Latte's Rehabilitation Story

A chance accident placed Latte out on the road where she got bumped by a car, tearing the medial collateral ligament of her elbow. This ligament is one of the main support structures of the elbow, and as a young, big dog, it was very important to get her weight-bearing again. Dogs carry 60% of their weight on their front legs; to lose the use of one of her front legs could really impact on the quality and longevity of Latte’s life.

The first attempt at healing through splinting and confinement was not successful and Latte was referred to the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine for surgical repair of the affected ligament. A surgical screw was placed on the inside of her elbow to stabilize the joint and she was sent home to heal and recover.

After Latte had healed from her initial injury, it was noted that she had a significant amount of muscle wasting or atropy of her affected leg and she continued to not use it well. Latte had previously competed in agility trials and had been a very active dog. When she came for assessment to Four Paws Veternary Rehabilitation Service, her owner simply wanted Latte to be able to enjoy her life and go on long walks in the woods with the family.

On initial assessment, Latte exhibited loss of normal range of motion of her elbow, an inability to flex and extend the joint to its normal range. The rehabilitation plan for her included exercises for her owner to perform on a daily basis to encourage flexibility of this joint. Because she had lost so much muscle mass from her affected leg, there was a very real concern during her physical rehabilitation not to stress the leg too much, for fear of tearing ligaments as well as the bone itself was considerably weakened from lack of use.

Despite her former training in the sport of agility, the accident with the car had left Latte somewhat spooky towards strange obstacles and equipment, making it challenging to create an exercise program for her. Fortunately, she enjoyed swimming and her owner was extremely dedicated to seeing her improve. A course of swimming for short periods several days a week was performed. The warm water of the pool allowed for safe use of her limb in a non-stressful manner as well as providing heat to the joint that increased the value of the range of motion exercises by increasing the flexibility of the tissues before therapy. Latte began to put on muscle and regain better use of her leg, as well as improve in the range of motion of her elbow. By the time she graduated from therapy, not only was she using her leg very well, but she was even able to compete in some agility trials again.

Latte’s owner described running into Latte’s regular veterinarian in the park some months after she completed rehabilitation and he was unable to determine which leg had been injured without checking his records back at the office. A very satisfying conclusion to her case!