Canine rehabilitation is not one-size-fits-all. Various breeds have singular gait patterns, and that may affect the choice of rehabilitation therapies. Some breeds are prone to specific disorders, and the onset may be delayed or minimized by proactive physiotherapy exercises. Your dog’s veterinarian and physical therapist will design a program based on your dog’s size, breed, and individual characteristics.

Brachycephalic Breeds

Brachycephalic – or short-nosed – canines have stenotic nares, the formal term for small nasal openings. That means they must work much harder than dogs with normal nasal passages to receive enough air during exercise. Many of these dogs – including the English bulldog – can’t swim, and will simply sink if placed in a pool. However, they can walk on the underwater treadmill for exercise and rehabilitation.

Other brachycephalic breeds include:

  • Boston terrier
  • Boxer
  • French bull-dog
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Shih Tzu

German Shepherds and Degenerative Myelopathy

Approximately 17 percent of German shepherds and German shepherd mixes will develop degenerative myelopathy. Other large breeds – including the Bernese mountain dog and Kuvasz – are also susceptible to this devastating spinal cord disease, similar to multiple sclerosis in humans. Although there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy, dogs receiving intensive daily physiotherapy – including a hydrotherapy session each week – survived an average of 8.3 months longer than animals receiving only moderate physiotherapy or no therapy, according to a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

The intensive therapy included:

  • 5 -10 minutes of active exercise five times daily – primarily low walking
  • 3 times daily for 10 minutes each of passive exercise, including joint flexion and extension
  • Massage 3 times daily
  • Hydrotherapy at least once a week, for 5 to 20 minutes.

Dachshunds and Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral disc disease is common in dachshunds and other long-backed breeds with short legs. Roughly 18 percent of “wiener dogs” will eventually suffer from IVDD, which occurs when a disc ruptures or herniation occurs, often resulting in hind end paralysis. Affected dogs require surgery to relieve spinal cord pressure. After recuperation from surgery, hydrotherapy is recommended to help the dog increase strength. Other rehabilitation methods used for dogs with IVDD include acupuncture, massage and laser therapy. Some dogs will regain the ability to walk, while others regain mobility via the use of a wheelchair.  

Golden and Labrador Retrievers and Hip Dysplasia

While hip dysplasia can occur in any dog, it’s particularly common in golden and Labrador retrievers and other large breeds. It appears to have a genetic basis. The hip joint doesn’t develop normally, and the initial signs might show up in puppyhood. However, it’s more common for symptoms to become obvious in middle-aged dogs. Hip dysplasia also affects:

  • German shepherds
  • Great Danes
  • Rottweilers
  • Saint Bernards.

The malformed hip leads to early osteoarthritis, which can completely cripple a dog. Signs of hip dysplasia include:

  • gait changes
  • trouble rising from a prone position
  • stiffness
  • exercise intolerance.

When caught early, your vet can surgically correct the malformation. When diagnosed in later years, a total hip replacement is an option. However, many dog owners prefer less invasive alternatives. Weight management is crucial, as extra weight stresses the hip. Your vet will tailor an exercise program for your dog, and that will likely include hydrotherapy. This therapeutic mode allows the dog to build muscle while walking on the treadmill, while the warmth of the water soothes the joint.  


I had a rough year, I mean, you really have to try hard to beat me on that one, and I am not into competition, believe me, especially not when it concerns my kids, four and two-legged ones.

Last year, I learned that Maia, my then 9 year old black lab, had Lymphoma, and had a month to live if I chose not to do anything. So, Maia and I chose to fight cancer. I almost lost her last July, when her temperature sky rocketed to 105.5 due to an allergy to antibiotics, but then she bounced back, and with the right oncologist, we made it through the six months – six long months – of chemotherapy. She is now in her 10th month of remission, but I don’t brag about it. I am so afraid to jinx it. I bought months ago a pink rubber bracelet from The National Canine Cancer Foundation and I never take it off. I am not superstitious, and I do walk under ladders, but I guess when it comes to my dogs, I am superstitious.

