Approximately 46 million households in the United States own a dog, and while an injury may have once impaired a beloved family pet for life, there are new alternatives available to pet owners everywhere.
It may sound odd, but pets across the country are going through physical therapy to help them recover from various illnesses and injuries.
Once considered a treatment strictly for humans, countless veterinarians are encouraging pet owners to look into the practice.
Chewy, a dog who has suffered through cancer and a back surgery, makes use of the service frequently nowadays. He runs on an enclosed underwater treadmill as part of his rehabilitation.
“He’s going through chemo, but he can’t go on walks. This lets him exercise without putting stress on his muscles,” owner Amanda Santowski said.
In another situation, Coach, a 14-year-old dog who injured his ACL is undergoing acoustic compression therapy to relieve the pain.
“It’s been a game-changer for him,” says owner Laurie Hunken, who already employs other types of therapies for her pet.
However, physical therapy isn’t the only alternative for pets who have undergone dramatic change as a result of injuries.
Many animals are now receiving 3D printed prosthetic limbs to help them cope with injuries or disabilities.
“We give many animals a second chance. Without these prosthetics, most would have been euthanized because there was nobody to care for them,” said Paolo Miamoto, a member of Animal Avengers.
Miamoto, a dentist who specializes in 3-D facial and dental reconstructions, is perhaps best known for his work in giving Vitoria the goose her beak back.
The dentist-turned-savior is part of a group called Animal Avengers, which consists of an all-volunteer crew of veterinarians, 3-D computer modeling experts, and Miamoto that create custom prosthetics for wild and domestic animals using 3-D printers.
When Vitoria was brought to him, she was missing most of her beak. The first prosthetic fitting didn’t quite work out, but through several designs and perseverance, Miamoto and his team equipped her with a functional prosthetic beak.
Some professionals participate in animal rehabilitation because of a call to save teh earth, or simply to help wild animals and other pet owners, but for Dr. Lindsay Seilheimer, the mission is personal.
“That’s how I came to love rehab, because my own dog is an orthopedic disaster,” she said.
Penny got through an amputation and two leg surgeries with similar therapy. More dog owners are discovering the benefits.
These treatments are available for dogs and cats but aren’t always covered by pet insurance. Individually, they cost about as much as a regular visit to the veterinarian, which means it’s a growing alternative treatment for pets everywhere.