Physical Rehabilitation Service

Water treatdmill therapy after surgery

Physical rehabilitation (PR) is frequently performed in small animal patients that underwent surgery in order to help them to return to the best possible level of activity. This is analogous to “physical therapy” in humans, but due to legal requirements, the phrase “physical therapy” may only be applied to people. PR has several benefits. It allows our patients to heal and return to normal function faster and ambulate with less discomfort after surgical procedures when compared to animals that do not undergo PR. Canine athletes, such as dogs used in agility, mushing, or hunting can be trained without high impact stress during the off-season, and benefit from preseason conditioning through the sports medicine program. Older, or very compromised patients, or animals with arthritis benefit from exercise without high impact stress on their bones and joints. Finally, PR contributes tremendously to a successful outcome when used as part of a weight-loss program.

Veterinary Specialists of Alaska, P.C. was the first institution to offer PR for our four-legged friends in Alaska in 2003. Dr. Linda Chang obtained special post-graduate training in the field of PR and completed the University of Tennessee rehabilitation program. Cara Church, LVT, CCRP  is the only licensed veterinary nurse in the state of Alaska who is also a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner. Both have worked in this field successfully with several hundreds of patients. Following surgery, we will often begin physical rehabilitation in our facility. When the patient is discharged, we provide client education in the aftercare instructions and show you what you may be able to do in the first days to weeks after your animal returned home. This may include the application of ice-packs, passive range of motion, and turning or changing the position of your pet if they are laying down for long periods. At the time of suture removal or later evaluations further recommendations may be made. The initial “official” consultation appointment for physical rehabilitation is often made at the time of suture removal.

Rehabilitation at day 1 after surgery

If you make an appointment without your pet having had surgery at our clinic, your animal is thoroughly examined at the initial appointment. A physical and if needed an orthopedic and/or neurological examination are performed. The limb range of motion is measured, the circumference of muscle mass is assessed, the gait of your animal is analyzed, and pertinent medical and surgical history is discussed in-depth. A PR-program, specifically designed for your animal is created. If indicated, diet plans designed specifically for your animal may be suggested and discussed at your appointment.

Play time in the underwater treadmill
Dog after spinal surgery on the therapy ball
Maneuvering the Rails

Our PR unit offers a variety of different treatment modalities, including aquatic treadmill, dry treadmill, obstacle parcourse, neuromuscular stimulation, thermal therapy, therapeutic exercises, and individualized home exercise programs. In order to obtain the best possible level of activity for our patients, a specific PR-program is developed for every individual animal. Most conditions require two visits per week in our PR-unit. Depending on the underlying condition, the course of PR may last from as short as 4-6 weeks to several months. However, some patients visit our facility for longer periods of time to maintain the best level of fitness.Patients, who will benefit from PR, include animals that underwent surgical procedures on the stifle (knee), fracture repair, hip replacement, or surgery for slipped discs. Furthermore overweight animals frequently benefit tremendously from participation in a weight control program at our facility.  The members of the PR-unit also offer support of paralyzed patients, and help owners to learn how to enjoy a good quality of life with these animals at home. Some of these patients need to be placed in specially designed wheelchairs for dogs. Our team helps you to select the best model for your dog and supports you on the way to get back to a fun life for yourself and your dog.

If your pet is already a registered patient at Veterinary Specialists of Alaska, P.C., ask the board-certified surgeon in charge of your animal's care about a rehabilitation consult. If your pet is not currently a registered patient, please contact us at your convenience.

Veterinary Specialists of Alaska, P.C.  is dedicated to providing excellent veterinary care. Our goal is that ultimately, both you and your pet benefit from our expertise, specialized training and state of the art equipment. We would be delighted to work with you and your pet. For directions or more information, please contact us at any time, or use the “Direction” – function on our website.


To see more pictures and movies of our physical rehabilitation department click here or go to “The hospital – action shots – physical rehabilitation”.