22 December 2003

Every dog has his day and for 10-month old Border Collie Larry it was the day he was adopted by UQ Master of Animal Studies (Physiotherapy) student Lesley Harrison.

But three months earlier, as an RSPCA cruelty case, it seemed as if Larry’s days were numbered.

Larry had been almost starved to death and when rescued by the RSPCA weighed just over three kilos.

He was nursed back to health by Fairfield Refuge veterinary staff Dr Anne Chester and Dr Anne Coville until his condition stabilised and his weight reached 12 kilos.

Then it was discovered that Larry had hip displasia, a hereditary disease in dogs, and needed an operation.

Lecturer in Surgery at UQ’s School of Veterinary Science Sue Sommerlad performed the femoral head osteotomy operation and Larry went into Ms Harrison’s care for postoperative physiotherapy.

Ms Harrison is undertaking postgraduate studies in animal physiotherapy at UQ Gatton, one of only two Masters programs in this field in the world.

The program provides qualified human physiotherapists with training to transfer their skills to animals, particularly performance and companion animals such as dogs and horses, to meet a growing international demand,

Ms Harrison is studying the rehabilitation of dogs after femoral head excision surgery, and is seeing clinical cases at UQ’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“The project is studying whether postoperative physiotherapy techniques, which have proved successful on humans, are useful for animals as an adjunct to veterinary medicine,” Ms Harrison said.

“It’s early days yet, but the signs are very encouraging. After eight weeks there have been significant changes to Larry’s gait and an increase in his muscle bulk, evidence that an established exercise regime is beneficial.”

Larry’s muscle-building regime involves an on-leash one kilometre walk each day and selected off-the-leash activities. He also walks up and down hills, slopes and stairs and walks regularly on sand. Future therapy will include swimming.

Ms Harrison said Larry’s rehabilitation would take another six months before his muscles were strong enough to withstand a second operation on his other hip.

Media: For further information contact Lynda Flower at UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 2339, email l.flower@uq.edu.au).