Abbey’s Casts of Many Colours: Recuperation through a World of Rehabilitation
Written by Audi Donamor
Original publication: Animal Wellness Magazine, Oct/Nov 2005: Volume 7, Issue 5: For a long, healthy life!

Canadian Champion. Utility Dog Obedience Title. Tracking Dog Excellent. Working Certificate Excellent. Junior Hunter. Novice Agility Dog. Golden Retriever Club of British Columbia Versatility Dog of the Year. Golden Retriever Club of Canada Versatility Hall of Fame. By her sixth birthday, Abbey truly had it all. More important than all her titles, Abbey was the beloved companion animal of her guardians, and last summer, no one would have ever believed, that Abbey’s fairy tale life was going to take a plunge, right down Alice’s rabbit hole.

On a picture perfect day in July, Abbey spotted a bunny, and every lesson she had ever learned, took flight, as she ran by a sparkling lake, straight into a blackberry patch. Ouch! The next ten seconds would be played over and over again, in the minds of Abbey’s guardians. Abbey’s day dream turned into a nightmare, as she came out of the blackberry patch, holding her right front leg up, like a prized toy, without its stuffing. X-rays confirmed Abbey’s guardians’ fear. It would be a while before the sun would shine again. Abbey was diagnosed with a hyperextension of her carpal joint, and a whole new world was about to begin.

Regardless of the injury, animal guardians are faced with a myriad of decisions, when it comes to their beloved pet’s well being. For Abbey’s guardians, that meant immediate consultation with their veterinarian. It was suggested, that Abbey’s leg be casted above the two joints, for six weeks. This decision embraced two hopes, that the swelling would be reduced, and they would see rejuvenation of the carpal joint. It was a slim chance, but it was worth a try, and for the remainder of the summer, and into the fall, Abbey wore a horse cast, up to her shoulder.

Abbey's First Blue Horse Cast

Six weeks later, it was sadly evident, that much more extensive medical intervention would be necessary. Consultation with an orthopedic surgeon followed, and it was his opinion, that Abbey required surgery to repair the hyperextended carpal joint. There was a second option. Abbey’s leg could be amputated, one joint above her injury. Recuperation from this type of surgery would be swift, with no need for supplemental therapies, but Abbey had been an exceptional canine athlete, and her guardians, simply could not entertain this option. They knew, that they had to take a leap of faith.

Abbey’s guardians were interviewed by the orthopedic surgeon, to determine if they would be suitable candidates to do the work that would be required for eight months, following the surgical intervention.

There was no textbook to refer to; there was no recipe to follow. How could any guardian, imagine their canine companion confined to strict “bed rest” for six months? It takes love, boundless energy, fierce determination, and lots of creativity.

Abbey's Second Cast

Life for Abbey and her guardians was turned upside down. From August, through major surgery in September, and into October, Abbey’s guardians took her to the sparkling lake, so she could spend time under her special tree.


Animals Apawthecary Tranquility Blend was developed by Mary Wulff-Tilford and Gregory L. Tilford, authors of the excellent book, All You Ever Wanted to Know about Herbs for Pets. Tranquility Blend is a certified organic herbal remedy, that provides a balanced combination of Valerian Root, Skullcap, Oats Flower, and Passionflower, in an alcohol free base. It is very effective as a calming agent, in the treatment of physical tension and acute anxiety.

Dr. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is often referred to as a “First Aid Kit” in a bottle, and is considered by many, to be the most important remedy to have in your home, for your companion animal. It is invaluable for any situation requiring a calming influence, including, injuries, surgical procedures, and fear of thunder-storms. To learn more about the power of flower essences, check out Bach Flower Remedies for Animals, by Helen Graham and Gregory Vlamis.

Herbs for Kids Chamomile Calm contains Skullcap, Chamomile, Fennel, Hops, and Catnip, in an alcohol free base, that calms, balances, and nourishes the nervous system.

Lavender is one of only a few essential oils, that is safe to use undiluted, with your canine companion. Lavender is gentle, and its scent is calming. Only use pure essential oils! The following recipe for a Canine Calming Blend, from Kristen Leigh Bells's Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, has been a house favourite for over ten years. This blend, can be combined with massage and Tellington TTouch.

