Westside Animal Hospital
Westside Animal Hospital

Alternative & Veterinary Rehabilitative Medicine

What is Veterinary Rehabilitation therapy?

Veterinarians examining results with a dog

Veterinary rehabilitation uses non-invasive manual techniques and non-pharmaceutical modalities to alleviate pain and inflammation, speed healing and return to function and prevent future/further injury in your pet.  Rehabilitation is a particularly important component of recovery from orthopedic surgery and can ensure your pet has the best possible outcome. Rehabilitation can also be extremely beneficial as we support our beloved adult pets who are entering into their geriatric years and experiencing the normal discomfort and anxiety that can often play a role in this stage of their life.

How is a rehabilitation assessment different from a regular veterinary visit?

The initial visit involves an hour long, thorough orthopedic and neurologic exam by Dr. Kelly Hutchison, a certified canine rehabilitation therapist and veterinary acupuncturist.  The goal of this first visit is to identify or diagnose a list of specific problems or impairments that have led to functional limitations in your animal companion affecting their everyday life (e.g. Why can’t my companion jump into the car anymore?  Why do they avoid the stairs? Why don’t they sit in their favorite chair anymore?). We will discuss in detail your companion’s lifestyle, home environment and concurrent medical history. Be prepared to be involved in the creation and implementation of a dynamic, multi-modal treatment plan.  Together with Dr. Hutchison you will create functional goals for your companion and will learn how you can support and enhance their recovery by following an at-home exercise plan created specifically for your pet.

What is a multi-modal treatment plan?

The term “modalities” refers to a collection of techniques and treatments used by veterinary rehabilitation therapists to alleviate pain and inflammation and speed healing without the use of (or in conjunction with the use of) traditional pharmaceutical therapies, such as pain medications.  Any techniques or modality we choose to employ at Westside Animal Hospital has been vigorously researched so that we feel confident it will benefit your pet and help them enjoy the highest quality of life possible.

What multi-modal treatment options are currently available at Westside Animal Hospital?

  • Therapeutic Laser (Low Level Light Therapy/LLLT) – Energy from the laser is absorbed by exposed cells causing them to release a variety of helpful molecules that promote healing and decrease pain and inflammation.
  • Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) – This therapy uses electricity to stimulate the cellular release of molecules that play essential roles in decreasing pain, improving blood flow and decreasing edema.  Additionally PEMF therapy supports new blood vessel formation, tissue regeneration and tissue remodeling, all of which are essential to the overall healing process.
  • Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) – Electrical stimulation of muscle spindles can be used to increase muscle strength and mass and to improve functional muscle use.  It can also be used to counteract various forms of muscle atrophy which are commonly seen in pets with neurologic and orthopedic injuries.
  • Medical Acupuncture – Acupuncture needles stimulate cells to release molecules that promote a variety of healing mechanisms, such as increasing local blood circulation, causing the release of endorphins, and decreasing muscle spasm.  Of special significance is the growing body of evidence supporting the belief that acupuncture stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that calms down our fight or flight response which is exacerbated when we are sick or injured and can actually prevent healing.
  • Manual Therapy – Manual therapy techniques are specifically designed to assist the body’s own repair and adaptation processes which left on their own will naturally tend toward dysfunctional adaptations, e.g. adaptations from an ACL tear will eventually lead to muscle wasting and dysfunctional motor control of the knee.  Manual therapy techniques are designed to redirect these dysfunctional motor patterns to functional ones.
  • Therapeutic Exercises – The goals continue to be to treat pain, rebuild strength and encourage functional motor patterns. You will be taught a variety of exercises designed to support and extend the benefits of the rehabilitation therapy.  
  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) – Our blood is made up of several components that all have different jobs.  The primary job of the platelets is to develop clots but they also play an important role in recruiting other cells from all over the body to stimulate healing.  PRP therapy involves injecting a special mixture of your dog’s own platelets and other blood components into a diseased or arthritic joint to stimulate their body to heal itself.  Eighty percent of patients will see marked improvement with a single injection and in most cases the entire procedure will take less than an hour. The benefits usually last between 6-9 months.
  • Stem Cell Therapy – Stem cell therapy (usually done in conjunction with PRP) involves taking special cells collected from your dog’s bone marrow or fat tissue (we use bone marrow derived stem cells at Westside Animal Hospital) and injecting them into a diseased joint.  While PRP therapy is aimed primarily at recruiting your dog’s own cells to the site of damage in order to promote healing, stem cells actually create a scaffold for healing, break down scar tissue, stimulate new blood vessel development and can heal damaged tissue.  This procedure is more costly and involved than PRP therapy alone but the entire procedure can still be performed in as little as a few hours. The benefits can last up to a year or more in some patients.  

Therapeutic Pet Laser

Therapeutic laser therapy is a cutting-edge technology that is a non-invasive treatment option for reducing pain and inflammation in your pet.

Uses for Pet Laser Therapy

Laser therapy has demonstrated success in the treatment of post-surgical pain and many acute and chronic conditions, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Cuts/bites
  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Feline acne
  • Geriatric care
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Infections
  • Inflammations
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lick granulomas
  • Ear hematomas
  • Periodontal disease
  • Sprains, strains, and fractures
  • Tendonitis
  • Tooth extraction healing and pain relief
  • Wounds

What to Expect During Laser Therapy

Rehabilitation veterinarians examining dog

Laser therapy treatments are very soothing. A therapeutic laser is emitted from a handheld wand that’s held gently to the treatment area. Your pet will feel a warm, gentle sensation as the treatment is administered.

The number of treatments required and the time of each session will vary according to the desired treatment outcome. We customize a unique treatment protocol specific to your pet’s condition. We will thoroughly discuss the treatment plan with you before administering the session.

Laser therapy can be administered as a stand-alone treatment, or it can be used to enhance other treatment plans. Please contact us to schedule your pet’s laser therapy evaluation. We are pleased to offer this non-invasive, drug-free pain management option for your pet. We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding the laser or treatment procedure.


Massage Therapy

Dog massage

Anyone who has personally experienced a therapeutic massage is likely aware of the many health advantages it provides. Imagine those same benefits for your dog!  As an adjunct to rehabilitation, treatment for a number of maladies, or to enhance overall wellness, Westside Animal Hospital offers therapeutic canine massage, performed by our Certified Canine Massage Therapist. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Dog massage provides chronic pain relief from arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other orthopedic issues through the release of endorphins
  • It improves flexibility in joints; helps relieve muscle soreness and tension
  • Canine massage addresses and relieves common myofascial pain patterns associated with abnormal weight bearing secondary to injury or chronic arthritis pain, especially in geriatric dogs
  • It can help calm hyperactivity, separation and other anxieties, as well as provide emotional wellbeing for your dog
  • Dog massage can increase confidence, socialization, and bonding with humans
  • Therapeutic massage helps your young or adult dog become familiar with touch, making visits to your veterinarian or groomer much more pleasant and comfortable for your dog - and you!
  • It triggers your dog's natural ability to heal from injury, strain, surgery, and exhaustion; increases immune system activity


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