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Focus Stories

Lake Emma Animal Hospital

by Laura Breen Galante

Featured Photo from Lake Emma Animal Hospital

Lake Emma Animal Hospital offers many services to keep your pets healthy and happy, and now it features an on-site Canine Rehabilitation Facility to help pets with arthritis, orthopedic diseases, or those who are overweight or recovering from orthopedic surgery.

Dr. Nichole Crainick is finishing up her studies as a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP) – a two-year program through the University of Tennessee – and she is leading the rehabilitation program in Lake Mary.

As with humans, physical rehabilitation in dogs is proven to expedite recovery in surgical patients, and it can help return or maintain muscle function.

“Canine rehabilitation is a lot like human physical therapy,” explains Dr. Crainick. “It can be a benefit for dogs – and cats, actually – that have had surgery, especially orthopedic surgery. It also helps pets with orthopedic diseases like osteoarthritis. We also do fitness for dogs that are overweight – that’s a common problem. And if they have an underlying orthopedic disease, the weight can make it worse.”

For dogs with a weight issue, Dr. Crainick encourages physical therapy as a way to exercise, combined with a healthy diet. 
The rehab facility also offers training for sporting dogs.

“You can do conditioning for agility or flyball,” says Dr. Crainick. “And those dogs get sporting injuries just like humans do when they’re playing sports, so we offer rehabilitation for that, as well.”

Lake Emma Animal Hospital houses a large space separate from the main hospital that’s home to the therapy treatment area. Currently, it features FitPaws canine exercise equipment and gym equipment, specifically a canine treadmill and various therapy balls. As the program grows, Dr. Crainick plans to add more equipment.

“We can position the dogs to work specific muscles,” she explains.

For example, dogs can put just their front legs on the exercise balls to work their back leg muscles, and they can balance on the balls to target specific muscles.

“Same thing with the treadmill – you can angle it up to work their back leg muscles or angle it forward for their shoulders,” says Dr. Crainick. “It’s amazing what we can do.”

Healing is not limited to exercises. Lake Emma Animal Hospital offers a class 4 therapy laser, which stimulates a pet’s cells and decreases pain. Dr. Tami Groberg also performs acupuncture to help with arthritis.

“A combination of different things, not just the exercises, but the laser therapy and the acupuncture, can go a long way in helping these animals,” says Dr. Crainick.

An initial pet evaluation includes range-of-motion measurements, a lameness exam, and a full orthopedic exam to find any areas that are abnormal.

“We also have a home exercise program, so when you come to us for that initial evaluation, that is included,” Dr. Crainick says.

Clients can choose an in-clinic rehabilitation package or choose to do home exercises, which are explained through a video app.

“A lot of older dogs lose coordination as they grow older, so you’ll see them stumble more,” says Dr. Crainick, describing the condition as proprioception (awareness of foot placement), for which physical therapy can help. “We have exercises that can train them where to put their feet.”

The Canine Rehabilitation Facility began accepting patients this past November, and Dr. Crainick has seen improvement in the overall health and agility of the Lake Emma Animal Hospital family of pets. She is committed to helping dogs function at their highest potential, into old age, with less pain and discomfort.

“I really like the ability to help older dogs especially,” Dr. Crainick says. “We’re able to help a lot of dogs this way.” 

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