When it comes to pain in cats, it’s sometimes difficult to know if your feline friend is experiencing discomfort. As they age, cats are susceptible to a variety of ailments, some of which can cause mobility issues while others can result in the need for surgery. Arthritis, for instance, is something that occurs commonly in cats, especially as they advance in years. Whether as a result of an injury or overall wear and tear, arthritis is the deterioration of cartilage within the joint, which causes the bones to rub together. This rubbing is often painful and can negatively affect a cat’s behavior.
“Doogie’s acupuncture/chiropractic treatments helped him gradually go from a low-key, sickly cat that mostly slept all day to a playful, curious little dude who had a swagger in his step and sparkle in his eye.”
– Jen, Doogie’s mom
When cats experience discomfort due to arthritis or other issues such as fractures or deformities, they may start to develop an avoidance to the litter box or lessen the frequency of their grooming as the movement required to do these activities causes them pain. They may find hiding spots or start to vocalize to indicate that something isn’t right.
“Eos, who suffers from a congenital malformation of the pelvic limb, has chiropractic and laser treatments to keep her functioning and pain free. We were given hope that she could adapt to her condition and live a quality life.”
– Denise, Eos’s mom
Maximizing your cat’s quality of life and offsetting the effects of arthritis, other degenerative ailments, or post-surgery aches and pains can be managed through physical rehabilitation. Modalities such as Acupuncture can increase circulation and help release chemicals known as neurotransmitters which decrease pain. Acupuncture can also help with the treatment of allergies, kidney disease and organ dysfunction. Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy (or “Chiropractic”) can help improve mobility and is often times used in conjunction with Therapeutic Massage to maximize these effects. Use of Therapeutic Laser helps reduce inflammation and is also key in managing pain.
“Our cat, Natasha, has osteoarthritis and after treatment (acupuncture, massage, and laser) her left, front paw limp is almost undetectable. She is able to jump up on a chair, something she was unable to do before treatment.”
– Penny, Natasha’s mom
At Integrative Pet Care, we want to equip cat owners with their own tools to help their beloved feline when they can’t be here. Our therapists can give Massage and Therapeutic Exercise demonstrations, where owners learn techniques to manage their pet’s comfort and continue their therapies at home. When it comes to overall wellness, IPC provides many options for therapies that can improve the quality of life for a cat that is suffering from illness, injury or the effects of old age.
“When Tommy developed Stomatitis, he went from 11.5 pounds to 8 in under three months. IPC developed a treatment regiment and schedule which included acupuncture/ chiropractic sessions. It took work and patience, but within a year, Tommy was healthy enough for surgical treatment to treat the Stomatitis.”
– Kitty, Tommy’s mom
Speaking of cats…
Did you see our December 2015 Chicago Patient of the Month, Puck? Check him out!
At Integrative Pet Care we see pets with a diversity of conditions and all of our patients inspire us with their resilience, but our three-legged “tripods” consistently amaze us with their tenacity and joy for life! With some basic lifestyle modifications and a customized rehabilitation plan, tripods can live happy, comfortable lives.
Some three-legged pets are born with congenital abnormalities such as complete or partial lack of a limb. There are also several disorders that can necessitate amputation of a limb, such as traumatic injury or cancer. At IPC we see pets who are missing either front or back limbs and we even see a patient who is missing one of each!
Aala balances herself on the theraball with ease (and the help of a treat)
Tripods face unique challenges in mobility due to alterations in balance and increased load to their remaining limbs. At IPC we focus on therapies that improve balance, strengthen core muscles, maintain healthy joints and soft tissues and stay fit to avoid injury. Home care and proper assistive devices can also help tripods with their mobility. Non-slip floor coverings and harnesses can make a big difference in these pets’ lives (see links below for resources).
After her front limb amputation, Aala adjusted almost immediately, taking on stairs only 12 to 24 hours after surgery. Her parents on the other hand had a more difficult time adapting both to Aala’s new challenges as well as their own uncertainty.
“She had an odd stride in her back legs after the amputation and after ruling out anything medical, it was suggested we try rehabilitation. However, while she has become so much stronger and her stride is now seamless and strong, a lot of the rehab process seemed to help us the most. The whole amputation process was a complete unknown for us. We had no idea what was normal adaption, what changes we should expect or what was okay to do or not do, both for her physically and for us as her caregivers. We learned how to better care for her (at IPC) and also it helped us see all that she could do, despite the surgery. When you go through such a big surgery, seeing all these abilities keeps spirits high.”
