Jamie's Rehabilitation Diary

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When Jamie strained his hind leg I didn't know where to turn for advice.  Our vets have no real experience of agility and I didn't know how to rehabilitate him and get him back to full agility fitness.  I'm now keeping a diary of his progress that I hope will help others in this situation. See Strains and an agility dog for the full story of how the injury came about

A diary of progress

Saturday 12th March 2005                                Saturday 2nd April
14th March                                                      Saturday 9th April
Sunday 20th march                                          Saturday 16th April
Saturday 26th March                                        Monday 2nd May

Saturday 12th March
It's now two weeks since Jamie first injured his leg but only a week since the injury recurred. He's getting on well but I can't keep him down to a trot all the time and I have to stop him leaping when I fetch his lead. I try to stop him racing upstairs but even this isn't possible all the time.  He's still shifting the weight off his right hind leg but he trots normally.  Keeping him occupied is a major problem.  Every morning he has a little off lead exercise.  We've done some pretend agility to give him the impression that he's jumping.  In fact the jumps are simple training jumps with no poles so he has to "jump" about 6 to 9 inches.  This is no more than a step for big dog and he barely breaks stride but he enjoys it and his leg is holding up.   We're resigned to the fact that we can't go to the match or the first show of the season, but I'm going to enter him for a show in about eight weeks time just in case he's OK.  I've noticed today that he's losing fitness and is beginning to puff a bit at times so he will need to regain his normal fitness level before we can think of competing.

Monday 14th March
Jamie has been putting a bit more weight on the leg when he stands and he has had a few little scampers.  He's able to fetch his toys and scamper back without problems.  I let him do the tunnel this morning and a few very small jumps. (6 to 9 inches).  More research on the internet has revealed that mild strain injuries in humans heal quicker with a little exercise than with complete rest so I hope I'm doing the right thing.  If the injury is more severe though, rest is indicated until all swelling has gone down.   He went to visit his friend Phoebe yesterday and this cheered him up no end but of course he couldn't run with her or race about.   I have entered him for a show on May 1st but if he's not fit of course we won't go.   He has lost some of his fitness and puffs more than usual after a walk.  Under normal circumstances  he has a daily pipe opener, which consists of flat out running and getting a bit out of breath.  This keeps his cardio vascular system up to scratch.  I used to do this with horses and it's also recommended for humans (without any history of health problems) to get a bit of exercise that pumps up the heart once a day.

Sunday 20th March
Jamie has continued doing the very small jumps but not on a daily basis as we never normally train over jumps day after day.  I've also added the tunnel on regular basis and he enjoys this.  He's lost his competition fitness now and has calmed down a bit.  He also has a daily walk.   I keep him on the lead for three quarters of the way and then let him off when he's less inclined to race around.  This has paid off as there are a lot of exciting things to chase on his walk, squirrels, rabbits, pheasants and even a deer.  I've also allowed him to have short runs but not the flat out running he's used to.  His leg is holding up well and he's putting his weight on it when he stands.   Occasionally though I do see him shift slightly onto the left leg which indicates that the muscles are still a bit sore from time to time.  Seeing him run and go over low jumps it's very tempting to think that the leg has healed and that he could go back to full training but I know that this could cause a further injury so we'll have to be patient.  A physiotherapist has recommended that I use Devil's Claw to help him but I've decided against it.  Although it takes down inflammation it can also act as a painkiller and mask any symptoms.  This could lead to Jamie trying to do more than he really should at this stage and cause a re-injury.  I have decided to try Jamie over 15" jumps when all signs of soreness have gone.  Hopefully this will be next week but if not we'll carry on as we're doing for the time being.

Saturday 26th March
Jamie's leg is still OK but this morning he looked a little stiff first thing so we kept him on the lead for his walk.   He had two walks yesterday and I think the second one was a bit too much.  We were walking with friends but when we came to the end of a footpath we found there was a stile set into a bank with only stones to climb down the other side.  Jamie would have needed to leap four feet down onto a lane. He's too heavy to lift so we had to walk all the way back again.  He's been fine the rest of the day but only lead walking today and not too far.  The rest of the week he's been going off lead for longer but no fast running and no jumps higher than nine inches.  If his leg is alright next week I'll risk a few fifteen inch jumps and see how he gets on.  He needs to be kept occupied even though he's lost that edge of agility fitness.  Here's one thing you can do to stop the boredom.  It cleans his teeth beautifully.

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Saturday 2nd April
Jamie's leg is healing nicely.   On Tuesday he went over half a dozen 15" jumps and was none the worse.   By Thursday he was ready to do some more so we got out the weave and did our first proper training.  He did around twenty 15" jumps with a few weaves and the mini dogwalk as well.  He also had a bit of a mad turn which worried me, but he seems to have survived it all well.  He did a few more jumps today and tried his first 2' jump for five weeks.  The main problem now is his lack of fitness.  Next week I will try to build this up a bit and get him running a bit more.  I'm also debating whether to take him to his training class next Saturday.  We can do 2' jumps and leave out the A-frame, and we can always stop if it's too much.  I'm afraid to let him run with other dogs though as this is when he's most likely to do the damage.  He's always the instigator of crazy games and wants to carry on long after the other dogs have tired.   Last year he twisted his back whilst hurtling round with his friend Lizzie and I don't want a repeat of that.  I've bought some glucosamine and chondroitin supplement for both me and Jamie as I'm getting a bit of an old crock as well. I've heard some very good reports of these substances so let's see if they work.  They'd better.   It's dear enough. 

