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Problems We Can Help With

Coonhound Paralysis

Coonhound Paralysis is a peripheral (outside of the spinal cord) nerve disorder. It is suspected to be an immune-mediated (the body attacking itself) destruction of the conductor material around the nerves exiting the spinal cord. This disease is initiated by an organism that has been transferred from contact with a raccoon. Dogs of any age or breed that have had contact with a raccoon within 7-14 days previously should be suspected if there is a progressive weakness to paresis or paralysis starting with the rear limbs and working forward. Rarely are the front limbs affected first. Rapid muscle atrophy is commonly seen. Occasionally facial paralysis, change in bark, or difficulty eating or breathing are seen. Recovery is usually complete but can take weeks to months. Treatment options to maintain body strength and circulation include: neuromuscular stimulationmassagepassive range of motionacupuncture for immune regulation, and ambulation exercises to re-educate the animal to walk properly.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) occurs mostly in middle-aged or older German Shepherd Dogs, although other breeds have been diagnosed with it.  It is characterized by a progressive rear limb weakness and ataxia (drunken sailor walk) which leads to the inability to support the animals weight.  Common signs include paw dragging, crossing the rear limbs, and muscle atrophy.  It is believed that this disease is either an immunodeficiency or autoimmune disease (the body attacks the nerves and conductive covering).  Diagnosis is made by history, ruling out Intervertebral Disc Disease and tumor by radiographs, myelogram, MRI, or CT scan.  Treatment options for DM include:  1) acupuncture if there are painful joints or muscles, 2) hydro-treadmill for strengthening, and 3) nutritional supplements.  Currently, there is not a way to reverse this disease.  The normal progression is decreased nerve input leading to decreased use and concurrently decreased muscle mass.  The dog's pull their weight forward to compensate for a weakness in the rear limbs leading to progression of the disease.  Our treatment goal is to increase strength in the rear limbs thereby increasing muscle mass.  When this is accomplished the decreased nerve input has more muscle mass to work with making it easier for the animal to compensate.


Discospondylosis is a calcification of the ventral longitudinal ligament (the ligament that lies directly under the vertebral bones and aids in the stability of the spinal canal).  This is probably due to instability of the vertebral column.  Common clinical signs include pain on palpation (or deep pressure), pain on motion of the spinal column, and spasms in the muscles adjacent to the spinal canal.  Diagnosis is made by radiographs.  Treatment options include: 1) acupuncture; 2) animal chiropractic; 3) massage; 4) therapeutic ultrasound; 5) Pulsed Signal Therapy (PST); and 6) Chinese Herbs. 

Fibrocartilagenous Embolism

Fibrocartilagenous embolism is a condition where fibrin and cartilage cause ischemia (decreased blood supply) and inflammation which leads to pressure on the spinal cord. The nerve fibers that are most sensitive to compressive forces are the ones that control proprioception (balance). If the animal is mildly affected you may see ataxia or a wobbly walk. If the injury is severe the animal may be paralyzed and may lose bladder or bowel control. The diagnosis is made by the animal's history and by ruling out disc herniation, fracture, and tumor by the use of radiographs and/or a myelogram, a CT scan, or a MRI. Medical treatment consists of steroids to decrease inflammation in the spinal canal. Rehabilitation treatment options include massage to maintain circulation, acupuncture to increase the rate of nerve regeneration, neuromuscular stimulation to prevent or slow down muscle atrophy, hydro-treadmill for muscle strengthening and muscle and nerve re-education, and ambulation exercises for strengthening.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is a condition where there is malformation of the coxo-femoral (hip) joint or joint laxity or looseness that permits subluxation (the ball of the femur does not fit into the socket of the pelvis correctly.) With time, the architecture of the acetabulum (the part of the pelvis the femoral head sits in) and the femoral head becomes deformed, and degenerative joint disease develops. This is the most common disorder of the canine hip and the primary cause of hip osteoarthritis. It is most common in large and giant breed dogs and there is a genetic component. A definitive diagnosis requires radiographs. The degree of radiographic changes are not necessarily consistent with the degree of clinical signs (i.e. a dog may act like a puppy and have severe degenerative joint disease, or a dog with mild radiographic changes may be extremely uncomfortable.) Treatment options consist of one or more of the following: surgery, medication, acupunctureanimal chiropracticPulsed Signal Therapy (PST), magnetic therapy, and non-weight bearing or weight bearing exercises (swimming, land treadmill, or hydro-treadmill) depending on the clinical signs.


Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) can be separated into cervical (neck), and thoraco-lumbar (mid-back).  In cervical IVDD the disc material between the vertebrae or backbone protrudes up into the spinal canal and can compress the spinal cord causing clinical signs from neck pain to tetraparesis (paralysis of all four limbs). In thoraco-lumbar IVDD the pain is usually located in the back where the ribs end and if there is paralysis it is confined to the rear limbs.  In both, one side may be affected more than the other as the disc material may bulge on one side more than the other.  In some patients there are muscle spasms and pain around the area of the spinal cord that is affected.  Diagnosis is made by radiographs, myelogram, CT scan, or MRI.  Treatment options include:  1) surgery; 2) medications; 3) acupuncture which can increase the rate of nerve regeneration and relieve pain; 4) therapeutic ultrasound which can decrease inflammation, pain and muscle spasms; 5) neuromuscular stimulation to slow down or prevent atrophy; 6) massage to stimulate circulation; 7) passive range of motion to prevent joint degeneration; 8) hydro-treadmill for strengthening and re-education of muscles and nerves; and 9) ambulation exercises for strengthening and re-education.

