Safety of early postoperative hydrotherapy in dogs undergoing thoracolumbar hemilaminectomy

A Mojarradi, S De Decker, C Bäckström, N Bergknut
J Small Anim Pract. 2021 Aug 23. doi: 10.1111/jsap.13412.

Objectives: Hydrotherapy is a common part of the postoperative care after surgical treatment of thoracolumbar intervertebral disc extrusion in dogs. There are currently no guidelines on when to commence hydrotherapy after surgery. Early hydrotherapy may be associated with an increased risk of postoperative complications including surgical site infection and neurological deterioration. The goal of this study was to report the prevalence and types of postoperative complications in dogs receiving early hydrotherapy.

Materials and methods: Eighty-three dogs commencing hydrotherapy within 5 days after surgical treatment for thoracolumbar intervertebral disc extrusion were included in a retrospective descriptive study. All postoperative complications were recorded.

Results: Ten minor and 16 major complications were recorded in a total of 26 dogs. The majority of recorded complications were unlikely, but not excluded to be, caused by the initiation time of hydrotherapy. One dog developed a surgical site infection and one dog had a confirmed further extrusion of the originally operated intervertebral disc, which may have been influenced by early initiation of hydrotherapy.

Clinical significance: Early hydrotherapy is possibly associated with occurrence of postoperative complications. Associations between the reported complications and early hydrotherapy, and possible benefits of early hydrotherapy, need to be further investigated before early initiation of hydrotherapy can be recommended.

Small animal: