CORVALLIS, Ore. – A decade ago, if your beloved pet dog suffered a stroke or your cat was diagnosed with diabetes, chances are the attending veterinarian might have suggested euthanasia.
But new technologies, better understanding of animal physiology, and the rapidly growing field of animal rehabilitation have changed that. Today, pets with debilitating injuries or chronic medical conditions often gain a new lease on life through a regimen of treatments – many of which have been modeled after human care.
“The human-animal bond is closer than ever and our ability to extend pets’ lives – and improve the quality of those lives – is much greater than it was and improving every day,” said Wendy Baltzer, an animal rehabilitation specialist and veterinary surgeon in the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
OSU’s Small Animal Rehabilitation Center, which opened last fall, already treats five to 10 cases a week and word is just now spreading among the veterinary community. Baltzer and colleagues treat dogs and cats with a variety of problems, including:
- Neurological conditions such as disk herniation, other back problems, stroke and loss of nerve function;
- Orthopedic conditions including fractures, osteoarthritis and muscle and tendon tears;
- Chronic illnesses, including diabetes, cancer and Cushing’s disease;
- Injury prevention, especially in sport dogs that compete in agility trials, Frisbee contests, dock jumping and other competitions.
Treatment will depend on the type and severity of the condition, Baltzer said. It could entail therapeutic exercises, obstacles courses, elastic bands, therapeutic splints and supports, or electric nerve stimulation.
OSU’s Small Animal Rehabilitation Center, which Baltzer directs, also has an 8-foot by 12-foot swimming pool and an underwater treadmill for hydrotherapy. A therapeutic laser provides immediate relief for muscles strains and neurological “re-education.” And trained technicians work with pet owners on a customized therapy plan for each animal and teach them treatments they can apply at home.
It may sound expensive but in most cases rehabilitation is much less expensive than surgery – and a preferable alternative to the most dire options.
“The improvements we are able to make in dogs with neurological problems, or cats with osteoarthritis is simply amazing – even to me,” Baltzer said.
For more information on the Small Animal Rehabilitation Center, call 541-737-4812, or go online to http://oregonstate.edu/vetmed/hospital/clinical/sa-rehab.