-Stewart, Aala’s dad
Henry rests during his session in the resistance pool
Henry, a 13 year old pit mix, is a survivor. This guy has been through a lot, including a cruciate ligament tear and several cancer diagnoses. In 2012, Henry’s left hind limb was amputated due to bone cancer and 11 weeks later he came to IPC. His mom had already made a few modifications for Henry, adding recycled tire tread to the stairs in their home and a harness to assist him. We started working on strengthening Henry’s core and remaining 3 legs with targeted Therapeutic Exercises and walks in the Underwater Treadmill. Henry eventually transitioned to swims in the Resistance Pool and continues to receive Massage and Acupuncture treatments to keep him moving comfortably.
“He’s an incredibly strong dog to start with, so I knew once we began targeting his core muscles and working on his balance he’d respond well. I feel like he’s more confident on the stairs, which is huge since we live on the third floor of a walk-up! IPC gave me the great idea of covering my hardwood floors with yoga mats, and now he can zoom around the house without worrying about slipping.”
–Christine, Henry’s mom
IPC regular and dog-trainer, Emily Stoddard, recently added a new member to her pack- Belgian malinois, Falcor. At 6 months old Falcor had a partial front limb amputation due to trauma of an existing congenital abnormality. Falcor has adapted well to being 3-legged and his swims in the pool keep him strong. To manage the tension he gets from compensating for his amputation, Falcor has Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy (VSMT or “Chiropractic”) as well.
Fal sleeps off his hydro session
“Don’t know what to say other than my tri is awesome! Everyone that meets him feels bad for him, but what they don’t know is that he is the smartest problem solver of my crew with a personality to match.
He doesn’t miss his leg one bit! Falcor is busting stereotypes training to do agility, nose work, and protection sports, so you can see it also doesn’t prohibit him from doing the things he loves. Three legs and he still out runs most every dog he comes across! Out smarts them too! People gave up on Fal, thinking he wouldn’t amount to much due to his birth defect. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to prove them wrong!”
-Emily, Falcor’s mom
Bopper, a young English lab, sustained a traumatic injury while in his original household that required a left front limb amputation. A month after surgery, he found his forever home and his owners brought him to IPC for an evaluation and to learn what maintenance therapies he would need to stay strong. Some modifications to Bopper’s lifestyle helped him to increase his mobility, including a weight loss plan. Maintaining a slim physique is extremely important for all pets, but particularly for three-legged ones. A good harness, booties for traction, a ramp for getting on and off the bed and a therapy plan including Therapeutic Exercise, VSMT and Hydrotherapy were recommended. Bopper has since lost weight, goes for longer walks and has a smoother gait!
Rocky is awesome in the gym for his therapeutic exercises
In September of 2014, Rocky had his left hind leg amputated after a soft tissue injury. About 2 months later, he was evaluated at IPC. Rocky was a happy 1 year old poodle mix who loved to run and chase squirrels. However, he occasionally had trouble getting up, especially on slick surfaces.
“I knew that because he had his surgery at a young age he still had a lot of muscle mass to be developed and I wanted to make sure I could help him support his weight comfortably. Even though he gets around just fine, I wanted to take it to the professionals who could help him strengthen the right areas to prevent any other injury. Working on his core strength helps stabilize him and build muscles that he otherwise wouldn’t be training. I know he is a lot less wobbly because of the therapy he’s had. Not only have I learned so much about his physical needs, but he loves it! He won’t get off the obstacle courses!”
-Mia, Rocky’s mom
Therapists at IPC started Rocky on a program of focused Therapeutic Exercises to improve his strength, endurance and coordination. Currently Rocky continues maintenance therapy at IPC, working out in the gym as well as receiving much-deserved Therapeutic Massage.
“He was around 7 months old, and was extremely active and he wasn’t going to let anything slow him down. Not even major surgery. I have a distinct memory of the moment I took off his surgery cone, and he looked down at his incision and was kind of surprised, like “wait a minute…,” and then that was it. I realized animals don’t have an emotional attachment to their limbs like humans do. He knows he is a little unbalanced but he doesn’t mind. “
Dr. Ridley’s little guy, Lorenzo, had his left hind leg amputated due to a congenital abnormality. Needless to say, he has no problem getting around and into trouble.
Tips and Resources
Because balance is off, having slick floors presents a challenge to tripods. Getting around and getting up and down from a sit or lay can be very difficult without good footing. Yoga mats, carpet squares and area rugs with a good grip on the underside can be used strategically to help your pet navigate your floors and stairs. Also make sure their bed rests on a surface with good traction so that they can get on and off safely.
Yoga mats- if you have long hallways or large areas to cover consider purchasing a yoga mat roll. It is easily cut to size (or shape) and comes in a variety of colors- yogadirect.com carries a good variety.
