Meet Buster! He is a 14 year-old Dachshund who was referred for rehabilitation as he was having trouble walking and losing his balance. His owner is very committed to Buster and wanted to seek out any help for him to live a good quality life and maintain his mobility for as long as possible.
During his initial rehabilitation visit, a thorough musculoskeletal examination was performed, and he was found to have significant stiffness in his lumbar spine and increased extensor tone in his hind limbs. This prevented him from being able to flex his hind limbs correctly during the swing phase of gait, and resulted in a very circumducted, wide-based gait pattern. He was also found to have proprioceptive deficits in both hind limbs, with the left hind worse than the right. Therapy focused on decreasing the abnormal tone in his hind limbs by having him sit with his hind legs flexed for a few minutes prior to any other exercises being performed ( and during rest breaks between the exercises); working on hind limb strengthening exercises such as sit to stand, standing with front legs elevated on a small step and side stepping; and having him walk slowly on a dry treadmill with the therapist manually assisting him to advance his hind limbs with better flexion and less abduction. His owner was also instructed in how to perform the strengthening exercises and helping him maintain a sitting posture to reduce tone for a home program between sessions.
After a few sessions of rehabilitation, Buster’s extensor tone would relax more quickly, and he was showing less loss of balance, but his owner was still reporting that he would intermittently splay out in the rear and fall while walking, especially over smooth surface floors in the house. A set of hobbles was fabricated for him, to help keep his hind legs more adducted. You can see the difference in his gait pattern with and without the hobbles here:
Although the hobbles worked well in the clinic ( where the floors were rubber and had high traction), Buster’s owner was not seeing the same good results at home, so other options were discussed. It was decided that Buster would be fitted for a Help Em Up harness ™ harness, which the owner could use at home to give him light support to prevent the falls and splaying. The owner was taught how to loop the leash through the harness to avoid having to bend over while walking Buster. At the time of the next appointment, Buster’s owner was remarking how much better he was able to walk with just light support from the harness, but that she would love for him to have some independent mobility also, so he could wander around the yard for exercise, so it was decided to try a lightweight wheeled “walker” for Buster, designed by Canine Rehab Systems. This design was chosen to allow the most freedom of motion in his limbs and to avoid him potentially rolling over his rear toes, due to his abducted gait pattern. A few measurements were taken, to ensure the correct size and shape of the cart.
A week later, Buster tried out his wheels for the first time, and it was an immediate success! He took to the wheeled frame without hesitation, and motored his way across the gym quickly! ( for him, anyway!). Buster’s owner was very happy and felt this would be a great solution for him at home.
With a solid foundation of tone reduction exercises, gait retraining and some ingenuity to fabricate hobbles and a walking frame, Buster has shown positive strides for more independence with his mobility, and his owner feels empowered to have some tools to help Buster with his quality of life.