Combine the following in a dark glass bottle: 1/2 ounce hazelnut or sweet almond base oil; 3 drops Lavender Essential Oil; 3 drops Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil; 3 drops Roman Chamomile Essential Oil; and, 3 drops Neroil or Sweet Orange Essential Oil.

Do not use essential oils on your cat. Hydrosols of Lavender and Rose, can be used to calm your feline friend.

Tellington TTouch’s Cloud Leopard Touch Tellington TTouch is something you and your canine companion can do any time, anywhere. It calms the body and the spirit. One of the basic Tellington TTouch exercises is called the Cloud Leopard, and it is very easy to do. Use your fingertips, to press your dog’s skin lightly, and move it in a single circle of about one quarter of an inch to one inch in diameter. Then, lift your hand from the skin and move it to another place to make the next circle. TTouch circles are usually made in a clockwise direction, starting at the 6 o’clock position, going around once, and ending at the 8 o’clock position. Tellington TTouch techniques like the Cloud Leopard, not only relieve tension and anxiety, but also increase circulation, and help relieve pain and inflammation.

To learn more, visit the world wide listing of TTouch practitioners.

Kongs filled with frozen organic peanut butter, became regular treats, and there was an endless supply of raw marrow bones. Abbey even went on boat rides, carefully lifted into her guardians’ Zodiac, where she lay contented in the bottom, like a queen, watching the scenery float by. Abbey’s guardians would do anything to keep her busy and settled. Along with traditional veterinary medications, flower essences, like Dr. Bach’s Rescue Remedy, and herbal blends, like Herbs for Kids Chamomile Calm and Animals Apawthecary Tranquility, were always on hand. Essential Oil of Lavender, came in handy too. Life revolved around Abbey’s every need.

At home, Abbey’s guardians installed rubber matting that is commonly used in horse stalls,, at the bottom of stairways, to ensure that there was as little impact as possible on Abbey’s leg.

Every time that Abbey went outside, her leg had to be wrapped. A variety of options were explored, to make sure that Abbey’s leg stayed dry. Ultimately, the best solution came in the guise of heavy IV bags, with their tops cut off, so Abbey’s veterinarian saved the bags for his very special patient.

Abbey’s guardians explored alternative pain management strategies and products, to complement traditional veterinary medications. A great place to begin your own research, is with The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, whose goal is to eventually certify veterinarians as Pain Management Specialists. Veterinary fleece provided a wonderful cushion for Abbey, and Thermoflow wraps were included with each of Abbey’s 15 colourful casts.

Thermoflow products are designed for pain relief, improved health, and illness prevention. They help mend injured or over-used muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and are used to increase circulation, reduce swelling, and relieve pain. Thermoflow is made from woven polypropylene and polyurethane materials, impregnated with micro-particles of lead free bio-ceramics, that reflect natural healing, called “far infrared energy.”

Abbey also wore a Bioflow magnetic collar, lay on a Nikken magnetic bed, and proudly sported a magnet on her casts. Magnotherapy is based on the principle that a magnetic energy field speeds up the blood supply, allowing more oxygen to enter the blood stream, and helping to reduce swelling. Magnetic therapy has been used for pain management, for centuries. Bioflow offers a large range of magnetic therapy products for companion animals. External application of Arnica tincture, can support the healing of muscle strains and bruises, by increasing capillary blood circulation, but should only be applied on unbroken skin. Laser therapy improves wound healing, by increasing blood flow and cellular energy, with infrared light. HEEL company’s homeopathic Traumeel, is always on hand, in the medicine cabinet.

For two months, Glucosamine Sulfate, which has anti-inflammatory and joint regenerating properties, was specially compounded for Abbey, in a beef base. Swiss Natural Sources Certified Tested Sodium Free Glucosamine Sulfate was an effective substitute. Glucosamine Sulfate is a compound that contains both Glucosamine and Sulfur, which is found in and around tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue. Suggested dosages are 250 mg to 500 mg for small dogs, 500 mg for medium sized dogs, and 1000 mg to 1500 mg, for large dogs. It is important, that any product you choose, has a guaranteed analysis, and don’t forget to talk to your vet.

Two special remedies, also became part of Abbey’s daily regimen, Professional Complementary Health Formulas Collagen Complex, which provides nutritional support for tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, and Bone Stim Liquescence, a homeopathic remedy that supports bone regeneration, drainage, and is recommended for conditions such as osteoporosis. To learn more about these FDA Registered Laboratory products, visit here.