Carpet tiles- these are also easily customizable and easy to replace. Flor and Home Depot reliably stock these in a variety of colors and textures.
A little help getting up and down stairs, in and out of the car or even at the end of a long walk goes a long way! A strong harness with a well placed handle helps your pet and your back.
(please check with your veterinarian before selecting a harness to make sure it is the proper fit)
Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips
It’s pretty easy to cover slippery floors at home, but daily life may mean encountering surfaces that impede your pet’s confidence. Your pet may be a good candidate for toe grips, learn more at www.toegrips.com.
Support and Success Stories
For more support, resources and stories of happy tripods, visit tripawds.org!
In June 2014, Millie’s parents noticed that she was acting funny; she was stumbling on walks and had a hard time getting off the bed. They took her to her primary care vet who recommended seeing a neurologist for further testing. After a spinal tap and MRI, it was determined that Millie had contracted Autoimmune Spinal Meningitis which caused her to have an uncoordinated gait. She responded really well to a Prednisone regiment and was about 80% back to normal. Unfortunately she relapsed a couple of months later and could barely walk across the street on her own. She appeared to completely lose function in her right side. Millie’s neurologist put her on Cytosar (a chemotherapy drug) which she received every month and also upped her Prednisone dosage.
At the urging of her grandma, Millie’s parents brought her to IPC in October 2014 where she met with Dr. Zenoni. Millie started coming once weekly for exercise, massage, underwater treadmill and acupuncture sessions. Since she had so many therapies in a day, her parents opted to board her with us and she quickly became a staff favorite! Millie is an independent lady who prefers to do things her own way. Even though she may walk a little goofy, she knows exactly where she’s going and has a plan on how to get there.
Millie’s gentle disposition and determination has made her a joy to work with. She is up for anything and actually had to be kept back in the beginning from attempting too advanced exercises! She melts for her massage and absolutely loves doing cavalettis (she’d do them all day if we let her)! Even though we’re happy that she’s doing so well that she only has to come in once a month, we’re also a little sad we don’t get to see her as often.
“Had we not found IPC, we aren’t sure where Millie would be and hate to think what the outcome might have been. IPC has taught us so much about therapy and showed us how we could better assist Millie”
–Kelly, Millie’s mom
So far, Millie has been able to maintain her health and can now go down the basement stairs all on her own! She gets Prednisone every other day, receives Cytosar every 5-6 weeks and comes for acupuncture monthly. She absolutely LOVES going on walks and playing with their kitten and other dogs. Her parents report that they continue to see small progress every few months.
“Her demeanor and perseverance through all of this has been unbelievable; she is so happy and so loving. We are truly blessed to have her as ours. She’s definitely taught us a lot about life, resilience and determination. ”
Make a difference!
Each month we ask our POTM to choose an animal related organization to spotlight during his or her “reign”. Millie has asked us to tell you about Bialy’s Wellness Foundation.
Providing families and rescue organizations with special needs animals the equipment, medical care, rehabilitative therapy, training, resources and support necessary to optimize the quality of life of their wonderful animals. Our mission is only possible from the generosity of our supporters. Bialy’s Wellness Foundation’s goal is to provide assistance to our sponsored animals for life.
Integrative Pet Care is excited to welcome Erin Kowalski to our team! Erin has worked closely with IPC for several years, first as client and colleague and now as a massage therapist and animal rehabilitation therapist in training. You may recognize her as the founder of Bialy’s Wellness Foundation and as (now-officially) mom to Josh!
Erin has always been passionate about helping dogs and started volunteering with Chicagoland animal rescues by transporting dogs from high-kill shelters to safety and walking dogs who never got the chance to get out of their crates to exercise. She quickly found her place as a permanent foster parent to many puppies. Over the past 8 years she has opened her home to 76 foster dogs and founded Bialy’s Wellness Foundation.
Her initial interest in canine massage came from working with rescue animals. After discussing and researching the benefits of canine massage and how it could help the wonderful dogs in the rescue community, Erin enrolled in the Advanced Certification program at Chicago School of Canine Massage and completed the amazingly influential course in 2011.
Bailey’s mom first noticed something was off with her when she was about 6 months old. She stopped running around at the dog park and would often just sit down on walks. Bailey was diagnosed with severe elbow dysplasia and had surgery to remove floating cartilage and bone chips. Her mom wanted to go the extra mile with Bailey’s care and brought her to Integrative Pet Care when she was a little over a year old and that’s when we fell in love with this mushy lab!
“Bailey and her mom have been dedicated to her rehabilitation since the beginning. She is a gentle swimmer who enjoys fetching toys and treats in the pool. She even enjoys her pain relieving therapies like shockwave and laser so much that she often falls asleep”