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What Does a Pet Rehabilitation Center Do?

By Julia Williams

When age or injury makes it more difficult for your dog or cat to get around, many pet owners assume that nothing much can be done. However, thanks to new treatment options and modern technology, our pets don't have to hobble about in pain anymore. Pet rehabilitation centers are springing up all around the nation, and they’re helping pets regain mobility and get relief from the pain. Rehab can be a great help for humans, so why not for our pets too? Whether the aches and pains are from tendonitis or arthritis, a pinched nerve or surgery, a pet rehabilitation center can help to get your pet back on his paws.

Pet rehabilitation involves using a variety of treatments and technology to help restore normal function to their joints and muscles. Rehab can improve a pet’s flexibility and mobility, enhance limb use and mitigate pain. The pet rehab facility takes a holistic approach to health and considers all factors, including medical history, current issues, body condition, lifestyle, nutrition, supplements and medication. Pets typically visit a rehabilitation center about twice a week, and owners are also taught how to do core exercises with their pet at home.

Pet rehabilitation centers combine the education and expertise of a veterinarian with a doctor of physical therapy. This produces optimum results because vets understand the nature of pet injuries and diseases while physical therapists understand the science of rehabilitation – e.g., how a body moves, joint and soft tissue mechanics and the impact of exercise. Add cutting edge technology to the mix, and it’s easy to see how beneficial this could be for aging or injured pets.

Does Your Pet Need Rehabilitation?    

Your pet may benefit from rehabilitation if it has one or more of the following:

● Arthritis or dysplasia
● Tendonitis or bursitis
● Ligament tears or sprains
● Muscle strains, spasms or weakness
● Spine disorders: disc problems, neck or back pain
● Appetite or behavior changes that suggest discomfort
● Limping, gait abnormality or change in movement quality
● Post-operative orthopedic or neurological surgeries
● Reluctance to go for walks or engage in play
● Difficulty jumping up on the bed or sofa
● Changes in posture during daily activities
● Performance problems in canine athletics
● Obesity or a need for an overall wellness plan

Treatments Available at Pet Rehabilitation Centers

The techniques and treatments available will vary depend on the individual rehab center and the condition being treated. Manual therapy can include working on the pet’s range of motion, massage, pressure point therapy, joint mobilization and stretching. Hydro-therapy may include underwater treadmill, swimming and water jet therapy. Gait training is used to help pets learn to walk again after an injury or surgery, or to help correct an abnormal walk. Therapeutic exercises with balance boards, exercise balls and therabands can help a pet regain strength and balance, as well as help with overall conditioning.
Technologies utilized at pet rehabilitation centers may include therapeutic ultrasound, laser therapy, electric muscle stimulation, heat or cold therapy, Magnetic Field Therapy, Pulsed Signal Therapy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.

How to Find a Pet Rehabilitation Center

The country's first canine rehabilitation certification program was started in 1997. Now there are 17 veterinary colleges in the United States that offer canine rehabilitation. Your veterinarian may be able to help you find a good Pet Rehabilitation Center or a certified therapist in your area.

You can also visit the website for the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (CRI), a leading pet rehabilitation certification center in the U.S. CRI provides veterinary and physical therapy professionals with training and hands-on experience learning state-of-the-art rehabilitation techniques. They offer a certification program for veterinarians and physical therapists, as well as one for veterinary technicians and physical therapist assistants. You can search their state-by-state database for graduates of their program who practice in your area.

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