Just like humans, physical therapy can get your dog active and healthy again

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Physical therapy has gone to the dogs!

BluePearl in Overland Park has a canine rehabilitation program with trained professionals that will nurse your pet back to health.

“Ten years ago, it was relatively infrequent we would have a dog actually participate in post-surgical therapy,” said Dr. Ralph Millard, a surgeon at BluePearl. “Now it really is becoming routine and standard care.”

Millard said, as is the case with humans, dogs undergoing physical therapy often leads to the best possible outcome post-surgery.

“The surgeries are very different. However, the rationale and benefits of physical therapy are identical,” he said.

One of Millard’s recent patients, Sadie, a 10-year-old rescue from Lawrence, tore her cranial cruciate ligament -- like an ACL tear in humans -- and needed surgery.

“She was just running and suddenly yelped and couldn’t touch her paw to the ground, so we knew something was seriously wrong,” said Patrick Laushman, Sadie’s owner.

“It’s the number one injury in dogs,” Millard said. “We see this in dogs all the way from the tiniest of toy breeds up to the giant breed dogs and everything in between.”

Surgeons had to stabilize Sadie’s knee.

“Essentially, we accept the fact that the ligament is torn, but we make a change to the knee such that is stable and comfortable even though there is no longer a ligament,” Millard said.

Sadie’s injury, if left untreated, could lead to arthritis. To help with the healing process, Sadie visits Dr. Connie Schultz, a physical therapist at BluePearl who specializes in canine rehabilitation, once a week.

“We’ll see them up until she’s eight weeks out of surgery and she’ll be a pro at this at that point,” Schultz said.

The day FOX4 stopped by the clinic, Sadie was undergoing her second treatment of hydrotherapy on an underwater treadmill.

“They do very well in (the tank) and it’s a very quiet machine, so it doesn’t bother them when they’re in there,” Schultz said.

The machine, which is new to the clinic, can tread back and forth, can incline and decline and can go up to 9 mph. The machine is beneficial in cases like Sadie’s because dogs like water and the buoyancy helps take pressure off her joints.

“When they’ve had knee surgery, they lose some range of motion,” Schultz explained. “Their knee gets stiff. They have a little bit of inflammation in there, and so we put them in the warm water and they will go through a bigger range of motion than if they’re just walking on the ground.”

Sadie’s rehabilitation sessions also include laser therapy, which helps with pain inflammation, and other exercises she can do at home with her owner.

“I love seeing her get more strength in that back leg and I know this is working for her,” Laushman said.

Laushman said he never knew this type of therapy existed for dogs, but he would definitely recommend it to other pet owners. Pet insurance covered a majority of the cost.

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