We were sorry to see Susan, our former physical therapist, leave Be Fit in January, but it’s good to hear that she’s applying her considerable talents to caring for dogs. Some vet clinics use lasers for pain management post-surgery. Others are led by veterinarians skilled in therapeutic modalities such as acupuncture, while yet others have veterinary technicians certified in canine therapy. Susan will bring 35 years of expertise and a love orthopedic care to the clinic where she works. That’s why her boss hired her even before she finished her 40-hour internship. Susan is now a certified canine rehabilitation therapist (CCRT).
Susan is fast becoming acquainted with the peculiarities of providing physical therapy in the veterinary setting. The peculiarities range from getting wet to being “kissed” by the patients, to being nearly bitten by them. But the upside makes it all worthwhile.
“It is amazing the things they do [here],” Susan says. “Granted, none of it is inexpensive, but these owners are dedicated to their dogs and having them maintain a good quality of life.” Susan has brought her own dogs a nutritional evaluation and supplements.
The similarities between physical therapy and canine physical therapy exist in the PT principles themselves: Susan provides physical therapy palpation, joint and range-of-motion assessments, and mechanical modalities such as laser stimulation. Another similarity is in gaining trust from humans. “You have to get the owner to understand that you know what you’re doing” she says. She provides the dog owner a printout of exercises to do at home. Plus, she provides some training the exercises during the appointment.
But the similarities end there. After all, a dog’s vocabulary is limited 165 simple words. A patient almost bit Susan on her first day because she had not yet learned its non-verbal communication (e.g. ears, the “whites” of eyes) or perfected holding a dog. “The vet said, ‘If I give you the look, you better watch out.’” Also, Susan gets wet on the underwater treadmill. Employing it is not as simple as turning it on. Training dogs for proper movement involves her bending over inside a glass rectangular box (“I do a lot of bending over”) to prevent dogs from knuckling, which is bearing weight on the top part of the foot instead of the pad of the paw.
Nevertheless, Susan says that her work is gratifying, and sometimes getting wet is welcomed. This work is gratifying. “I come home covered in dog hair and slobber everyday,” she says. “But yesterday we fitted a dog [for a prosthesis] that came out of surgery and was not able to use her back legs. We put her in the cart and—Oh my gosh! You have never seen a happier dog. It was so heartwarming.”