Muscle Tears

Muscle tears, sprains, and strains occur when a muscle or tendon is stretched beyond its' normal length.  Pain, heat and swelling are usually seen at the sight of the injury.  This is usually close to, but not involving, a joint.  Muscle spasms are also commonly present.  The diagnosis is made by ruling out joint disease and ligament tears.  Treatment options include:  1) cryotherapy and or heat therapy; 2) massage to increase circulation; and 3) acupuncture for the pain, muscle spasms, and to increase circulation.


Neuropathy is a general term meaning disease of the nerves.  The possible causes include post-rabies vaccine (this is rare), autoimmune disease (the body attacking itself), infections, trauma, allergic reaction, or ideopathic causes (meaning the cause is unknown).  Acupuncture can help some neuropathies.  Some neuropathies are temporary, and maintaining muscle mass, strength, and normal circulation aid in recovery.  In these cases treatment options include:  1) acupuncture; 2) massage; 3) passive range of motion; 4) neuromuscular stimulation; 5) hydro-treadmill; and 6) ambulation exercises.


Osteoarthritis, or Degenerative Joint Disease, is one of the most common ailments in small animal medicine. It is defined as loss of the cartilage and the death of the cells that make up the cartilage. Without the protective cartilage covering, bone wears on bone which creates inflammation and subsequent thinning of the cushioning fluid in the joint. With thinner fluid there is more bone on bone grinding which results in pain. Treatment options for Osteoarthritis include: acupuncturehydro-treadmillPulsed Signal Therapy (PST)land treadmill, exercises, heat therapy and cryotherapy.

Post Surgical

Post surgical rehabilitation helps the patient by relieving pain and re-educating the patient to walk normally without compensations which may cause further injury later on in life.  Surgical complications are also commonly seen for rehabilitation.  These include non-weight bearing on a limb following surgery, not having full use of a limb following surgery, or paresis or paralysis following back or neck surgery.  TOPS Vet Rehab has a greater than 75% success rate of returning paretic dogs to normal or near normal function.  Treatment options include:  1) acupuncture; 2) animal chiropractic; 3) neuromuscular stimulation; 4) hydro-treadmill; 5) therapeutic ultrasound; 6) land treadmill; 7) Pulsed Signal Therapy (PST); 8) massage; 9) heat therapy and cryotherapy; and 10) ambulation re-education exercises.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is not as common but still an important cause of lameness in dogs. In this disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks joints causing pain and may lead to destruction of the joints. In Erosive Rheumatoid Arthritis, the targeted tissue is cartilage, the bone beneath the cartilage, and the ligaments or tendons. There is no cure, but treatment may result in remission of signs. Toy and small breed dogs are more susceptible. Signs usually include joint swelling, a lameness that shifts from leg to leg, and episodes of fever or lethargy. This may progress to deformities of the joints affected. Treatment options for Rheumatoid Arthritis include: acupuncture for pain and immune regulation, hydro-treadmill for strengthening, Pulsed Signal Therapy (PST) for cartilage regeneration, exercisesheat therapy and cryotherapy.


Tendonitis and bursitis are defined as inflammation of the tendon or bursa.  The most common area for this condition is the biceps tendon which is seen as a shoulder lameness.  Diagnosis is made by eliciting pain on extension of the shoulder, while pressure is placed on the biceps tendon or bursa.  Treatment options include:  1) therapeutic ultrasound; 2) phonophoresis (using therapeutic ultrasound to deliver drugs [in gel form] to a local area without the systemic side effects of oral delivery or injection); 3) massage; 4) stretching; and 5) heat therapy and cryotherapy.


Wobblers or caudal cervical spondylomyelopathy is a condition caused by compression of the spinal cord secondary to malformation of bone or ligament structures which may be secondary to instability of the cervical (neck) vertebrae or intervertebral disc disease. Dobermans and Great Danes are the breeds most commonly affected, though other breeds can be affected. Clinical sign can include: pain, paresis, and neurologic deficits that can advance to non-ambulatory four-limb paresis. Gait change is usually more pronounced in the rear limbs). Radiographs and/or a myelogram (dye injected around the spinal cord) are needed for a definitive diagnosis. Treatment options may consist of surgery, animal chiropracticacupuncturemassage, and therapeutic ultrasound.

Contact Us

TOPS Veterinary Rehabilitation


1440 East Belvidere Road Grayslake, IL 60030

Clinic Hours

Mon-Thu: 8am-8pm
Fri: 8am-5pm
Sat: 8am-1pm
Sun: Closed