|Frequently Asked Questions|
What is Animal Rehabilitation?
Animal rehabilitation is the treatment of pets that are debilitated from orthopedic or neurological problems. It has long been known that physical therapy is an essential component in restoring human function after an injury or surgery. HydroPaws takes those same principles and applies them to aid in the recovery of your pet. We do this through the use of careful evaluation and specific treatments designed for your pets’ specific problems.
Most animals can benefit from physical rehabilitation. Even a healthy pet can benefit by way of preventing injury. More typically, however, rehab can benefit your dog or cat if they are suffering from injury, disease, or if they are recovering from surgery. Though rehab cannot cure certain diseases, it can help to improve the quality of life for many animals and enable them to lead more functional lives.
Physical rehabilitation is indicated for a variety of conditions such as: Pre-operative or post-operative surgeries (orthopedic or neurological), dysplasia, muscle strains and spasms, ligamentous sprains or tears, arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, degenerative myelopathy, obesity, spine disorders such as disc problems or facet joint dysfunctions. Rehab has been shown to greatly improve outcomes for those recovering from common surgeries to treat CCL tears such as TPLO’s, TTA’s, and extracapsular repairs.
Karen Atlas, MPT, CCRT is a licensed and experienced human physical therapist who went on to study canine rehabilitation. She received a Masters degree in Physical Therapy (MPT) from the University of California, San Francisco/San Francisco State University in 1996 and went on to become a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) from the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. She is the first and only certified canine rehab specialist practicing in her hometown of Santa Barbara.
As the name implies, we certainly offer aquatic therapy! We have a state-of-the-art Underwater Treadmill that helps us to achieve strength, endurance, and range of motion goals all within a controlled and safe low-impact environment. By virtue of buoyancy, the water takes the stress off the joints in order to minimize the impact of the actual joint surfaces. As an example, if the water is raised to the level of the hip, body weight is reduced by 60%. Furthermore, the resistance of the water promotes muscle strengthening since it is more difficult to work against water than it is to work against air.
We utilize many of the other conventionally used modalities that are seen in human physical therapy practice. We offer Ultrasound, Electrical Stimulation, LASER therapy, Manual Therapy, Balance Therapy, and specific land-based therapeutic exercises designed to meet your pet’s particular problems. We also strive to educate the owner as much as possible so rehab can carryover into the home through the use of a home exercise program.
Many times, your pet can begin rehab immediately. Even if your dog is confined to “crate-rest”, we have ways to help them along their road to recovery. In the beginning, the plan of treatment mostly focuses on reducing pain and inflammation and maintaining range of motion through passive exercises. Managing pain and swelling can be done through the use of LASER, cold packs, edema massage, and joint mobilizations. Electrical stimulation is also often used in the beginning to prevent further atrophy of the surrounding musculature. After the sutures or staples have been removed and your pet is no longer required to be immobilized, a more intensive rehab can be started which often includes the use of the underwater treadmill. Your surgeon will direct you on when to start the rehab process.
The plan of care depends on the individual needs of your pet. Generally speaking, the typical orthopedic client recovering from a surgery will come in for therapy 2-3x per week for about 4-8 weeks. We will, however, work with you, your pet, and your budget to come up with a plan that works for you.
Your first visit includes both a comprehensive evaluation and treatment. This usually lasts from 60-90 minutes. Each subsequent treatment depends on what is all being done, but typically lasts for 30-60 minutes.
Surprisingly, most dogs adapt nicely in the underwater treadmill. It may take a couple of sessions to get them used to it, but more often than not, they do quite well. We have a greatly reduced introductory underwater treadmill package that helps to determine whether aquatic therapy is right for your pet. Your pet does not need to know how to swim to participate in water therapy. Many times, he/she will walk on the underwater treadmill without actually swimming at all. We also have special canine floatation jackets for those that need them. Alternatively, we have a variety of other modalities that can be used like Electrical Stimulation and specific therapeutic exercises which is helpful for strengthening and conditioning if your pet absolutely does not tolerate the water.
We maintain the water temperature between 85-90 degrees. The warm water helps to ease joint pain associated with arthritis and helps with circulation and flexibility.
The chlorine levels we maintain are safe, yet effective. Chlorine levels are checked daily and adjusted appropriately. We have not had any dogs show adverse reactions to the chlorine since we have been in practice.
Unfortunately, no. If your dog is incontinent, we cannot put them in the underwater treadmill. Furthermore, if you pet has any underlying medical problems that may put them at risk, your veterinarian may not recommend water therapy (such conditions would include congestive heart failure, epilepsy, bleeding (internal or external), and asthma). To ensure your pet’s safety, it will be up to the referring veterinarian to assess risks, precautions, and contraindications for water therapy.
We have a variety of pain-relieving modalities that we can use. Among them are ultrasound, laser, electrical stimulation (to target endorphin receptors, which is different than using electrical stimulation for muscle re-education/strengthening), massage, stretching, cold packs and hot packs.
We mostly treat dogs, but we have treated cats as well and have had excellent outcomes.
We accept clients preferably by referral from your regular veterinarian. It is in your pet’s best interest to be referred by your regular veterinarian so we can work in conjunction with him/her so your pet can receive comprehensive care.
If for some reason you cannot obtain a referral from your regular veterinarian and your pet already has a working diagnosis for his/her problem, you may call for an appointment anyway. We do require, however, that your pet has at least been seen by your regular veterinarian within the past 9 months to rule out any underlying medical problems that could serve as a possible precaution/contraindication for rehab treatment. If you do not have a regular veterinarian yet, you may schedule an appointment with one of San Roque Pet Hospital’s veterinarians to determine if rehab is right for your pet. It is for your pet’s safety and overall well-being that we make these above stipulations a requirement prior to therapy.
In human practice it is customary to get a referral from your doctor before seeking physical therapy. In the same way, a referral from a veterinarian will assure us that your pet is safe and ready to begin the rehab process. While your veterinarian may be familiar with your pet’s condition, it is necessary for Karen Atlas to perform an initial evaluation to obtain baseline measurements and perform an overall functional assessment of your pet. Furthermore, it is necessary to meet with the owners at the time of initial evaluation to determine goals and devise a treatment plan that best suits the individual needs of your pet.