As he tugs on a rag, steps over obstacles and balances his front paws on an air-filled toy, a playful 2-year-old Doberman named Myles is undergoing physical rehabilitation and doesn’t even know it.
“Rehab is all fun – treats and games,” said Jan Hinshaw, a veterinarian with Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital of Wichita.
Rehabilitation is the latest service to be added at the hospital, which opened on South Washington as the Veterinary Emergency Clinic in 1978. The original focus was strictly emergency care. Seven veterinarians banded together to open it while maintaining their regular practices, staffing the facility on a rotating, part-time basis.
“They didn’t want to get called out of bed in the middle of night and didn’t want to compete with each other for daytime (emergency) services,” said Brock Lofgreen, one of the clinic’s three current owners along with Hinshaw and Michael Nawrocki.
Today, seven veterinarians provide emergency care at the 24-hour facility on a full- or part-time basis. They treat broken bones and lacerations, accidental poisonings, strokes, difficult births and other mishaps that can befall a pet.
Sixty-five to 70 percent of the patients are dogs, with cats and a small number of ferrets, rabbits and other pets making up the rest. The hospital sees 15 to 20 animals on a typical weekday, 40 to 60 over a weekend.
The hospital doesn’t provide spaying, shots or other preventive health care, and for the most part the no-competition model still works, with most referrals coming from other veterinarians.
“They don’t all love us, but we try not to be competitive at all,” Lofgreen said.
“We encourage them (pet owners) to go see their daytime vet” after emergency treatment, Hinshaw said.
In recent years, the hospital has added a number of specialists, including Nawrocki in surgery, Doug Winter in dentistry and Teresa Seyfert in internal medicine.
It was the surgery specialty that convinced the hospital that it should begin offering rehabilitation services, one of the fastest growing areas of veterinary medicine. The rehab center looks like a gym or playground for pets, with a treadmill, steps, sandbox and more.
While the animals might think they’re having fun, Hinshaw said, “study after study shows that after surgery you’ve got to exercise. Any time a human undergoes (surgery), you do rehab. It just improves your chances.”
In Myles’ case, it isn’t known how he injured his right knee, but after surgery he compensated by walking on top of that paw. His owner, Tony Marceau, said he’s starting to see improvement after a couple of rehabilitation sessions.
“I’ve been cut on myself a few times,” he said. “I know what it’s like.”