Rehabilitation can benefit pets in the same way that it benefits humans.

Those are the words of Dena Owings, a veterinarian and certified canine rehabilitation practitioner with Shiloh Veterinary Hospital.

"Rehabilitaiton can speed healing after surgery or injury, improve agility and mobility and, decrease pain," Owings said. "It will also increase range of motion and flexibility, improve strength and muscle mass, promote weight loss and improve overall quality of life. It can be useful for pets with orthopedic, neurologic, and chronic conditions."

Don Mercadante of York brought his beagle, Kali, to Owings as a follow-up to surgery and is very pleased with her progress.

"Kali is doing well, the physical therapy has worked and she is making great progress. People go through therapy after surgery, so why not animals?," Mercadante said. "Kali has also lost weight and that is another advantage to the program."

Owings said some of the most common conditions she treats include:

· Post-operative cranial cruciate ligament repair

· Osteoarthritis

· Intervertebral disc disease, which causes neck and back pain

· Post-operative patellar luxation repair

· Degenerative myelopathy, a debilitating spinal cord disease.


"We have a cutting edge therapeutic laser at our east location. This is a therapeutic laser which emits energy into a specific area to reduce pain, promote cell healing, and reduce inflammation," Owings said.

This therapy can be used to help painful conditions such as arthritis, back injuries, sprains and strains, inflammation and wound healing, she said.

"It is extremely safe, with no side effects. It only takes five to 15 minutes, depending on the treatment area, and does not require any kind of sedation or restraint. Most pets feel better within 12 to 24 hours after treatment," Owings said.

Mollie Clark of Camp Hill brought her golden retriever, Bing, for therapy after surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

"I was impressed," she said. "He has done very well and Dr. Owings gave me exercises I could to at home with him that were very helpful. He enjoys going for therapy and really likes the treadmill and the therapy ball," Clark said. "Bing is able to go for short walks with me and while it will be some time before he can run and play with his playmates in the neighborhood, he has made great progress."

In addition to laser therapy and the treadmill, rehabilitation may also include therapy balls, the balance board, Cavaletti rails, TheraBands, massage therapy, heat therapy and cryotherapy, Owings said.

WEEKLY. From left: Dr. Dena Owings, veterinary technician Wendy Hazenstav, and Kali, all wear special glasses, as the duo from Shiloh Veterinary Hospital
WEEKLY. From left: Dr. Dena Owings, veterinary technician Wendy Hazenstav, and Kali, all wear special glasses, as the duo from Shiloh Veterinary Hospital put the dog through laser treatments during physical therapy. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS--JASON PLOTKIN (YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS--J)

Most rehabilitation appointments take one hour, which includes laser as well as selected exercises and owners are given exercises to do at home with their dog, she said.

"I work closely with a rehab team consisting of certified veterinary technicians and technician assistants. The technician aids in performing the exercises for the pet," Owings said. "Most of our patients will see a marked improvement within one to two weeks of therapy. This will also help them to reduce the amount of medication they are taking."

The number of appointments required depends on each specific condition, but patients come in once or twice a week, and a rehab consultation appointment that includes an examination of the pet allows Owings to customize a program to fit the specific needs of that patient, she said.


· Cranial cruciate ligament, also known as the anterior crucial ligament, is one of the main stabilizers of the stifle joint in dogs, which is equivalent to the knee in humans.

· Intervertebral disc disease, also known as ruptured disk, causes neck and back pain and can eventually cause severe pain and paralysis if not treated.

· Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is chronic joint inflammation that leads to long-term pain. It involves the loss of the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of bones in a movable joint. When the cartilage wears away the bone ends rub, causing pain.

· Patellar luxation means that the kneecap (patella) has slipped sideways. The dog often yips in pain as the patella slides over the bony ridges of the femur. Although the affected leg can eventually flex back into normal position, the patellar ridges will continue to wear if untreated and the dog will become progressively more lame.

· Degenerative myelopathy is a slowly progressive, debilitating spinal cord disease caused by a DNA mutation.. It results in lost coordination of the hind legs, which progresses to weakness then to paralysis of the hindquarters. First symptom is often difficulty in the hindquarters when the dog rises from a prone or seated position. As the disease progresses, the dog will scuff or drag the rear feet and eventually lose the ability to walk.

· Cavaletti rails are rails placed at different heights and different distances for dogs to walk or jump over. The repetitive high-stepping is a good overall strengthening exercise for dogs after surgery. View a video about Cavaletti rails on YouTube at

· Therapy bands are latex resistance bands used to develop strength.

· Cryotherapy uses extremely cold temperature produced by substances such as liquid nitrogen to destroy abnormal, cancerous or diseased tissue.


About the vet

DENA OWINGS earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Virginia -Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (Virginia Tech) in 2002.

She has been practicing on companion animals at Shiloh Veterinary Hospital for 6½ years. To become a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner, she pursued training through the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

The program included more than 120 hours of course work, 40 hours of externship with a practicing CCRP, five case studies and presentations, as well as a two-day examination.

"I just became certified, so I am excited to share my new skills with York County," Owings said.

About the hospital

SHILOH VETERINARY HOSPITAL EAST is at 110 Morgan Lane, Manchester Township.

Call 717-767-0180 for more information.

YDR Pets

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If you have pet news you'd like to share, email, call 717-771-2077 or mail to YDR Pets, Rose Hayes, York Daily Record/Sunday News, 1891 Loucks Road, York 17408. Feel free to include photos.