SANTA FE, N.M. — Exercises designed to build strength, develop balance, flexibility
For Suki, going to Bounce Back might feel like a cross between visiting a fitness center and a spa.
Not that pit bulls think in those terms – as far as we know.
But a full hour there can involve weaving through cones, traveling over poles raised slightly from the ground, balancing on inflated, rubbery forms, and trotting on a treadmill in a tank full of water.
And don’t forget the warming laser therapy up and down her spine and relaxation while being stuck with acupuncture needles.
|At a glance
WHAT: Bounce Back Integrative Veterinary Rehabilitation LLC, veterinary rehabilitation practice of Sue McKelvey, DVMWHERE: 1541 S. St. Francis DriveCONTACT: 983-6912; email@example.com; www.bouncebackvetrehab.com
It’s all part of the services offered at Bounce Back Integrative Veterinary Rehabilitation LLC, a new practice opened a couple months ago in Santa Fe by veterinarian Sue McKelvey.
And it’s an example of increasingly expanded therapies being offered to pets – cats can take part, too, McKelvey said, while noting that she personally had not yet put a cat on a treadmill in a water-filled tank.
Although, not long after, she was pitching Ben Swan of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter on the idea of trying it out with an obese feline being housed there.
“It’s a really positive thing to do,” McKelvey said of her practice, which comes after 15 years working in the Santa Fe area as a small animal veterinarian.
She struck out on her own, she said, partly to allow flexible hours for her with two children, and partly because of her passion for these types of therapies.
She added that her practice isn’t entirely new for Santa Fe. Dr. Laura Hady, with Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Centers, has been doing rehab for many years, mostly in Albuquerque, but once a week
in Santa Fe, McKelvey said.
The services can be expensive, easily topping $100 per visit if combined, but many pet insurance policies will cover them, she added.
For now, most of her clients are geriatric dogs, who need pain relieved and muscles strengthened, McKelvey said.
But the therapies also can be good for animals with injuries, neurological problems, knee and orthopedic issues, or obesity.
Dogs who are healthy but need conditioning for herding or agility competitions also can benefit, she said.
In Suki’s case, she had been found alongside Agua Fria Street after being hit by a car. Her hind end was temporarily paralyzed as a result of damage to a vertebra in her spine, McKelvey said, but that went away, leaving weakness in its wake.
Swan said the white dog with a tan splotch had first come to the shelter in 2007 and was adopted out, so she’s estimated to be about 6 years old. When she was brought in again this March after being hit by traffic, the information on her microchip was out of date and her owner couldn’t be found, he said.
Last month, Suki started visits to Bounce Back, offered gratis by McKelvey for some shelter animals. “When we first saw her, she could walk and run, but when she’d start to go faster, she’d cross her legs and fall over,” McKelvey said. “She’s gotten tremendously stronger.” Treatments started at three times a week, but have been scaled back to twice a week.
“It’s been very gratifying to do,” she added.
The exercises are designed to build strength both in her outer muscles and her core, as well as help develop balance and the dog’s ability to feel her own body and how it is aligned.
Flexibility and range of motion also are part of the work, along with neurological improvements – how messages are delivered to and from the brain to the rest of the body.
In short, it’s physical therapy for non-humans.
The acupuncture helps with pain control, as does the laser treatment, which can also spur healing, McKelvey said.
In the water tank, Suki was able to extend her gait – an early video shows mincing, somewhat uneven steps with her hind legs. The water offers resistance, developing leg strength, but also supports the body, putting less stress on the bones and joints.
“We were pretty sure we could help this dog significantly,” McKelvey said.
And Suki was patient and cooperative throughout, sometimes getting rewarded with licks of baby food frozen in a jar, sometimes offering face licks and tail wags to her therapists in return.
“She will be a great pet for somebody,” said McKelvey, getting a strong second from tech Rebekah Reyes.