The Small Animal Rehabilitation Program was established at A&M three years ago, and has seen a steady rise in interest by those who want to do everything possible in assisting their pets to heal more quickly and regain strength following surgery or injury. “Our goal is to get the animal back to its pre-injury status as quickly and safely as possible, with an emphasis on patient comfort and good quality of life,” said Dr. Sharon Kerwin, the school’s associate professor of small animal surgery.
The program is similar to physical therapy for humans. Services offered include therapeutic exercises, individualized home exercise programs, neuromuscular stimulation, therapeutic ultrasound, aquatic treadmill and thermal agents. Among the common conditions that benefit from these services are osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and neurological conditions. Patients also include animals recovering from orthopedic surgery and sports-related injuries.
Not surprisingly, animal rehabilitation has gained popularity among pet guardians who have themselves benefited from participation in physical therapy programs. As a result, animal rehabilitation clinics are popping up across the United States.
When choosing a clinic for a pet, said Dr. Kerwin, it is crucial that owners inquire about the credentials of the person performing the rehabilitation, even if that person is a “human” physical therapist. “Dog and cat anatomy and diseases are very different from humans,” she explained. Animal rehab technicians should have participated in an animal rehabilitation training program and have solid experience with a range of modalities, such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation.
The Gastrointestinal Lab provides specialized testing services, which allows veterinarians to submit samples that help them diagnose and treat GI diseases in dogs, cats and, in some cases, other species. The testing frequently benefits pets suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, poor body condition and appetite problems. It is the only GI lab of its type in the world, and the tests that are performed here are considered the international gold standard by the veterinary profession.
“What makes us different from a service lab is our research. We have the largest research group in veterinary gastroenterology in the world. There are 10 vets in our lab conducting research on diagnostic tests, drugs—virtually everything,” said Dr. Jörg Steiner, associate professor of small animal internal medicine and director of the GI Lab.
Dr. Steiner pointed out that GI disease is one of the most common problems in pets. As a result, the GI Lab receives approximately 900 samples per week, including serum, fecal, urine and breath, from veterinarians in the United States, Germany, Switzerland and Great Britain.
The lab offers exocrine pancreatic function testing to diagnose exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and pancreatitis. Animals with EPI cannot digest their food because the pancreas does not function properly; the disease is treated with pancreatic enzymes. Pancreatitis is an often deadly disease, especially in pets who remain undiagnosed.
A test for protein-losing enteropathy is also utilized to detect loss of protein in the GI tract. The disease is common in many breeds, especially the Yorkshire Terrier, Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier and Norwegian Lundehund.