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Here are some of the Frequently Asked Questions and their answers that were recently posed to our Rehabilitation Veterinarian & Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, Dr Sara Lam [BVSc (Sydney), CCRT (U.S.), CVA] during one of our media interviews.

Q1: Share with us why you have a strong passion in geriatric, post-operative and palliative care.

Dr Sara: I have worked in a veterinary clinic for 5 years prior to a career in animal rehabilitation. I was sorry to see my animal patients continue to suffer in pain even though they are prescribed with different types of pain medications, and as a veterinarian I am always worried about the long term side effects of drugs that can cause to my animal patient’s liver and kidneys, or some of the other side effects causing the pets sleepier or more wobbly in their legs. That is why, I want to venture out to the less known, both in the general public and the veterinary industry and find a solution to my animal patients. Animal rehabilitation is one of the fastest growing specialty in the rest of the world, especially America and China.  

Q2: What kind of pets need rehabilitation treatment?

Dr Sara: More often that not, pet owners brings their pets to us to improve the pet’s quality of life through rehabilitation. As our pet ages or undergoes surgery, some mobility is lost – hence similar  to human rehabilitation, pet rehabilitation will help pets to regain mobility as well as to reduce pain and improve the quality of life. We have pets as young as 7 weeks and as old as 19 years old.

Q3: What are the rehab treatments?

Dr Sara: RA Healing Centre employs a multi-disciplinary approach. Prior to the first rehabilitation consultation, we liaise with the animal’s regular veterinarians for the retrieval of medical records and diagnostic imagings. Each pet is evaluated by the certified canine rehabilitation therapist and veterinarian for the purpose of rehabilitation planning. Being said, each pet will have an individual tailored rehabilitation program that is based on their weight bearing status.

We employ various modalities such as Low Level Light Therapy (Cold Laser), Electro Muscular Stimulation (NMES/TENS), Therapeutic Ultrasound, Tui-na/ Therapeutic Massage, Stretching, Joint mobilisation,  Land Treadmill, Therapeutic Exercises,, Hydrotherapy (Controlled swimming & Underwater Threadmill).

Q4: Are diet considerations included in rehabilitation?

Dr Sara: Based on the international AAHA guideline, nutritional assessment is recognised as the 5th vital sign, on top of heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature and pain. It is important in the rehabilitation planning as clinical studies have shown that as little as 20 % overweight can reduce lifespan of the animals by 2 years. Most often than not, once the animal loses weight, pet owner finds that they move faster and require less pain medications. We can also combine the Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine’s theory on food therapy to correct the internal balances in animals to treat some of the difficult medical conditions e.g. itchy and hot skin, non-responsive to western medicine. One close example that we can all relate is how we drink barley water to get rid of dampness, you can do the same for your animals.

Q5: Please share some simple rehabilitation exercises for pet owners to do with their dogs at home. Please illustrate step-by-step.

Dr Sara: I am sure the first command most owners will teach their dog is the the sit and stand command. It is one the basic strengthening exercises for the back leg muscles. Make sure when the dog sits, both back legs need to tug in under the hips and stay for 2 seconds before asking the dog to stand. Repeat this exercise 10 times in a row. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat for 2 rounds. This can be done daily to strengthen the butt and hind leg muscles.

Q6: What is the importance of regular daily home exercise for owners who aim for an effective and efficient recovery for their furkids?

Dr Sara: Animal rehabilitation doesn’t stop at our facility. Pet owners are also tasked with home exercises to ensure that care continues even after the pet leaves our facility. For example, if you have experience with human physiotherapist, they will also ask you to supplement the treatment with daily exercise for a more sustainable recovery. We apply the same theory, other than coming to the rehabilitation centre once or twice a week, we will give them an online access to a customised exercise program with photos, videos and descriptions and it is only valid for a certain period of time to encourage owner’s compliance. This will ensure that the pet is on the most efficient route towards the recovery.

Q7: How to correct the dog’s posture and owner’s handling skill?

Dr Sara: The best way is to come in to RA Healing Centre to speak to one of our friendly staffs. On a daily basis, I would recommend to use a harness rather than a collar to walk your dog as it discourages pulling on the leash and subsequent neck injuries. Also it reduces irritation for dogs who are prone to have respiratory issues.

Q8: Can you please share some simple steps on Therapeutic Massage for dogs.

Dr Sara: Start in a calm environment and long continuous strokes from the front of the back to the tail and from top-line to the toes and return.

Q9: What are your thoughts on rehab through acupuncture?

Dr Sara: Acupuncture was first practiced and derived in horses thousand years ago in China. The pain relief characteristic in acupuncture has gained a lot of attention in American since 1970s. Studies have shown that acupuncture especially combining with electricity, called electro-acupuncture can have analgesic effect strong enough to sustain minor surgeries. At RA Healing Centre, we emphasise on synergistic way to work with conventional medicine to treat pain in a disciplinary approach. There are also studies showing the efficacy of acupuncture and rehabilitation in combination is comparable, if not better, to the success rate of surgery in Grade 1-3 intervertebral disc diseases.

Q10: Simple first aid tips and guides for pet owners.

Dr Sara: Remember the syncronym- ABC, stands for Airway, Breathing and Circulation. First, make sure the airway is un-obstructed, and breathing rate should be 30-40 breaths per minute, and check the colour of the gum and tongue, they should be pink in colour.

Q11: Common intoxicants and poisons which pets may be exposed to at home or outside

Dr Sara: Dogs cannot eat chocolate, onion, xylitol (found in many human candies, toothpaste and chewing gums), grapes, avocado, macadamia nuts, fertilisers, rat poisons. On top of these, the flower- lily is extremely toxic to cats, as well as permethrin- containing flea products.

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