Nutrition played a significant role in Abbey’s recovery. It was essential that she stay lean during her recuperation and rehabilitation. Abbey’s food intake was cut in half, and frozen Kongs, like those she enjoyed so much at the sparkling lake, filled in the gaps, stuffed with a variety of taste sensations, from fresh fruit chunks to frozen yogurt to liver snaps. Abbey’s meals included a variety of cooked and raw organic foods, and fresh herbs from the garden, chosen for their nutrient value. Proteins were rotated and extra care taken, to ensure, that Abbey was getting the nutritive support she needed.

Special supplements were added to Abbey’s diet, to further encourage the healing process. If you are considering supplements for your canine companion, add one at a time, at an interval of about every three days, so if sensitivity occurs, the amount of supplement being given can be reduced, or, omitted altogether. It is important to remember though, that before embarking on any supplement programme, you talk to your veterinarian, or an animal nutritionist.

Since Abbey had to take antibiotics for five months, acidolphilus was a daily addition to her diet, to help maintain a healthy micro-floral balance in her gastrointestinal tract. There are a variety to choose from. Some dogs do best, with a non-dairy formulation, like SISU Dophilus Plus Acidolphilus. Other supplements included, Wild Salmon Oil, and Vitamins B, C, and E.

Herbs to consider, if your canine companion breaks a bone or injures a joint, include Yucca, which is recommended when joints appear swollen, and are hot to the touch, Alfalfa, to support bone injuries, and Kelp, for mineral support. Animals Apawthecary Alfalfa/Yucca Blend, acts as an anti-inflammatory, nutritive, and diuretic.

Debriding Abbey’s leg and foot, was a real concern for her veterinarian and guardians. For some time following Abbey’s surgery, casts had to be changed twice a week because of perspiration build-up, that resulted in severe dermatitis and infection. Each time a cast was removed, Abbey’s foot was debrided, then rewrapped and casted. Two toes and nails were left exposed, to counteract accumulated perspiration, and avoid possible plastic surgery. Buro Sol Antiseptic Powder soaks, proved to be effective, backed up by Rex Eme Cream, Aroma Crystal Therapy Herbal Bandage, and Colloidal Silver. All the hard work of Team Abbey paid off, because further surgery was not required, and an Animal Wellness Magazine Approved Neo-Paws boot was the perfect protection for Abbey’s delicate foot.

Just because your canine companion is shut in, does not mean that you have to shut out the world. Abbey’s guardians created a new and special place, affectionately called “The Quiet Zone,” and while silence was “golden” for a while, The Quiet Zone soon became “Entertainment Central,” a safe and stimulating space for Abbey to heal, physically and emotionally.

Kids Making a Snowman with Help from  Abbey, with her Neon Pink Cast, and Bob

It also became one of Abbey’s guardian’s temporary office, so that she was never without supervision, especially in the early stages of her recuperation and rehabilitation after surgery. A steady stream of neighbourhood kids came to visit Abbey, bearing special treats, and ready to play a variety of games with her, and she was excited to see everyone, including the postman.

Abbey’s guardian came up with all kinds of ways to keep Abbey busy. Play therapy took on a whole new meaning. An empty egg carton, with a homemade cookie in each slot, then closed and sealed with duct tape, could keep Abbey amused for up to an hour. “Hide and Seek” and “Scent” activities with toys, were based on basic obedience skills. Abbey was taught all kinds of “Click and Treat” parlour tricks, to entertain her many visitors, which she is now able to share with residents at a retirement lodge, during regular therapy visits. Books by Dr. Ian Dunbar, Pat Miller, and Karen Pryor, are packed with ideas.

There are also a variety of interactive puzzle games available that are perfect for recovering canine companions. The Kyjen Company makes “Hide a Bird,” “Hide a Squirrel,” “Hide a Bee,” “Puzzle Pup,” “i Cube,” and “Cagey Cube,” plush toys that not only keep your dog occupied, but also help them to develop problem solving skills. In our house, we are never without “Egg Babies.” Each toy contains three soft eggs with squeakers, hidden in elasticized pouches. Abbey’s eyes always lit up, when she saw an egg coming her way, especially when it was in the mouth of her special pal, Bob the Dog.

