When I met Simba, his life had moved on from its harrowing beginnings. He was happy and content with his new mommy and living the high life in Nob Hill! However, he faced another major challenge when only 4 years old, when he was was found to have intervertebral disc cyst bulging and compressing his spinal cord near his C3 vertebra, high up in his neck. He was still a young dog but he’d lost function in all four legs and had to undergo highly risky decompressive surgery in his neck. Although he recovered a high degree of his function, he still remained uncoordinated and weak.
After surgery, Simba had spent about a year recovering at home and going for shorter walks, when he had another episode of back pain and had a recheck MRI of his spine. He still had a recurring cyst near his original surgery site, thankfully this time he did not need another surgery! He was referred to me for a Rehab Consultation by his massage therapist, and once I met him, I could see that he was clearly a fighter, very chicken motivated, and I knew we’d work together very effectively! As with Kira, for Simba’s treatment plan we concentrated on four main areas:
- improving whole body awareness to prevent tripping, falls, awkward landings, & missteps
- creating optimum balance to minimize the effort necessary to stabilize the body and protect the spine from twisting trauma
- enhancing strength and coordination of the muscles of the spine to enable deliberate sequential muscle contractions and more functional movement
- generating rhythm to perform movements such as walking, chasing a ball (his favorite!), or simply climbing up steps
We started with improving Simba’s sense of proprioception: since he couldn’t tell where his feet were, he was tripping over his front paws and rubbing the tops raw. At the park, he’d fall over when trying to turn suddenly to play with the other dogs. So we also introduced him to the balance disc – a stability tool which challenged his balance. At first Simba struggled just to step up onto the disc and stand upright in one place, but with repetition of the exercise his muscles became stronger, he recruited more muscle fibers, and he could soon more easily stand on the disc without shaking! Next we challenged his spinal balance (core) muscles to add more strength and stability to protect his spinal cord from future injury. He has learned to turn around, stand up from a sit, and step on and off the disk with confidence and style! He is adding more challenges to his work out each week and is now mastering walking across a ‘balance beam’ supported on stability balls! Click here to watch him in action!
Simba now gets out and about with ease. He has made so many new friends on his daily walks that he’s got the nickname the Mayor of Nob Hill. Simba has gained even more strength through rehab work and enjoys his ‘puppy pilates’ a few times per week – jumping on the balance discs and demanding his organic chicken treats! He enjoys his sessions in the underwater treadmill twice weekly and also likes to swim a few laps in there. His front and rear leg muscles have regained their original strength and function and he has much more confidence on his walks now. And the neighbors in his ‘hood can really tell! He is acting like his surgery never happened!
Like to see Simba in action? Click here or on the image below for videos on him on the wobble disk, the BOSU, and stepping it out in style in the underwater treadmill!
And, if you love Simba as much as we do, check out his very own Facebook page: Simba, Mayor of Nob Hill!