flexibility and movement to approach normal posture.
Perhaps the best example of normal posture is the racing thoroughbred horse. These beautiful animals when going through the paces of their training or in an actual race exhibit the epitome of a perfectly balanced and fluid moving well-oiled biological machine. From a side view, one can observe the racing thoroughbred as he extends from the tip of his nose to the very tip of his tail flowing behind him. All this is creating the balance of movement that nature provides. If there is injury to any of the moving parts, the horse compensates by bearing more weight on a limb that is not hurting causing a more disheveled gait. The orchestration of all parts moving in unison is lost. Even the jockey must buy in to the fluid motion of the horse in action. If he or she does not participate in the normal movement of the racing horse, the fluid movement is impaired and the horse runs slower or sometimes refuses to run at all. I attended a seminar last week on the hoof of the horse, and this equilibrium was accentuated greatly, that if the horse’s foot is out of balance, the horse is compromised and bad results follow. The adage, “no hoof, no horse” certainly applies.
There is also an old saying, that, “you cannot train an old dog new tricks”. Not necessarily true!
I now know if I regularly stretch my muscles and exercise these joints on a regular basis, my ability to maintain balance and movement in my daily activities will be greatly enhanced. “The basics behind maintaining homeostasis in balance is keeping the center of gravity (COG) over the base of support (BOS)”, states Susan E. Davis, PT on her web site. I did not know it before, but the margins in my time allotment each day will include space in the future for exercise and stretching in order that I maintain the best mobility possible for my maximum well-being. I hope all pet owners will do the same for their dogs, cats, and other animals they consider their pets, and exercise them through various methods that are known to benefit their health status. Check with your veterinarian and see if they have a working relationship with a Certified Animal Physical Therapist. Most state Veterinary Practice Acts require that a physical therapist must work on animals in coordination with the animal’s primary veterinarian. You can also go to web sites that provide access to Certified Animal Physical Therapists such as www.physicaltherapists.com
to search for a therapist for your pet. Your pets will thank you for it with every lick to your cheek and every wag of its tail.
For more information go to:
Joy Care On-Site Physical Therapy: www.joycareonsight.com
International Association for Veterinary Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy: www.iavrph.org
American Physical Therapy Association: www.apta.org
Bruce W. Little, DVM