Front leg amputee Belgian Malinois Tripawd Aiko benefits from free canine rehab therapy thanks to Tripawds Foundation Rehab Grant #148. The free evaluation and rehab exercises help Aiko stay strong and fit. Read her story, and learn how you can get a free veterinary rehab evaluation for your dog or cat.
Yes! Tri-kitties qualify for free feline rehab too. See all Tripawds who have received free rehab sessions thanks to your support.
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Aiko is an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois mix who does everything big – emotions, energy, appetite, beauty (strangers will stop her!). And, according to her wonderful vet – Jessica Tartof at The Whole Pet in Bartlett, IL – brains, too.
The same week we euthanized Mei (Aiko’s lifelong canine companion), Aiko was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. All the grief and frustration and deep sadness I tried to keep at a low simmer for the entire year. Mei’s dementia took hold burst forth in the parking lot that morning. I then tucked away again so we could throw ourselves into the urgency of those next few days. We went through multiple veterinary consults, biopsy and staging, and treatment decisions. As a result, we went down countless internet rabbit holes. Drastic things like amputation and statistics that no matter how hard I looked, allstated lifespans in months and not years. I am grateful, however, that many of those late-night searches led me to the Tripawds Foundation.
Aiko’s Amputation and Rehab
On November 7, 2022, less than a month after that ever-so-slight limp first presented, Aiko’s right front leg was amputated. She recovered beautifully. But she was a bit tight in her hips and low spine for the first few weeks. So, I waited to initiate rehabilitation. She received chiropractic adjustments, and we cautiously resumed our daily off-leash walks. We live near a forest preserve and a rail-to-trail installation. I can mark Aiko’s recovery by when she resumed tackling inclines, downed trees, off-trail explorations, etc.
One of the veterinary technicians who works at The Whole Pet, Barb Scalise, is CART and CARP certified. So, Aiko and I got to interact and fall in love with Barb before selecting her as our rehabilitation therapy provider. Barb watched Aiko walk in for her evaluation appointment on February 2, 2023. She then quizzed me as she did effleurage (muscle relaxation/warming) with Aiko to build relationship and assess her more closely. Barb was pleased with Aiko’s condition. She stated that her daily hikes are a natural source of what many physical therapy exercises mimi. Walking on different surfaces and inclines, lateral bends and stretches, and stepping over and around obstacles. These and flexing and strengthening her left carpus (“wrist”) are all examples.
Canine Rehab Exercises Help Malinois Tripawd Aiko
Barb’s assessment was that Aiko would benefit most from a daily treatment regimen intended to keep her limber and comfortable. She demonstrated and prescribed:
- Regular myofascial release to relieve stiffness.
- Passive hamstring stretches to counter the effects of her now-shortened stance and stride.
- Massage along the surgical site to minimize stiffening and thickening along the internal scar tissues.
Barb also suggested some protective measures that, although Aiko is not presenting a specific need for them at this time, can be helpful:
- “Cookie stretch” (front paw on a balance pad, ask Aiko to stretch forward by offering a treat) a couple times a week with no more than three repetitions, for a feel-good psoas stretch.
- Figure-8 conditioning exercise (slow and controlled walking in a figure-8 shape) a couple times a week with three repetitions, to coach and reinforce Aiko’s use of all her muscles and limbs equally.
- A neoprene brace for Aiko’s carpus for use on her hikes, to offer added support and help prevent injury.
I learned two things from Barb: how to better care for and support the tissue-level physical strain and changes in becoming tri-pawed, and that hiking can be excellent rehabilitation therapy.
More holistically, this experience has taught me (again) to hold out for and appreciate a truly excellent veterinary practice, a bit more about letting go, a lot about how brilliant dogs are, and how deeply I appreciate the fact that for today, Aiko is perfect.
~ Ana and Aiko