The value of a veterinarian-physical therapist team
Working side-by-side with a veterinarian made me realize how important a team approach is to veterinary rehabilitation. I
learned that there are differences in the clinical decision-making process used by a veterinarian and a physical therapist.
A veterinarian is trained to approach treatment from a medical and surgical perspective. A physical therapist uses inductive
and deductive reasoning to evaluate many factors that could be causing motor impairment. Working together and learning from
each other, veterinarians and physical therapists can greatly improve outcomes for ailing and recuperating dogs.
Three years ago, I was asked to join the faculty of the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. It has been so rewarding to be able
to combine my training in teaching, my physical therapy skills and my love of dogs. In addition to my teaching responsibilities,
I also serve as a mentor for Canine Rehabilitation Institute interns and as clinical coordinator for students pursuing canine
rehabilitation assistant certification. I am inspired every day by the growing number of students who come from all over the
world to learn about canine rehabilitation.
I am currently managing the rehabilitation department at Coral Springs Animal Hospital, a large specialty practice with highly
trained surgeons and primary care veterinarians. It is a state-of-the-art facility with great support staff and an abundance
of space for rehabilitation. The hospital strongly supports the team model and has a veterinarian and two veterinary technicians
on staff certified in canine rehabilitation through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute.
I think we are just learning what can be possible in the field of canine rehabilitation. I know numerous clients who were
told nothing further could be done for their dogs and to either euthanize them or expect them to never walk again. After therapy,
most of these dogs not only were able to walk but even run! I look forward to the day when rehabilitation is commonplace in
the canine world and hope that all veterinarians will educate their clients about canine rehabilitation, just as they do about
preventive medicine and curative treatments.
Shari Sprague is rehabilitation manager at Coral Springs Animal Hospital, Coral Springs, Fla., and a faculty member at Canine Rehabilitation
Institute, Wellington, Fla.