London’s sole certified canine rehabilitation therapist has seen physiotherapy make a big difference

By Mike Hensen, The London Free Press

With her Labrador retriever Belle injured, doped on heavy narcotics and struggling to walk across a room, Laura Plank decided it was time to get some help for her pet.

“We were at our wit’s end, she was on heavy narcotics that wasn’t helping with her pain,” she said.

Plank and Belle were referred to Heather Kennedy, a London veterinarian who offers physiotherapy for dogs and cats at the London Veterinary Surgery and Rehabilitation clinic.

“I was skeptical when we started,” Plank said. “I honestly didn’t think it was reversible.”

After about six months of physio that includes a water treadmill, Belle is “back to 99% of her old crazy self. We’re happy with it, she’s back to being an active member of our family,” said Plank, who lives in Komoka.

“This clinic gave us our dog back.”

The clinic is the only one of its kind in London, Kennedy said. With its treadmill, balance bars and elastic bands, it looks like a canine equivalent of the human sports injury clinic, only without the mirrors and motivational posters.

In a session this week, Belle walked happily in a water treadmill, her eyes on treats held ahead, with some of her weight buoyantly supported in 40 cm of water.

The water treadmill is expensive hardware, Kennedy said, but the reward is watching how it helps dogs and cats rebuild muscle, and learn to walk again.

Kennedy demonstrated how Belle lifted her legs higher when walking in water than on land. “That’s where a lot of the strength work comes in because of the water resistance.”

Kennedy became interested after she saw rehabilitation bring back dogs to health that were completely paralysed.

She attended Florida’s Canine Rehabilitation Institute to learn more about rehabilitation and biomechanics not normally taught at veterinary school. Kennedy is the only certified canine rehabilitation therapist in London.

The clinic, in the London Veterinary Emergency Clinic at 39-41 Adelaide St. N., offers strengthening programs, hydrotherapy, manual therapy and massage that Kennedy said dogs like.

“It’s a very rewarding area to work in.”

A veterinarian for eight years, Kennedy said she’s seen a shift even in that short span in how much people are willing to invest in their pets.

“Pets are a huge part of people’s lives.”

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