For veterinarians who want to refer patients, what specifically should they look for?
Millis: They should look for a person who has obtained rehabilitation training, such as a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner.
It's a rigorous program and examination for certification. These people have very good training. Also, soon there will be
Diplomate level training in the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. I'm one of the charter
members, and earlier this year we got acceptance from the AVMA. The first residents will be starting probably in 2011.
How can veterinarians bring rehab services into their practices, and what are the advantages?
Millis: The advantages are that you can provide the best care possible, you often can get repeat customers and it often improves
other aspects of your business, such as radiology and blood work. The limiting factor, of course, is space. But we started
a few years ago offering rehab services in an 8-by-10-foot converted office space. Now we have a 4,500-square-foot facility
with top-notch facilities.
But a practice can offer services that require very little space, such as ice packs, balls, wobble boards, etc. The next level
up would be to offer neuromuscular electrical stimulation, therapeutic ultrasound and perhaps other modalities. And the third
level up would be aquatic therapies. The cost of a pool, of course, depends on the size of the pool and can run from $10,000
to $30,000. An aquatic treadmill costs $45,000 to $65,000.
What tends to convince dog owners that rehab services are worth the cost?
Millis: I think most people intuitively believe that rehabilitation makes sense. We often find that what sells our services to clients
is a tour of the facility. They see we offer the latest in rehab equipment and techniques, and clients say, "We want this."
So in addition to the benefits to the patient, there's a business benefit to offering these services.
Is canine rehab normally covered by pet insurance?
Millis: It can be, but we find few clients have pet insurance.
What signals to pet owners their animals may be in need of physical rehabilitation?
Millis: An obese patient usually has arthritis, too, and they often struggle to get up after rest or go upstairs and could benefit
from physical rehabilitation. Another clue to us when we're talking with clients is if they say their dog is "slowing down
because of old age." We immediately screen for arthritis and other mobility issues. After physical rehabilitation, the clients
often say, "Wow! Our dog is acting like a 2-year-old again." We just love to hear that."
Donna Loyle is a freelance medical editor and writer in Philadelphia and the former primary editor of the North American Veterinary Licensing