Monday, June 14, 2010

The Veterinary Rehab Business

You wake up. Your not sure of where you are. The nurse asks if you would like some juice. Expecting the worst, your just-operated-upon knee doesn't feel bad at all. Of course, once the local anesthetic wears off things will be different. What's in the immediate future, one word, Physical Therapy! Woops; that's two words but in veterinary medicine we have to use just one word. The word Rehabilitation or Rehab for short.

Some wonderful Physical Therapists and forward-thinking Veterinarians, have been exploring these reparative techniques for treating our companion animals for quite a few years. While this form of treatment has become routine in human medicine, this aspect of veterinary medicine has really only come into its own over the last decade or so.

I have been fortunate enough to take numerous classes at The Canine Rehabilitation Institute(CRI) of Wellington, Florida.

While rubbing elbows with extremely knowledgeable and dedicated Physical Therapists who have decided to treat companion animals, my eyes were opened to an entirely new way of examining and healing. The basis of any approach to an animal patient is having the correct diagnosis. The diagnostic skills of the veterinary rehab specialist extend the scope of tentative diagnoses well beyond what was available to me in veterinary school. Likewise, the approach to treating even the most common companion animal diseases evolves from a completely different direction and incorporates many techniques, unheard of in the world of traditional veterinary medicine.

Many times the disease states we are trying to improve with rehab are the result of neurologic dysfunction. Therefore, a merger of skill sets led me to the faculty of CRI. I teach veterinary neurology, incorporating my new found knowledge of animal rehabilitation. After more than 35 years practicing veterinary neurology and lecturing on various topics in veterinary neurology all over the world, this wonderful collaboration was new, exciting and more than anything, rewarding.

We started applying our new found knowledge to my neurology patients that were recovering from surgery. This naturally extended to encompass a much larger group of patients....Those that are older, who have lost neurologic function that aren't good surgical candidates no matter what the diagnosis. We have also focused on those young patients where surgery for one reason or another isn't an option. All of these animals are beloved family members and just need a little help to get through the day in the most pain-free and efficient manner. The goals may be small, getting up stairs unaided, getting in or out of the family car, going for hours without urinary or fecal accidents. Of course, the approach to the athlete or working dog are quite different and require different standards. Once everyone agrees on the goals and they are there in front of us, our dedicated team of Rehabilitation Specialists, under my guidance, directs our efforts to get these patients to these desired endpoints. Weeks of slow progress, so often ends in the most rewarding of success stories.

After building a brand-new veterinary facility with an outdoor work area, a dry rehab area, and a wet rehab space, it was only natural to explore similar areas of recovery in the orthopedic realm. The idea is that by increasing strength, improving range of motion, controlling pain and inflammation with individualized plans for each patient, we can improve their response to traditional treatment by decreasing the recovery time and by improving the recovery outcome. As with the neurologic patients, we are exploring the many options for those patients where surgery might be the best choice but is not a consideration. Our approach is all about balance and quality of life issues.

Can there be a more rewarding sentence, " For the first time in years, my best friend wagged his tail and effortlessly climbed up on the sofa next to me to help me read a book"?


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