Some of the success stories that have resulted from Josie's work in the last few years
In November 2011 our Jack Russell ‘Scrumpy’ suffered a ruptured disc in her back simply by jumping up with excitement, which left her unable to walk. We rushed her to Cedar Grove Vets straight away, but her condition deteriorated over the weekend and I had to seriously consider spinal surgery for her (I couldn’t even think about the other option!) John Heatherington, Cedar Groves surgeon, explained to me in detail what all was entailed with the surgery, including the risks such as paralysis, not being able to go to the toilet by herself again, and a long road of rehabilitation ahead. Although these risks were very worrying I knew I had to give her a chance. I just hoped I was doing the right thing for her and her quality of life, particularly as she has been deaf from birth and therefore was already vulnerable.
Thankfully she got through the operation, however her back legs were still not functioning, and she could not go to the toilet by herself. John explained that the nerve supply into the bladder and the neurological signals to the back legs had obviously been affected, but it was still very early days to predict what progress she would make.
The nursing team started mild physiotherapy on her legs – at this stage I didn’t even know there was such a thing as ‘doggy-physio’! Her right leg was slowly beginning to gain strength, but her left leg wasn’t and so it was decided to up the amount and intensity of the physio. Josie McKnight, Cedar Groves qualified pet Physiotherapist, assessed Scrumpy and gave the nurses specific exercises to do with her, including massages and stretches. Josie highlighted to me the importance of tactile stimulation, praise and correct placement of her hind limbs, and not to worry if she has the occasional ‘bad day’ and this was expected. I visited Scrumpy everyday, and Nadine (Scrumpys adopted ‘mummy’) showed me each exercise step-by-step. Initially I found it quite difficult as Scrumpy seemed so fragile after her operation, but I knew I had to persevere. We all worked hard at the intensive physio, and it wasn’t long before her ‘bum-shuffling’ turned into her trying to put some weight on her right leg while moving around. To me, that was a big milestone and was the first sign that the physio was obviously working. However, she still relied on the nurses expressing her bladder 3-4 times a day, but it was hoped this would improve as she got more physio, and within a few days there were suspicions that she had went by herself though no-one had seen it yet! With the strength building in her right leg she began trying to lift her left leg up in an effort to walk. You could see she was trying her best and it was amazing to watch! John felt that with all this great progress that it was time for us to take her home. Josie spent a long time talking us through ‘Scrumpys Plan’ for her 1st few weeks at home, and answering any questions that we had, to make sure we felt confident enough to, in effect, take over from the wonderful care she’d been given there.
We were over the moon to finally get her home, but we knew there was still a long road to recovery in front of us. Just looking at the 50 outside steps going up to our flat alone was daunting enough, and it made me wonder whether she would ever be able to do them herself again. Our first port of call was to get her settled back into the house again and making any necessary adjustments. We blocked off the stairs and the sofas and restricted where she went in the flat, and as she could not stand on the wooden floors we put old curtains down to give her some grip until I bought a new rug. Later that evening I witnessed another big milestone – her first pee! Such relief, and not just for her!
I knew that the physio, for at least the first few weeks, had to be very intensive so I developed a chart with all the exercises and medication that was required, and how many times a day, to monitor what we were doing. The exercises were done 3 – 4 times a day, and at night I would do ‘hydrotherapy’ with her in the bath. Sometimes it was easier to do the exercises in the bath, and so I borrowed a baby bath from my sister-in-law to make baths more feasible. We worked hard every day at the exercises and baths, and within a few days I was able to carry her down the steps for a mini walk outside. This is when I noticed that she kept lifting her left leg up and not using it properly. It seemed to be that with the excitement of being outside, she was trying to go quicker than her legs would allow. Josie advised me to try my best to slow her pace down, as this would be counter-productive to her progress.
At our next trip to Cedar Grove, both John & Josie were so pleased with her progress and could not believe she was the same dog! Josie devised a new plan - ‘Scrumpys next big steps’ - which aimed to build on what we had already achieved and to work the legs harder to build more strength & tone. Aside from the exercises, I also had to set some things up in our flat to help her, such as a ½ filled hot-water bottle for her to stand on while she ate, which was for core muscle stability work, and an obstacle course down our hallway to climb over, which was to improve hip & thigh muscle development. Josie customises the plan according to your pets progress and the owners living situation and what they have to work with (garden, stairs, etc.) to make sure it will work best for you and your pet.
With Scrumpy walking a lot better, the next stage of the physio was to stimulate her with different surfaces and levels of inclines, and so I found myself constantly analysing our neighbourhood to see what may help her! A favourite walk of ours turned out to be the Moat Park, Dundonald, where we had the many grass hills, and tarmac walkways, steps, kerbs, fallen leaves, twigs etc. I tended to focus on slopes and hills, rather than doing the ‘figures-of-eights’ which was on our plan, as it proved very difficult to get her to do these – I’m not sure if her being deaf might have been a factor in that I couldn’t verbally communicate with her, but the most important thing was that we found an alternative that seemed to work and that she also enjoyed so we have stuck with that, though I am always on the lookout for new challenges for her.
