Journal of
Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health

  • Abbreviation: J. Vet. Med. Anim. Health
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2529
  • DOI: 10.5897/JVMAH
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 415

Full Length Research Paper

Recovery times for dogs undergoing thoracolumbar hemilaminectomy with fenestration and physical rehabilitation: A review of 113 cases

Laura L. Hady*
  • Laura L. Hady*
  • Canine Physical Rehabilitation of NM, 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109 USA.
  • Google Scholar
Peter D. Schwarz
  • Peter D. Schwarz
  • Department of Surgery, Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center of NM, 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NW, Albuquerque NM, 87109 USA
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 03 June 2015
  •  Accepted: 28 July 2015
  •  Published: 31 August 2015


This study aimed to determine if physical rehabilitation, in the form of neuromuscular electrical stimulation, hospital/home exercises, and/or underwater treadmill therapy, improved recovery times for dogs undergoing thoracolumbar hemilaminectomy and fenestration for Type I intervertebral disc disease. The initial recovery time was established as time from surgery to 3 unassisted steps to fall. A modified Frankel score for stage of intervertebral disc disease was assigned at intake into physical rehabilitation and at release. The study also examined variables including age, sex, amount of time in rehabilitation, and duration of signs before surgery. Retrospective study design was used. A total of 113 dogs undergoing hemilaminectomy with fenestration for T3-L3 Type I intervertebral disc disease was used. Dogs exhibiting signs of Type I intervertebral disc disease underwent advanced diagnostics before hemilaminectomy with fenestration was performed. In hospital, physical rehabilitation included neuromuscular electrical stimulation, range of motion and sling walking. The owners received home care instructions for exercise, handling, sling walking, elimination management, and what was not allowed from the dogs. Underwater treadmill therapy was initiated 10 to 14 days postoperatively and done on a weekly basis.  Additional exercises were progressively added to the program for strength and balance. The average recovery time in this study was 16 days and dogs spent an average of 40 days in formal physical rehabilitation. 23 dogs improved 1 full modified Frankel score (MFS) and 89 dogs did not have a full increase of 1 MFS. More time in formal rehabilitation (P < 0.001) and more underwater treadmill sessions (P < 0.001) increased the dog’s chances of improvement. Physical rehabilitation improves the recovery in a portion of patients undergoing hemilaminectomy with fenestration for Type I thoracolumbar intervertebral disc disease.


Key words: Physical rehabilitation, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, intervertebral disc disease, underwater treadmill, modified Frankel score, nociception. 


DVM/CCRP, Doctor of veterinary medicine/certified canine rehabilitation practitioner; IVDD, intervertebral disc disease; MFS, modified Frankel score; NMES, neuromuscular electrical stimulation; UMN, upper motor neuron; UT, underwater treadmill therapy.