The Use of Physical Rehabilitation to Improve Outcome Following Traumatic Brain Injury in a Dog — A Case Report

Leann M. Shaw, DVM, MS, Rachel Yoquelet, RVT, Jessica Bowditch, RVT, Christy Buckley, DVM, Masahiro Murakami, PhD, Stephanie Thomovsky, DVM, MS


Issue: Volume 72 Fall 2023

Online Publication Date: 14 September 2023


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the canine patient is a common sequela to head trauma accidents such as vehicular trauma or high-rise falls. A 3-year-old, intact female mixed breed dog presented to Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine following a suspected hawk attack. At presentation, this non-ambulatory, tetraparetic, mentally inappropriate, and stuporous patient was diagnosed with suspected TBI secondary to trauma. Physical rehabilitation was initiated and continued during the hospitalization period and afterwards on an outpatient basis. Rehabilitation focused on a combination of mental stimulation, proprioceptive and balance work, and sensory stimulation. Therapies and exercises used consisted of massage, stretching, passive range of motion (PROM), assisted standing, weight shifting, underwater treadmill (UWTM), and the use of textured surfaces, music, and positive encouragement. The patient’s coordination, balance, and mentation greatly improved. At a follow-up visit 4 months post-injury, she could ambulate with no assistance and had minimal neurological deficits. Physical rehabilitation after TBI in humans is considered to be standard of care. In this veterinary patient, rehabilitation contributed to healing, return of function, and good quality of life.