CAM blogs

CAM Meets Ané Lloyd

Ané Lloyd

Ané graduated from Equine-Librium College as a Veterinary Physiotherapist in 2015. She has worked for a Canine Hydrotherapy Centre, with a group of high level performance horses, and started her own business in Limpopo. After starting a family, Ané joined the Onlinepethealth team and now devotes her working days to sourcing amazing lectures, interviewing experts in our field, and creating content that will help the global Vetrehabbers community to grow and expand, deepening their knowledge and improving patient outcomes.


Ané kindly agreed to answer the following questions:

What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?

A multimodal, multi-professional treatment approach is the most effective method of combating OA. It is, however, also a huge commitment both from a time perspective and a financial perspective for an owner. It can quickly become complicated and overwhelming.

As a veterinary physiotherapist  what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

A multimodal, multi-professional approach is essential. With the collaboration of pain specialists, nutritionist, rehab therapists, hydrotherapist and owner, a positive outcome and a good quality of life can be achieved.


 The simple things

Managing the progression of arthritis can at times feel overwhelming. We want to find that one thing that works, that will ensure our dog no longer has any pain. One intervention, surgery or procedure, one treatment and bam! – our dog should be back to ‘normal’ – no pain, fully functional, our best friend.

But the truth of the matter is that it just doesn’t work like that. As with the majority of things in life, we need to work at managing arthritis in our dogs, little by little, day by day. We need to choose a treatment plan, and stick to it for weeks and months, re-evaluate, add treatments, adjust the plan, and stick with it. We need to be patient, dedicated, and above all, persistent.


 The biggest challenge

If you are working with a rehab therapist or vet, it’s very likely that you have a home exercise programme that you need to be following with your dog every day. If you are anything like me, these exercises feel … well, underwhelming. Pointless, even. A waste of time. You don’t see how they can have any real impact, how they can make your dog feel better.

But here is the reality – in the long run, those little exercises are the most important thing you can do for your dog. They are foundational – literally. You are rebuilding the foundation of your dog’s strength and functionality one little exercise at a time, and the only way they are effective is if you do them day after day, week after week, month after month.


The home exercise programme

Every dog is an individual, and you will receive a home exercise programme specific to your dog’s needs. But just like a good foundation, the basic elements of the programme are the same for all arthritic dogs. Some of the exercises you are likely to receive, include:

I would like to discuss a few of these exercises with you, sharing why they are so incredibly important to your dog’s long-term health.


Passive range of motion

This is performed when you take your dog’s leg in your hands and move a joint into flexion and extension multiple times in a row, in a specific way, just like your rehab therapist showed you. By doing this consistently, day after day, you will significantly improve the health of the affected joints, as well as their ability to move in a more functional and pain-free way.

For a joint to be healthy, it has to move. It’s like how a cheetah needs it’s speed to catch prey – if it cannot run, it will wither and die. The way the joint is created makes it totally dependent on movement for all its needs. When a joint is painful, however, the body will try and protect it by allowing it to move less and less, something that will lead to more pain and a faster degeneration of the joint in the long run.

So if the body won’t allow the joint to travel through its full range because it is painful, and we don’t want to stress the joint further by exercising in a painful condition, the best option is to passively move the joint for the dog. The benefits of this are that we can move the joint gradually through a greater range, it is not painful for the dog, and we can make huge improvements to the health and long-term function of the joint. But only when we do it consistently.


Weight-shifting exercises

These make me feel even more as if I am doing nothing! A gentle push and rock and pull causing the muscles of the back and limbs to contract and relax as the dog stabilises and balances themselves. Why is this so important?

These weight-shifting exercises are the foundation of your dog’s strength and endurance. And just so you know … I don’t mean strength like a body builder or the endurance to run a marathon – I mean the strength to stand up, sit down, go for a walk. The endurance to do those things for a few minutes at a time. This little bit of strength and endurance is what your dog needs to get excited, play with you and enjoy life!

When our joints are painful, and the body tries to protect them by not using them, the result is that the surrounding muscles don’t get used either, and become weak. The weaker these muscles are, the less support a joint has – the majority of a joint’s stability comes from well-functioning and healthy muscles.

Strengthening these muscles without putting the joint through motion helps to improve their ability to function, to support and stabilise the joint, and at the end of the day to allow your dog to be as strong and as functional as possible.


Be persistent

Whatever exercises your rehab therapist gives you, you can rest assured that they are essential to your arthritic dog’s health over the long run. But they can only be truly effective when you keep at it, even when it feels like you are not achieving anything.

Rest assured, you are.

If you have concerns and feel that you are not doing the exercises correctly, a quick video and a message to your rehab therapist will result in some advice and keep you on track. It’s always a good idea to double check when you feel uncertain about something.

And with that, I think I will go and do my dog’s daily exercises with him! He has hip dysplasia, and we are working hard at regaining strength in his muscles. Every day, we use weight shifting as a warm-up to his prescribed exercises, followed by some passive range of motion and stretching.

Don’t give up! You will see the change if you stick with it. It’s always the little things that make the biggest difference over time.


How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?

Hopefully we can gain more effective treatment options that will allow for a less intensive long term management plan – the time and resources required from the owner at this point can be ‘too much’, and a multimodal approach can become complex. More effective options, means more simplicity in treatment.


If you could have the opportunity to give one tip/ piece of advice to an owner with a dog suffering from arthritis what would it be?

Don’t give up – take every day as it comes, do the best you can, and know that in the end you will have made a BIG difference to the quality of life of your best friend! Keep going!