Friday, September 3, 2010

Video Blog: Tail Pull Rehab Exercise for Dogs

As some dogs age they have a tendency to have entrapment of their nerve roots at the caudal spinal canal above their tails. Dogs who are afflicted with this problem may be predisposed to this condition because their spinal canals are particularly narrow at that level. Although this condition represents quite a number of various degenerative changes, these dogs are commonly lumped into the category of Cauda Equina Syndrome. Cauda Equina literally means horses' tail and the end of the spinal canal with its many nerve roots looks very much like a horse's tail. The presentation for this condition is quite variable. Hindlimb lameness or gait abnormalities as well as a weak tail and sometimes a loss of control over urine and stool are most common.

The surgical treatment for this condition has been well described and has a high rate of success, but since many of these dogs are older, a more conservative approach is desirable. Several years ago it was noted in cadavers that when the hind limbs of dogs were pulled forward that the entire lower spinal cord and roots moves as much as three-quarters of an inch. This should come as no surprise to any one who has tried sitting in a chair with their head tucked down against their chest knows that with a straight leg lift one can feel the tug on the spinal cord from one end to the other.

Several years ago in response to this information we initiated conservative treatment for Cauda Equina Syndrome with aggressive tail manipulation. To our surprise we determined that we were experiencing about a 75% improvement rate in cases.

Although the success of this therapy seems to require aggressive manipulation that really should be performed by our rehab therapists on a regular basis, our home program includes straight tail pulls performed by the owner (see the attached movie).

Sit behind the dog and place a hand on the caudal "points" of your dog's pelvis (the ischia) on each side of the anus and pull for five to 10 seconds straight back with quite a bit of force. This should not be painful and should be repeated 4-5 times per session and 3-4 sessions per day is recommended.


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