Canine rehabilitation: Getting orthopedic patients back on their feet - Firstline
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Canine rehabilitation: Getting orthopedic patients back on their feet
Cranial cruciate ligament tears and ruptures are common conditions that can lead to debilitating osteoarthritis. Consider a veterinary team approach to canine rehabilitation to improve every patient's quality of life.


How you can get involved in rehabilitation

Figure 5. Bear undergoes passive range-of-motion therapy.
Physical rehabilitation is a fast-growing field that within the past 20 years has really made a breakthrough into the specialty world. This has been great news for technicians. It's a new role where you can grow your skills, improve your career, and help your patients.

Two certification programs are now available for registered veterinary technicians. The University of Tennessee offers a CCRP program that is open to veterinarians, technicians, physical therapists, and physical therapist assistants. Many patients will benefit from seeing a CCRP. This certification requires extensive training and knowledge on all the various conditions, injuries, and diseases that would require physical rehabilitation.

The Canine Rehabilitation Institute (CRI) in Wellington, Fla., offers a CCRT for veterinarians and physical therapists and CCRA program for technicians and physical therapist assistants. For technicians to participate in the CRI program, they must have a veterinarian at their practice who has been certified through the program or is going through the program at the same time.

How much rehabilitation is necessary? There is no cookie-cutter protocol for any condition. Although there may be similarities in how a patient with an acute CCL tear is rehabilitated compared with a patient with chronic osteoarthritis, each patient and owner needs an individualized plan. Many variables, including the owner's schedule and financial means and the patient's degree of lameness, come into play when deciding on a pet's home exercise program, in-house or at-home therapy, and which modalities would be the best fit for the condition.


Cruciate disease is one of the most common orthopedic conditions we see in veterinary medicine. There are multiple treatment options for a dog with this injury, both surgical and nonsurgical.

Osteoarthritis is inevitable, and there is no cure, but with the guidance of a veterinary professional and the proper use of physical rehabilitation, clients should be able to help their pets live high-quality lives.

Physical rehabilitation should be part of every postsurgical patient's home care. It should be a staple in your day-to-day veterinary operations, even if you don't have a rehabilitation facility in your clinic.

Just remember that there are certified rehabilitation practitioners located in nearly every state who are ready and willing to help. A multi-team-member approach is not only great for your patients—it helps build a strong veterinary community.

Jodi Beetem, RVT, CCRP, helped launch the small animal rehabilitation program at University of Missouri Veterinary Teaching Hospital. In 2010, she joined Atlanta Animal Rehabilitation and Fitness and Veterinary Referral Surgical Practice.



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