Having a friend like Bob, made a world of difference to Abbey, who delighted in their interaction. Abbey’s guardians feel that Bob played a very significant role in Abbey’s recovery. Bob didn’t feel sorry for Abbey. He was there to be by her side, and seemed to innately know, how much activity she could tolerate. Hours were spent passing a plush egg back and forth, playing a gentle game of tug, or simply chewing on bones.

Massage, by certified practitioners, was an integral part of Abbey’s rehabilitation programme. Sue Furman, who teaches canine and equine massage classes, describes massage as a hands-on manipulation of the muscles and other soft tissues, with the intent of benefiting the companion animal.

Abbey receiving Massage Therapy

Simply put, massage is touch with a purpose, and it yields many physical and emotional benefits, not only to the pet, but to the guardian too. Massage stimulates circulation, enhances range of motion, relieves muscle spasms, promotes relaxation, and reduces stress, fostering an overall sense of well being.

Over the course of Abbey’s year long recuperation and rehabilitation programme, she experienced a variety of massage techniques, including, Shiatsu and Tellington TTouch.

Tellington TTouch, developed by Linda Tellington-Jones, and practiced around the world, is based on circular movements of the fingers and hands, all over the body, so animal guardians do not have to be anatomy experts to use this complementary therapy, to support the healing process. Visit, for a complete list of TTouch products and practitioners.

Massage continues to be a part of Abbey’s daily routine, but it is important to keep in mind, that massage is not for every dog, and is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. It is important for guardians to do their homework, to choose the best practitioner for their companion animal’s needs. Check out The International Association of Animal Massage and Body Work.

GReat Therapy for Abbey (in foreground), Walking Best Friend, Bob the Dog, home from the Park

After 15 casts, the last one, a bright neon pink, featuring a decal of martini glass, to celebrate their Team Abbey’s victory, Abbey was ready to embark on a new adventure in rehabilitation, at “Vital K9,” Vancouver Island’s first and only therapy and leisure pool, devoted entirely to dogs.

Prior to each swimming session, Abbey received a Shiatsu treatment, a type of centuries old Japanese body work, that involves the application of finger pressure to different parts of the body, stimulating circulation, increasing flexibility, and helping to restore Abbey’s inner balance. Abbey had always loved the water, so swimming was the perfect activity to further heal Abbey’s body and spirit.

Swimming is so beneficial, because it is the only form of exercise, where there is no impact on joints or soft tissues. The buoyancy of the water, actually helps to open joint spaces, resulting in increased range of motion, and because the water also provides resistance, all major muscle groups are worked at the same time.

Abbey had to be re-taught how to use and extend her leg while swimming. At first, she threw her leg out to the side, rather than extending it out to the front, but with the special assistance of two trained therapists, Abbey progressed at a rapid pace, and it was a joy to see her having so much fun.

Abbey Beginning her Water Rehabilitation

If you would like to learn more about water therapy for your own cherished canine companion, just visit online at, to find centres in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe.

Abbey and her guardians were lucky. They found a wonderful certified physiotherapist, who was willing to do at home visits. Gillian, a member of the Canadian Horse and Animal Physical Rehabilitation Association, combined physiotherapy exercises and ultrasound, in weekly one hour sessions.

Ultrasound, also called acoustic energy, simulates cellular activity, by increasing cellular protein synthesis.

What does this mean? Well, simply put, ultrasound’s high frequency sound waves, cause mechanical vibrations, that feel like a massage, but on the cellular level, which makes it an ideal complementary therapy for a variety of conditions, including, soft tissue and ligament injuries, and arthritic and muscular pain, and ultrasound, can even help in the reduction of scar tissue.

Abbey (on left) with Bob the Dog who Helped with Recovery and Rehabilitation Process,
Accompanying his GirlPal to her Water Therapy Sessions 


Nearly one year and 15 casts later, Abbey is back at her sparkling lake, doing all the things she loved to do with one very important difference. Today, when Abbey spots a bunny coming her way, she sits and stays, because she knows, that a “click,” will be followed by a very special treat, while the bunny makes a fast retreat.









Back at the Sparkling Lake where it all Began, Bob the Dog (on left) with Abbey,
Sporting their Favourite Bumpers and Ready for their own Version of Therapy

Your choice — turn off music or keep on.