What do you feel when you see a dog on a treadmill? Envious of the animal’s dedication to exercise? Amused by the meme-like scenario? Or confused by the fact that the treadmill is underwater? At Healing Paws Veterinary Rehabilitation Center in Providence, the treadmill is neither a prop for a joke nor a reminder of a broken New Year’s resolution. It is an instrumental aid for helping paralyzed patients – pets – relearn to walk after surgery.
When he arrived in Rhode Island from North Carolina, veterinarian Jeff Corey was surprised that the state lacked a fully equipped rehab facility for animals, so he decided to open one in 2006. Corey says, “I gravitated toward rehab because it provides me an opportunity to really get to know both the patient and their owner, since they often come on a weekly basis for several weeks to even several months.” He also receives satisfaction from witnessing the direct impact of his help when his furry patients improve.
While Corey really enjoys spending time with the cats and dogs at the center, his process is not all fun and games. In fact, he employs a methodical and studied approach to healing. Following a thorough consultation, during which he learns about the animal’s history, lifestyle, and past treatments, Corey performs a physical exam. Based on his findings, he develops a custom plan to address the problem. The various rehab modalities he uses include land-based strengthening and range-of-motion exercises, massage, and therapeutic laser. When his patients cooperate, they get a treat.
Oftentimes, though, it takes more than peanut butter to motivate. Among some challenging cases, Corey recalls, is one that involved a nine-year-old Boston terrier who had suffered respiratory arrest and couldn’t lift his head or maintain an upright posture. Luckily, no one was giving up. “Through his perseverance and drive, as well as the tremendous commitment on the part of his owners, he is now motoring all over the place in his Quad cart and is starting to be able to take several consecutive steps in a row without assistance.”
Corey stresses the importance of the clients’ dedication to their pet’s recovery. “We work together as a team, and a big part of rehab is showing clients exercises they can do at home in between sessions.” In some cases, however, rehab alone won’t suffice. Corey says that he then connects the clients with proper specialists who will help them resolve the issue. A proud owner of a dog and three cats himself, Corey is ready to do whatever it takes to “add more years to their life and more life in their years.”