After Maia, came Jackson who suddenly was diagnosed with heart disease at 7 years old, and is currently doing well. Crossing fingers, toes, paws and whatever is available to cross.

Then Sammie, my little one, my fierce big dog trapped in a small body lost his fight to heart disease. You see you pick your poison: you have heart disease so you take meds which are going to screw up your kidneys. He died of kidney failure a month ago. 14 years with that little devil, and suddenly, despite of six other dogs, the house feels quiet and empty.

And then came Lola. Lola just turned 10 on May 28th, and we celebrated her birthday with roasted chickens. Have you ever met a dog who did not like roasted chickens? Me neither.


Lola, it’s a long story. I got her when she was 6 weeks old, and she drove me freaking crazy. It was not her fault. She was taken away from her Mom far too early, and had no skills, like she was on my lap, and suddenly she was peeing on me. Yeah, seriously!

But we grew up together in many ways even though I think she really considered my daughter, Jessica, like her Mom. Jessica was with me when we picked her up, and she has a special relationship with Jessica. We went together to visit Jessica in college when she chose to go to Delaware…. Lola was and still is my best buddy, the girlfriend who is always there for you. She is also my crazy girl who must have been a fish in another life.

When she was three months old, her mission in life was to retrieve every leaf from the canal when she went swimming. That was my girl. Gosh, that dog loves to swim. So, when I decided to build a swimming pool for dogs (because swimming is the best thing you can do for your dog at any stage of his/her life), I was smiling…. I thought Lola was not going to believe it that she could go swimming every day of her life if she wanted to. And the pools opened, and Lola went swimming. She is a strong swimmer and can swim non stop for a good 20 minutes. I always joked that she would drop dead before stopping…. I guess this is a lab thing….. until yesterday.



Yesterday I took her to the pool, and after 5 minutes, she just stopped, bumper still in her mouth, but trying to get her breathing back. Yesterday, I knew right away, that something was off. Last night, I spent my time on the computer googling…. lung cancer in dogs. This morning, I went to my vet, asking for the whole nine yards for Lola, because I don’t think I have ever been an ostrich in my previous lives, and I wanted to know. I knew it was bad. Walking her in the morning with her daughter Sophie, for the last few weeks, she was panting right away, and I attributed it to the heat, but…. this morning it was cool and she was still panting….

X-rays were done, and there is a mass in her lung, just one apparently…. Primary lung cancer is rare in dogs. Only 1% of dogs with cancer get that shit. Most of the time it’s secondary, meaning the cancer started somewhere else, and then spread to the lungs. It doesn’t seem to be the case, so maybe she is in the 1%. Her lymph nodes are nowhere to be seen. Call me paranoid but with Maia’s lymphoma, I check out my dogs all the time.

If it’s primary, there are options like removing the lobe, but it also means breaking her rib cage. Do you have any idea how it feels to break your rib cage? I am not sure I want to know.

I had an appointment for Maia for her regular remission check up this coming Monday with her oncologist, so I just called, and I will bring both girls this coming Wednesday instead and we will go from there.

Last time I felt that way was when we had to put our horse down. I will never ever have another horse, but it felt like being skinned alive…. That’s exactly how I feel right now. This is Lola we are talking about, my lovely, sweet girl, my tomboy during the day and love bug at night. It hurts so much than I can barely breathe. Today, I am giving today to myself to cry and cry. Tomorrow and the following days and weeks won’t be about me, but about her. But today I am selfish, and today is all about me and losing my best friend.  Tomorrow and the following weeks will be about fighting and doing the best for her, because she deserves the best. She deserves dignity. She deserves love, and she deserves respect. I love her to the moon and back and I will do what’s best for her. I can always deal with me later on. But today is the only break I am giving to myself and then, tomorrow we will start fighting.