It's Cool to be Healthy

I recently started Tuckerman on a proactive conditioning program, in hopes to give him the best quality of life possible. At 13 1/2 years old, he was beginning to walk really stiffly (arthritis) and showed some signs that he was in some discomfort.

I reached out to Debbie Torraca, who owns and operates Wizard of Paws Physical Rehabilitation for Animals located in Colchester, CT. I've heard nothing but great things about her and her facility...and now I can personally say that it's all true, and then some.

Of course, I thought this would help Tuck. But, I have to say that after just 3 weeks of treatments (1x per week), I am absolutely amazed (and so happy) at the results. Tuckerman has gone from walking very tenderly and trotting and even running on our walks. In addition, he is noticeably more alert and engaged with me throughout the day. I believe that his change in physical movement and his change in mood and alertness is a definite indication that he feels much better.

On top of the incredible results, I was also so impressed with Debbie. Not only was she professional, but very personable and excellent with Tuckerman. I thought that others might benefit from learning about this great place, Wizard of Paws. So, I wanted to share my experience.

To help shed some light on the therapy, I interviewed Debbie. Here are the highlights.

BRYAN:  We start each session with Cold Laser treatment. Can you help our readers understand how it works and what it does for Tuckerman?
DEBBIE: Laser, or photobiomodulation, is a tool that works at reducing pain and inflammation, while increasing blood flow, ATP or energy synthesis, and activity.  Years ago, it was referred to as cold laser.  The current term is photobiomodulation.  Very simply, laser is a very strong light that is able to heal through the reduction of pain and inflammation, and improvement in ATP and energy synthesis.  There are thousands of studies examining the effects of laser on pain, osteoarthritis, wound healing, sports performance, soft tissue injuries, and much more.  We like to start the session with the laser to assist us in the process of healing.  By reducing pain and inflammation, the muscles will be able to function with more efficiency.

BRYAN:  What do you call the work we do on the TotoFit Equipment? Can you help our readers understand a bit about how this conditions the dog?
DEBBIE:  TotoFit is the only equipment I will use and recommend.  TotoFit exercise equipment is burst resistant, lead free and phthalate free.  In this day and age, we are finding out so much of the negative effects of phthalates on the body.  The various pieces of equipment challenge a dogs' balance, proprioception, and strength.  We first begin with the core strength - or the literal core of the dogs' body.  For example, by improving the standing balance in the dog by working the large muscles of the trunk and stomach, we can improve their ability to stand and walk for longer periods of times.  All dogs can benefit from this - whether they are regaining their strength from a surgery, are deconditioned by the effects of osteoarthritis or hip dysplasia, or are getting ready to run a marathon with their owner.  Simple exercises are great to start with for many dogs - standing for up to ten seconds on a piece of unstable equipment, lifting their head up while they are standing to increase their weight on their hindlimbs, and performing sit to stands on an unstable surface.  Any exercise should start with the philosophy of quality is much better than quantity.

BRYAN:  Tuck has really improved using the Underwater treadmill. Can you explain how it helps him, for our readers?
DEBBIE:  The underwater is a great tool for so many dogs - especially dogs with osteoarthritis. The dog walks into the tank, and the warm water fills up to the level we choose. When the water is filled up to the level of the hip, the dogs' body weight is reduced by approximately 70%.  This can help many dogs significantly by reducing the stress on the dogs' body. Many dogs not only increase their strength, but also their confidence with their upright standing.  We begin at slow speeds in the water of walking, following the philosophy of quality over quantity.  Walking in water is three times more difficult than walking in land, so it is more strenuous. It also burns three times as many calories as walking on land, making it a great tool for weight loss.  The properties of water - bouyancy, cohesion, and turbulence - assist with circulation, blood flow, and strength.  As the dogs progress, we will increase the amount of time they walk, and even lower the water.

BRYAN:  In my opinion, Tuck's results have been extraordinary. Are these results typical?
DEBBIE:  Tuck has done wonderfully. It typically takes an honest seven to ten days to make a difference in any dog, as long s we are able to make them feel better. The key is to reduce the pain and inflammation, and slowly build up their strength and endurance. This is a process because we do not want to push them too fast and back into a painful condition.  Once the dog starts to feel better, their strength improves more and more.  I love watching a dog bounce into the office that was once not able to.

BRYAN:  What made you want to provide these services?
DEBBIE: I have loved animals from the start. I began my career in human physical therapy and always wandered why we could do that for animals. Well, almost thirty years later, and over twenty years of animal rehab under my belt, I would not do anything else.  We have the opportunity to change the life of a dog, and their family, and it is the best opportunity.  I am constantly striving to bring the best to the animals we work with. I have the most dedicated staff, and they love what they do.  We want every dog and owner to walk into the clinic and immediately relax.  We have laughed and cried with so many animals and owners.  It does not matter if we are working with getting the police dog back to patrolling or helping an older dog walk a little more to life their lives with their owners, we love it.

BRYAN:  If you had the opportunity to share only one piece of advice to dog owners in regards to canine health and well being, what would it be?
DEBBIE:  I believe every dog should live the best quality of life for the longest time possible, and I encourage owners to adopt that policy and search for ways to help them live that life.  There is no reason any dog should hurt in this day and age.  I encourage owners to explore options out there.

Seeing my boy, Tuckerman, look and feel so much better is such a joy for me. If I didn't see it myself, I would have never believed it. Now that I understand how therapy and conditioning can help dogs, I consider it a mandatory part of our life now and would suggest it to anyone who shares their life with a dog.

You can reach Debbie Torraca at Wizard of Paws at 860-267-9191

Have you ever done something like this with your dog? Would you consider it?

Thanks for reading and please join the discussion with your comments here.

Bryan, Owner & Founder of Appalachian Tails, can be reached at