Recent investigations by the GOLPP study group have found that rehabilitation therapy has maintained a superior quality of life in patients with polyneuropathy.

The MSU Veterinary Medical Center offers an array of rehabilitative therapies and recommendations for GOLPP patients. At the Dr. Elwood and Linda Collins Rehabilitation Center, MSU’s team of clinicians, licensed veterinary technicians, and veterinary assistants provide personalized care to improve your dog’s quality of life after GOLPP surgery. 

These are the most common exercises that are performed with many GOLPP patients, but your dog should first be cleared by your veterinarian. Contact your local rehabilitation professional for help with these exercises, or for a tailored plan for your dog. 

The goal of all exercises is quality over quantity. Exercises should not be sloppy—the aim is precision. It is okay to do these exercises in any order. It may not initially be possible to do all the exercises in one session. The goal is to work toward performing each exercise twice daily. If a specific activity makes your dog weaker or in pain, please stop that exercise and inform your rehabilitation specialist. It is best to do these exercises on good traction surfaces, such as carpet or grass, unless otherwise directed.

Therapy Options at the MSU Veterinary Medical Center

Underwater Treadmill (UWT), or Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy is a comfortable and effective therapy for animals with a variety of conditions.   With coaching from the Rehabilitation team, dogs can do remarkably well in this relaxed, quiet environment. Patients needing assistance are accompanied by a technician in the tank during their session.

The UWT is a low-risk modality that improves range of motion, strengthens muscles, and boosts endurance. The buoyancy of water minimizes impact on joints while increasing resistance on muscles. Water temperature is kept between 92–95 degrees Fahrenheit, which helps to lessen pain and increase flexibility. This allows for wider range of motion and deeper stretching. The water level and treadmill speed is customized for each individual patient, and is adjusted as they progress through their sessions.

Hydrotherapy also is beneficial for patients with soft tissue injuries, neurological impairments, osteoarthritis, and muscle weakness. As a component of post-operative care, such as for patients with an amputation or who have undergone orthopedic surgery, the UWT can speed up recovery.

Laser Therapy: The Rehabilitation team uses the Companion Class IV Laser to treat chronic conditions and acute and post-operative pain. Laser therapy is an FDA-cleared modality that reduces inflammation. The treatment is safe, painless, and fast. Laser therapy activates the body’s own healing capabilities by stimulating cellular activity. The healing process initiated by laser therapy continues to actively reduce inflammation for up to 24 hours after treatment.

Acupuncture: The Rehabilitation team uses needling techniques at specific and individualized acupuncture points to promote blood flow, stimulate nerves, and increase white blood cells. This therapy helps to decrease pain and inflammation.

Therapy for Dogs at Home

Back Steps: With a treat in hand, walk toward your dog and gently push into them, causing them to take steps backward. If you hold the treat too high, your dog will sit; if you hold the treat too low, your dog will lay down. During each session, try to achieve at least five good steps going forward and backward. This exercise is meant to be slow and controlled.

Side Steps: With a treat held out in front of your dog’s face, encourage them to take steps to the side. To do this, have your dog stand with their side directly in front of you and their head to your right or left. Take a slow step toward your dog and encourage them to side-step away from you while nibbling the treat in your hand. You may need to gently bump their side with your leg as you walk into them. This exercise needs to be done both to the left and to the right, five steps each way during each session. You also can use a leash around your dog’s belly, or place your hand gently on their side for added guidance. This exercise is meant to be slow and controlled, and focuses on front and rear leg strengthening and body awareness.

Sit/Down/Stand Transitions: With this exercise, it is important focus on precise positions. The Rehabilitation team recommends teaching a Sphinx-style “down” and a “sit” position. To do this, your standing dog should bring their rear legs forward to sit without moving their front legs. They should not “rock back” to put their weight on their hind legs or move their front legs back. When performing “sits,” dogs should position themselves squarely, not leaning on one hip. When transitioning to “stands” from “sits” and “downs,” dogs should push straight up without stepping forward.

Cavalettis with Poles: 5 horizontal poles, each positioned at the same height—either 4, 8, or 12 inches from the ground using cones with holes to support them—can be used for stepping over. Place the five poles approximately two feet apart, parallel from one another. With your dog on a short lead, slowly walk them over the poles while guiding them with treats. Once down and back counts as one rep. This exercise forces your dog to lift and extend each limb over the obstacle, and removes the temptation to shuffle or scuff the feet. If your dog knocks over the poles, reset them before the next pass. To slow your dog down, you can put treats down between poles for sniffing focus. The goal of this exercise is stepping over, not hopping.

Weight Shifting: Start on a non-slip surface with your dog in a standing position. Support your dog with a harness, as needed, and gently push your dog off balance, side-to-side and back-to-front. To maintain the standing position, your dog must use strength, coordination, and balance. 

Walking (Slow, Controlled, and Leashed): Slow walking encourages more weight bearing and balance. The goal is to have your dog engaged and tired at the end of the day, but not exhausted the next morning. Begin with multiple five-minute walks per day for one week and monitor for exhaustion. If this goes well, the following week’s walks may be lengthened by one or two minutes each, or the number of walks per day may be increased. This will be a slow progression. If your dog is having a difficult time, decrease their time or frequency of walks to make the exercise more manageable. 

Walking (Uneven Surfaces): Walking on uneven surfaces is great for improving coordination and balance. For this exercise, slowly walk your dog over an unstable surface, such as a traditional mattress, an inflatable mattress, cushions, or any surface that is safe and challenges your dog’s balance. 

Static Stretching, or Yoga Stretching: Straighten the affected limb until a slight resistance is felt. Hold the limb in that position for five seconds. Now, bend the limb and hold for another five seconds. Repeat this motion 10 times. Gradually, your dog will gain more extension on that limb.

Cookie Stretches: While your dog is in a standing position, use a treat to encourage your dog to turn and lift their head. Motion from nose to one shoulder, and then the other. Then, motion nose to sky, nose to chest, and nose to floor. Finally, motion nose to one hip, and then the other. 

Circles (Spins): This is a small circle encouraged by a treat, both clockwise and counterclockwise. You should not need to move during this exercise, only hand and treat should be traveling in a circle. This also should be a slow and controlled exercise.

Stairs (Incline and Decline): Encourage your dog to slowly climb the stairs—one at a time. A treat or toy may be used to entice your dog. After ascending the stairs, have the dog slowly walk down the steps in a controlled manner. Watch each leg to be sure it touches the ground.

Additional Recommendations

HelpEmUp Harness: This is a complete shoulder and hip harness system that replaces your dog’s collar and helps with both aging and surgery recovery. By placing a pair of handles where you can quickly reach them, this unique dog harness allows you to lend support at any time. This harness is designed to stay on your dog for extended periods of time. Unlike towels, slings, or leashes that need to be rigged with each use, or ramps that have to be moved or adjusted, this harness is on-hand and ready whenever it’s needed

Nail Trimming: The importance of regular nail trimming cannot be overstated. A multitude of injuries can result from untrimmed nails, ranging from torn nails to arthritis. Trimming fur from between paw pads also helps to increase traction, which is extremely important for pets experiencing difficulty while walking around.

Nail trimming may require two people. With your dog on its side, one person should restrain the dog by placing an arm over the neck while holding the lower limbs without causing discomfort. Alternatively, nails may be trimmed with your dog in a sitting position. Treats administered during the trimming process may be used to distract your dog, resulting in a more pleasant experience. 

When trimming black toenails, look underneath to see where the hollow portion of the nail starts. That serves as a reference point to see how far back you can trim the nail. If you are trimming white toenails, look at where the “quick” (pink area) starts to gauge how far back you can trim. Stop trimming before getting past the hollow or pink area to avoid pain and bleeding. Hold your dog's toe and clip, or use a dremmel to file, the toenail. Repeat for all the other toenails, including the dewclaw, if present.

More Information

For more information, or to find a rehabilitation specialist near you, please contact the MSU Rehabilitation Service.