Having a dog can help your heart — literally


Dog lovers know how much warmth and comfort their canine companions add to their lives. But they might not know that a growing body of evidence suggests that having a dog may help improve heart health.

Pet ownership, especially having a dog, is probably associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. This does not mean that there is a clear cause and effect relationship between the two. But it does mean that pet ownership can be a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease.

Several studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners — probably because their pets have a calming effect on them and because dog owners tend to get more exercise. The power of touch also appears to be an important part of this “pet effect.” Several studies show that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog.

There is some evidence that owning a dog is associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A large study focusing on this question found that dog owners had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners, and that these differences weren’t explainable by diet, smoking, or body mass index (BMI). However, the reason for these differences is still not clear.

Dogs’ calming effect on humans also appears to help people handle stress. For example, some research suggests that people with dogs experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. That means that their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly, dampening the effects of stress on the body.

If you own a dog or are thinking about it, the potential benefits for your heart health are a nice plus. However, pets should not be adopted for the primary purpose of reducing heart disease risk. And definitely don’t add a dog to your life if you’re not ready or able to take care of one, including making sure it gets enough exercise.

To learn more about the health benefits of owning a dog, buy Get Healthy, Get a Dog, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. f

Adventures in Canine Rehab Certification : Part 3

Today on Day 3 of the CCRP (certified canine rehab practitioner) training, the focus was on therapeutic exercises. While the treatment modalities I discussed previously are very important, therapeutic exercise comprises a large portion of most treatment plans. The best part about therapeutic exercise is that many of these exercises can be performed at home, allowing for pet owners to play an active role in the therapy of their pets. These routines can be varied to allow for continued interest and stimulation for the pet. They can also be gradually increased in difficulty and intensity as the patient progresses. Here are some of the exercises that we discussed today:

Cavaletti Rails– These are rails or poles spaced apart on the ground that the patient is encouraged to walk through. These can help enhance balance and improve weight bearing on previously injured limbs. The height of the rails can be adjusted to provide different effects on different joints. 

Balance discs– These are inflatable discs that are used to provide an unstable surface to allow for balance training. The can also play a big role in muscle strengthening. 

Sit to Stand exercises– The focus of this exercise is to practice sitting and standing correctly to help strengthen muscles in the hips and stifle (knee) joints. This is a great exercise to use for a majority of patients and can be performed without the need for expensive equipment. 

Stair climbing– This can help improve strength and power in the hind limbs. While not ideal for patients immediately post surgery, it is definitely something that can be started once the patient is using the limb more consistently.

Treadmill– Treadmills can be used to encourage early use of a limb post surgery or injury and are ideal because the speed and incline can be varied. These can be very useful when re-teaching normal gait sequence (gait pattern training) or as part of a weight loss management plan. 

My head is swimming with all of the information that I have acquired during the lab portion of training. For the final 2 days of the training, the focus will be putting it all together and coming up with a plan to start to implement a rehab training program specific to the needs of our patients. 
I can’t wait to get back to the clinic and start practicing some of these techniques and observing the ways in which my patients (and their owners) can benefit. 

See you around the clinic!
Dr. Mohammed

Adventures in canine rehab certification: Part 2

Hello again!
On the second day of our canine rehab training we were able to delve a little more in depth into some of the modalities used in rehab. While we do have laser therapy at Allandale, many of these other treatment options were unfamiliar to me prior to the training. 

Today I was able to practice a few of them on live dogs who had the misfortune of being owned by veterinarians and vet techs and thus were “volunteered” to be our practice patients 🙂 

Here are a few modalities that I was able to practice:

Therapeutic ultrasound– This is the use of sound energy to affect biological tissues. Therapeutic ultrasound can be used to reduce discomfort at trigger points, help with muscle soreness following overuse injury, and reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis. It has also been shown to be beneficial with tissue healing.

Shock wave therapy– This involves using high energy focused sound waves to affect various biological responses at the cellular level. It has been shown to speed healing and increase quality of healing of soft tissues and bone. Like many of the other modalities, it also has pain relieving properties. It is used frequently in rehab for osteoarthritis and tendon injuries as well as chronic wound healing. 

Neuromuscular Electrical stimulation– This is a form of electrical stimulation that causes a muscle contraction to help with muscle weakness associated with a variety of neurologic and orthopedic conditions. NMES can also reduce pain. 

The key with rehab seems to be learning as much about your patient and their needs as possible, then taking that information and coming up with the best possible plan to help them reach their goals. I’m excited to learn more about ways to improve the quality of life of my patients!

More to come soon,

Dr. Mohammed 

Dr. Mohammed’s Adventures in Canine Rehab Certification: Part 1

Greetings from Knoxville, TN! I am here for the next week starting my training to become certified in canine rehab at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. I’m super excited to learn more about this rapidly growing area of veterinary medicine. While physical therapy in humans is common, there has been more attention focused on rehabilitation of small animal patients in recent years.

Some of you may have met the wonderful Dr. Lobos who used to do rehab at the clinic. Sadly for us and our patients, Dr. Lobos moved to Colorado this past summer. I started to think a lot more about how beneficial rehab was for so many of our patients and began to explore getting certified. Some benefits of rehab in our canine patients include: increased strength and endurance, reduced pain, increased speed of recovery post surgery, and improved quality of movement. Rehab can be a nice way to complement traditional pharmacological management of chronic conditions. It can also be used as an alternative for our patients who cannot tolerate traditional drugs used for pain management and arthritis. There are so many modalities and exercises to learn about- all aimed at creating the perfect individualized plan for our pets. 

Looking forward to sharing what I learn with you all, so stay tuned!