(NEWS CENTER) -- If you get hurt or have some kind of pain problem like arthritis -- it's not unusual to spend some time getting a little "rehab." But what about our four-legged friends?

Animals need some TLC too when it comes to rehab.

Doctor Ginger Johnson from the Veterinary and rehabilitation center of Cape Elizabeth joins the Morning Report with more.

Watch the video above for the full interview.

Simply, the animal equivalent of human physical therapy. More specifically, the treatment of muscle, tendon, ligament, nerve and bone injury or illness in order to decrease pain and restore function. These may be acute (traumatic injury) or chronic (arthritic) issues.

Even without injury or illness, a rehabilitation specialist can also serve as a pet's personal trainer, improving fitness, strength, balance, and coordination for any pet (agility athlete to couch potato).

Why not call it Physical Therapy?

The Maine Physical Therapist Practice Act states that physical therapy is performed on human beings, therefore this terminology cannot be used to describe the same practice when performed on other animals.


Who can practice Veterinary Rehabilitation?

Veterinarians, physical therapists and veterinary technicians may pursue specialized training as Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioners (CCRP), Therapists (CCRT) and Assistants (CCRA). Veterinarians may also be board certified Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (DACVSMR). As this is a cross disciplinary practice, veterinarians, physical therapists and technicians work in collaboration with each other, bringing a unique synergy to this field that combines the science of veterinary medicine with the manual skills and knowledge of physical therapy.

There are about 1700 certified rehabilitation specialists with 12 currently registered in Maine.

In Maine, veterinary rehabilitation falls under the definition of the practice of veterinary medicine and must be performed under the direct supervision of a veterinarian or licensed veterinary technician.


When did Veterinary Rehabilitation start?

While human physical therapy has been a recognized discipline with proven benefits for at least 100 years, veterinary rehabilitation is a relatively new field developed within the last 20 years. Many techniques were originally adapted from human practice. The CCRP program at University of Tennessee started in 1999 and the CCRT and CCRA programs in Florida and Colorado in 2003. The first comprehensive textbook on veterinary rehabilitation was written in 2004.


What are the benefits of Veterinary Rehabilitation?

Veterinary rehabilitation specialists work with patients and their owners to speed recovery, decrease pain, increase longevity and physical fitness, maximize function and improve quality of life.


Why is Veterinary Rehabilitation necessary?

With injury and illness, animals adapt to try to protect the affected area while retaining necessary function. Disuse of the injured site leads to atrophy of associated muscles and remodeling of surrounding soft tissue and bone that is counterproductive to a timely and thorough recovery. Adaptations related to injury also alter total body function thereby causing stress and possible additional damage to other areas of the body.

Traditionally after surgery, pets were kept in close confinement for weeks to months until the specific injury healed, often at the detriment of other parts of the body. The practice of rehabilitation demonstrates that controlled movement and exercise is safe and necessary in order to speed healing and maintain total body health (including mental health), comfort, flexibility, muscle tone and bone strength.

Thankfully, improved veterinary care and nutrition and closer bonds with owners have led to our pets living longer lives than ever. Unfortunately, with age, our pets develop many challenges similar to those we face as we get older, including arthritis, bone and muscle loss and cognitive challenges. Many times the only outward sign of these changes is limited mobility, such as not climbing the stairs or jumping into the car. Rehabilitation directly addresses these challenges and gives our older patients the best golden years possible.


Who are our patients?

Primarily dogs, but rehabilitation is applicable across the board to all animals. I have personally treated cats, a possum and a goose. Any animal can benefit from rehabilitation: animals with muscle or joint problems, nerve or brain injury, obesity, animals needing improved physical fitness, athletes interested in maintaining top form such as sporting and working dogs and even over-exuberant puppies and young dogs that need a safe way to let off steam in order to be happily adjusted house pets.

What techniques are used?

Manual therapy (massage, passive range of motion, joint mobilization), Therapeutic Exercise (therapy balls, cavaletti rails, sit to stands, ramps, stairs, dancing, wheelbarrowing, tunnel work, wobble boards, gait patterning, etc.), Therapeutic Laser, Therapeutic Ultrasound, Hydrotherapy (underwater treadmill and swimming), Electronic Stimulation (TENS and NMES), Cryotherapy (icing), Thermotherapy (applying heat), and newer emerging modalities such as Shockwave Therapy, Stem Cell and Platelet Rich Plasma.

One of the best parts of veterinary rehabilitation is that it all feels good! No matter what technique is used, we depend on our patients' willingness to comply with treatment, so we never push to the point of discomfort or pain. In rehabilitation, the only way to ensure compliance is to make our patients happy and comfortable, wanting to come back for more.


Where can I find Veterinary Rehabilitation specialist for my pet?

American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians (AARV), https://www.rehabvets.org/Referrals.lasso Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioners (CCRP), http://ccrp.utvetce.com/practitioners.asp

Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapists and Assistants (CCRT and CCRA): http://www.caninerehabinstitute.com/Find_A_Therapist.html


How expensive is it and How do I manage these costs?

With progressive advances in medicine and quality of care, veterinary services become more expensive. The practice of veterinary rehabilitation requires certified professionals, significant periods of time (longer appointments than for the typical veterinary exam) and often specific equipment and technology that are expensive as well. Despite this cost saving options exist, such as:

Specific rehabilitation techniques may be limited (only massage, laser or underwater treadmill services) and/or bundled into packages to fit various cost needs.

Pet owners may be taught many specific exercises and techniques to continue on their own at home.

Veterinary insurance companies are increasingly offering policies that cover rehabilitation services. At least eleven pet insurance companies currently offer some type of coverage for rehabilitation.

Professional specific credit programs that offer interest free, monthly payment options if completed within stated terms.