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Curing Our Canines

Humans are a complaining lot, apt to moan and groan about aching backs, sore feet, arthritic hands, the need to lose weight or the lingering results of accidents. Our animal friends tend to be more stoic but they are not exempt from any of these issues.

Now there are new therapies that can ease their discomfort and help them return to active health. Two centers in the tristate region—the newly opened Veterinary Rehabilitation Aquatic Center in Sharon CT and Fitter Critters in Lee MA—are dedicated to maintaining and improving the health of our beloved pets.

The Veterinary Rehabilitation Aquatic Center is owned and operated by Dr. Alison Trotta, a graduate of the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and is a certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist. On the center’s website, she writes, “It has been a long-term dream to open a rehab clinic and practice all the best parts of veterinary medicine every day. VRAC is that dream.”

The center, located at 29 Low Road, is in the former Salisbury Bank building and has been repurposed for its new role. The drive-up teller and walk-up ATM are transformed into an indoor therapy pool, the offices have become an exam room and underwater treadmill room, and, with teller stations removed, the newly opened space provides room for therapeutic exercise.

Trotta says veterinarian rehabilitation promotes optimal healing from an illness, injury, disease or surgical procedure. “The animals who have the opportunity to partake in a rehab program experience a faster return to fun and function,” she wrote on the website. “Rehabilitation utilizes joint mobilizations, stretches, therapeutic exercise, laser, acupuncture and hydrotherapy such as an underwater treadmill. Each therapy session is entirely tailored to the needs of your pet in respect to where they are in the recovery process and how they may be feeling that day.”

Looking at specific therapies, she said laser is beneficial in reducing inflammation in the joints and promoting healing of bone after a fracture or surgery. Laser treatments can also be helpful for injured or over-worked muscles and in treating arthritis.

Manual therapy consists of hand movements used to increase range of motion, induce relaxation, mobilize soft tissue and joints and modulate pain, as well as reducing soft tissue swelling and inflammation or restrictions.

And, a long-recognized treatment for canine discomfort is acupuncture, insertion of tiny needles into specific points on the body to produce a healing response through the release of hormones such as endorphins and cortisol (a natural steroid).

Own a couch potato that has developed a little too much avoirdupois? Hydrotherapy will help keep your chunky monkey fit and firm. In addition to the underwater treadmill the center has a land treadmill that can be combined with targeted exercises to strengthen core muscles.

Contact: Veterinary Rehabilitation Aquatic Center or 860-364-2200.

Fitters Critters, located at 95 Summer Street in Lee, was established in 2000 to provide reasonably priced rehabilitation and conditioning programs for canines. It offers many of the same services at the Veterinary Rehabilitation Aquatic Center.

Jody Chiquoine, a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist and a member of the American Canine Sports Medicine Association, has completed canine rehabilitation courses with the Canine Rehabilitation Institute in Loxahatchie FL, the NorthEast Seminars/University of Tennessee Veterinary School and attends International Canine Rehabilitation Conferences. She completed courses in canine massage, acupressure, Tellington Touch and the Basic Science Course for Animal Physical Therapists offered by the American Physical Therapy Association, Orthopedics Division.

Fitter Critters recently teamed up with a local specialist to provide canine braces, orthotics and prosthesis. Braces and orthotic devices are helpful for dogs with a joint injury that needs added support, for example partial cruciate ligament tears or dogs that need more advanced limb splinting than commercial splints offer. In some cases dogs with partial limb amputations have had a prosthesis made to assist in walking.

Contact: Fitter Critters or 413-243-0253.