Scrumpy has been such a wee fighter, and I can’t believe what progress she has made within the last 4 months. She can now not only do the 50 steps up to our flat, but she can actually do them faster than I can! Some days you could almost forget that she had ever been unable to walk and through major surgery. Without a doubt, Scrumpy would not have as good quality of life today if she had not went through the intensive physiotherapy programme. Her remarkable progress is a prime example of what can be achieved when you combine specialist skills & expertise, tailored physiotherapeutic advice, a high standard of care from a fabulous dedicated nursing team, and hard work, patience & commitment from dedicated owners.
We can’t thank all the staff at Cedar Grove Vets enough, and in particular John & Josie for everything they have done for Scrumpy, and all the support they have given us as owners - when you see her walking along with her wee tail wagging, you can see the hard work and patience was definitely worth it! Thank you Cedar Grove!
From Mel, Dee & Scrumpy Murphy! (March 2012)
Maggie is our 11 year old Springer Spaniel she was diagnosed with arthritis in her back leg about two years ago and our great vet advised a treatment plan of food additives / supplements and some pain relief; this helped but as it does the arthritis still slowly progressed/worsened and this was impacting all of us…
Maggie is a gardening dog…. out all day with Paul – a self-employed gardener, who works on his own all day and so Maggie is literally man’s best friend – how much longer could she work with Paul? Would Maggie’s arthritis force her to stay at home (on her own) all day… what would her quality of life be if this happened?
Also we enjoy hiking at the weekends and we’ve always had Maggie with us – a Springer Spaniels dream - good long walkies almost every Saturday and Sunday out and about across fields, mountains, rivers, and peaty bog land but she was struggling and in pain so we were not going out as much – which meant neither dog nor owners were having as much fun.
We were anxious about Maggie and her future; was there anything else that we could or should be doing?
Enter stage left – Josie – PhysioPet…
Maggie was 5 points lame before Josie’s treatment started. We saw obvious improvement after the initial treatment. The treatment involves massage and acupuncture, supported by continuation of the vet’s original plan and now after 3 months Maggie is only 2 points lame. Weekend walkies are back and we’re hopeful that Maggie will be out gardening with Paul for a good while yet. We are very pleased with the results and thankful to Josie for what she has done – giving us a fitter Maggie and would recommend that you give this type of treatment a try.
Josie is professional, knowledgeable, informative, personable and gentle with Maggie.
Caroline & Paul Spurdens, Newtownards, 12th April, 2013
In March 2012 I came downstairs to find my 3 year old Dobermann ‘Angel’ paralysed and unable to get out of her crate. This turned out to be a herniated disc and she had spinal surgery that day. When she finally came home from the vets my husband and I were distraught and terrified about how we were going to look after her as she could not even stand up on her own. I cannot begin to describe how shocking the whole situation was for Angel, us and my other Dobermann Ruger. We hoped that the surgery had fixed the problem but were coming to terms with the realisation that the chances of Angel recovering now rested on her rehabilitation.
Josie was recommended to us by our vets Cedarmount and her first visit was on a Sunday when we needed urgent assistance. She offered to come out even though I had hoped to just have a telephone conversation with her. She was so calm in what was a very traumatic situation but gave us valuable advice on how to begin to manage Angel. The visits began with detailed personalised information about how to get Angel standing unassisted and how to help her with stretches and exercises to move her muscles. Josie advised on how to adapt our home with non-slip mats and the best way to support Angel as she learned to walk again. One of her back legs was very much weaker than the other so Josie compiled an exercise routine over different surfaces with the aim of building up the muscle and Angel’s confidence. Josie was tender and compassionate in the way she handled Angel and was obviously a real animal lover.
Progress was immediate and helped by Angel’s youth and enthusiasm (she was previously a high energy dog so was very frustrated as not being able to be independent). Josie’s encouragement that we would achieve results was crucial to keeping us motivated and we could see Angel reaping the benefits. We used agility jumps, fitball and an exercise band all under Josie’s careful supervision and even used light leg weights to provide resistance to Angel’s weak leg. Angel came to love Josie’s visits and her ‘miracle hands’ and on days when she was in pain she had acupuncture which she loved and really helped when some of the painkillers kept making her sick.
I consider the work Josie provided to have been fundamental in Angel’s rehabilitation and her knowledge, talent and experience was obvious in this specialised area. As Josie is also a qualified Vet we were able to ask about medical issues when Angel became sick and didn’t need to put her through the upheaval of taking her in the car to the vet. Everyone has been amazed at the extent to which Angel has recovered and we are extremely grateful to Josie for her work. We definitely could not have done it without her. I have no hesitation in recommending Josie 100%.
Angel continues to progress well and her love for life (and bottles and boxes) continues!
Naomi & Stephen McCausland