Saturday 9th April
This week Jamie has started jumping two foot jumps and he seems to coping quite well.  We had a heart stopping moment when he careered off down the footpath at high speed but luckily no damage was done.   Another scare came on Thursday when he started limping and we both thought "Oh no, not again." This time it turned out to be a nasty prickly bramble stuck to his foot which just needed a quick rub better from his mum.  This morning he went back to his training class but he wasn't allowed to race around with the other dogs, and I kept him off the A-frame.  He only did 20" and 2' jumps and he managed very well.   His lack of fitness was evident though.  He wasn't able bark for the whole hour as well as jumping, without puffing a lot.  He does have a heart murmur to contend with so we will have to get him up to speed before he can compete again.  He was supposed to be in two starters classes tomorrow but it wouldn't be fair to ask him to do two rounds of full height jumps at this stage.  I know he'd try his heart out if he went to a show and he'd probably get clear rounds if he could, but there is still the danger of re-injury and no-one should ask this much of a dog that isn't fit.  We're now working towards a show on the 1st May and next week we'll try a couple of jumps at full height.

Saturday 16th April
Jamie's fitness has increased this week and I can really see the difference.  We've been working hard to bring up his fitness levels over the last two weeks and you can't do this with agility alone.  At the moment he has about 20 to 25 minutes exercise Monday to Friday in the mornings.   This includes two agility sessions lasting 10 to 15 minutes.  The rest of the time we play games and do a bit of obedience.  One ritual he has at the end of each session of exercise is to fetch his toys in one by one.  I've increased the number of toys from three to five so he has to run out five times, hunt for the toy and race back with it.  He has to jump up a small bank to get to me.  In the afternoons he has a 40 minute walk and this week I've been encouraging him to have at least one flat out run every day.  This gets his heart pumping and exercises his cardio-vascular system.   We also played lots of tuggie and chase games and some hide and seek up and down the stairs indoors.  By the time he went to his training class this Saturday he was strong enough to do the A-frame and his breathing was normal after the jumping exercises (20" and 2' jumps this week).  He has jumped a few 30" jumps during the week but I've kept this down to a minimum.  He also had his first chasing game with other dogs and there is no sign of lameness or discomfort.  Tomorrow we may walk him with other dogs but we will have to choose the location carefully.  I don't want him tearing through woods and out of sight.  I don't know how he originally injured his leg but I suspect he either slipped whilst racing up a steep bank or caught his leg on something.  

Monday 2nd May
We went to our first show yesterday, eight weeks after Jamie re-injured his leg. We'd entered Starters jumping and Starters agility.  Unfortunately him upstairs had decided we'd have our first really warm day of the year and by mid morning several of the dogs were struggling and some were refusing to jump at all.  I'd walked the jumping course in the morning but we had to wait until two in the afternoon to get going.  We queued for half an hour in the hot sun while the frazzled ring party wrestled with a timer that kept breaking down.   Eventually the timer was replaced and the class continued. Jamie started well but a mistake by me gave us five faults and then we had a knocked pole.  My fault again.   I'd noticed that the collapsible tunnel was pegged quite wide and that bigger dogs were finding it hard to get through.  With a jump quite close to the tunnel Jamie didn't have time to get his head up and gather himself.  I should have slowed him down. By quarter past four both dog and husband were getting teasy and wanted to go home.   No surprise then that Jamie got eliminated in the agility ring.  His leg withstood the onslaught well but I was concerned that his general level of fitness wasn't quite good enough for competition.  It was the first time in over a year that we went home without a rosette (apart from one show last year when Jamie got stung by a wasp and went wobbly.)  Given this doubt we won't compete again for few weeks to allow Jamie to get back up to the fighting fitness he needs.  Also we've decided to skip his training class the day before a competition as I think that  at seven years old this is taking it out of him a bit for the next day.  In general I'm pleased with is recovery from a strain that had caused him such pain that at first he couldn't even sit down.  

This is the final diary entry.  I'm pleased to say that Jamie went on to compete again very successfully after his injury (see Jamie's comeback) and eventually retired to veterans and any size at the age of nine.  If your dog has had a similar injury I hope our story has helped but I would advise anyone in this situation to play it by ear. Every dog is different.  Some may need a longer or shorter period to recover and some may be more prone to re-injury.  Jamie is a large dog and in his case it took quite a long time to get him back to full fitness.  When our young collie sprained her knee quite badly she had to miss a couple of shows but being much younger and smaller she was able to get back into training and full fitness after only three weeks.  We gave her Metacam for the inflammation and this did help but Metacam is also a painkiller so you need to keep the dog on the lead to prevent re-injury when using this.  In Sasha's case she was able to go off lead after a week as she is sensible enough on walks not to take off and chase things or go careering after other dogs.  With strain injuries it really is a case of doing what suits your dog.  Take care and happy jumping.

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