Dog trains man

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pump That Biceps

We are one month in on Kenzo's recovery from a shoulder injury and I finally got my act together to write something about it on the blog. Progress is pain-staking slow, but there is progress, which is - and must be - the most important of all.

It started with a limp he developed in november last year. Actually he also limped sporadicly before that. But we could always manage with a couple of days of rest. When the days of rest got longer, and the interval between limps shorter, we started a more thorough examination at the vet.

To make a long story short, it was a month of examinations, x-rays, wrong diagnosis, second opinions, more x-rays and examinations, when finally an arthroscopic exploration was done of both shoulders.

The tendon of his left shoulder was bad, very bad, and it had to be surgically transected.

Agility dogs frequently seem to have these type of injuries to the tendons in the shoulders due to repetitive strains. Although I never did agility with Kenzo, the scenario is recognizable, knowing how he behaves when we are out and about.

By the way. Why it was necessary to shave his whole front for such a tiny incision needed for an arthroscopic procedure remains a mystery.

Although the fur will grow back, the tendon unfortunately will not, but most dogs do recover just fine, from the article Surgical Management of Bicipital Tenosynovitis via Arthroscopy:
"Arthroscopic transection of the bicipital tendon also referred to as tendon release is the ideal surgical option. It consists of completely cutting the biceps tendon at the degenerative biceps groove. The tendon will adhere to the humerus over time, allowing future normal biceps muscle function."
Although vets don't seem to agree if the biceps tendon will recover to a level that can support Kenzo's previous activity level, it should be possible to get very close, when we follow a rigid program of short leashed walks and physical therapy during the months to come.

And that's where we are now:


I thought it wouldn't be possible. Kenzo on short leashed walks - a maximum of  four walks a day, 15 minutes each - sound like a contradiction in itself. But it is going good. Very good indeed. His "shave" from the operation keeps others at bay, and people are, surprisingly, really nice to ask before they approach with their dogs.

I soon learned that the "Halti" was necessary, as Kenzo tried to expend as much energy possible in each short walk, and it became more like trying to keep my eyes on a bouncing ball, instead of walking a dog.

He is very aware of the "Halti", and it automatically seems to keep him calm during walks.

We find fun things to do, do a lot of sniffing, so we at least can stay out longer, and why not do a 45 minute drive to the beach, even if you can only walk for 15 minutes? Getting your paws wet and sandy, is always a feast.

He must miss his off-leash action, but he doesn't show it or complain, and I think he is quite content with what we are doing.


At home we do excercises with Kenzo at least four times a day to strengthen his biceps and keep him flexible.

We let him stand with his front-legs on the couch, and move a treat up and down in front of him, and by following it he is working his biceps muscles, similar with push-ups.

The vet also provided us with a Fitpaws Balance Disk, which is also to strengthen his muscles. With his front paws placed on the disc we move a treat in a back and forth motion, or left to right, while he is balancing on the inflated disc.

You might wonder if getting your fingers nibbled upon by sharp front teeth for 5 minutes in a row is painful, yes, it is. No pain, no gain.

Next to the biceps excercises, we also do massages, and general stability excercises. Kenzo loves all the attention and we think we might continue with this also when he has healed completely. Who doesn't like a little bit of wellness and work-out.


Our biggest surprise. Kenzo hates the underwater treadmill. For a dog that loves everything with water, this is clearly the exception. We hope it will get better by time, as the treadmill is such an important part of therapy.

Not only because it is great muscle training. Also because you can control the duration and difficulty-level, giving a great insight in how he is doing, and if he could be ready to be let off the leash on walks.

We use toys and treats to no avail, the treadmill remains a chore, and the only thing on his mind is how to get out of there.

Thankfully Kenzo never lost a lot of muscle according to the vet, so it might not be necessary to do it more than 5, maybe 10 times. We'll see about that.

So. That's where we are now. If you have any suggestions for fun excersises we can do at home we would love to hear them. This will still take many months, before he is healed again, but we focus now on the first step, to go off leash.

His fur comes back rather quick when you follow the photo's, don't you think? I hope the tendon heals just as fast.


  1. So glad to read this update. In my own fog, I somehow missed that they scoped both of Kenzo's shoulders. I'm glad his therapy is going well. It's a bummer he doesn't like the water treadmill, though. At least he tolerates it OK. After our Ginko blew both knees, we did a lot of these same things for his LONG recoveries after both surgeries. Hang in there. I know it's hard.

    1. Thanks. I can also remember how disheartened we many times felt with Viva and spondylosis. And after the spondylosis was on level, it didn't restrain her any more, I also remember how great the reward and joy was to reach the other side. She prepared us well.

  2. This is so funny -- and so typical of what we do for the dogs we love. The image of you driving 45 minutes for the 15 minute beach walk, and of letting Kenzo nibble on your fingers during his physical therapy are priceless. No pain, no gain indeed! I too wonder about the half-body shave, but if it helps other dogs and people from approaching it's an excellent thing.

    1. One day the family joined us with their own car to the beach. You should have seen their face when I told them we would go home again, while they wanted to have lunch, couldn't Kenzo wait in the car? Nope.

      The fur is absolutely excellent in a way. He can still meet calm dogs, but no play or high-energy hunts. With all the troubles we had before with Viva and other dogs, it is so much more easy when people just understand even before I have to explain.

  3. Such a good boy, Kenzo. Jasmine adjusted to her exercise restrictions too; I remember how happy she was when she finally could get outside the gate, even if just for couple minutes!

    They always shave off a huge area; seems to be a sterility issue. Better shave a little more and decrease the chances of some bacteria making it into the surgical site.

    1. It must be correct then, the vet mentioned it as well, I thought he was joking.

  4. Aw, poor guy (and poor you!) :(

    I have no exercise suggestions, just well wishes for a sound and fast recovery.

  5. Sorry to hear that Kenzo has had to have surgery. I am also perplexed as to his extensive shave, but that's vets for you, eh? I've had more than one vet shave dogs for blood draws. Um! It's interesting that his extensive shave has seen others give you space on walks - it might be a strategy that those with less-than-friendly dogs could implement. ;)


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