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VOL. 131 | NO. 24 | Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pet Rehab, Fitness Practice Launches in East Memphis

By Andy Meek

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The young, injured patients often in need of rehabilitation and physical therapy who are brought to Dr. Roxana Caraballo’s new East Memphis center can’t speak for themselves or necessarily demonstrate where and why they hurt.

Pet Fit’s Dr. Roxana Caraballo and vet tech Nicole DeRosa, left, work on stretches to improve the mobility of Cade, a 4-year-old Golden Retriever recovering from a shoulder surgery last year.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The adults who bring those patients in for treatment are sometimes upset, scared, sad – unsure of what needs to be done.

Caraballo’s practice has some things in common with pediatric health care. One big distinction: The patients who show up for treatment at her Pet Fit Animal Rehabilitation and Fitness center at 1000 Reddoch Cove walk on four legs.

The combination of several cultural crosscurrents is at work in paving the way for a practice like Caraballo’s. They include pet owners willing to spend big not just on pampering their furry companions but on care for them, including on their health care and treatment like physical rehabilitation and therapy.

According to the American Pet Product Association, an estimated $61 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. in 2015, a figure that includes a little more than $14 billion on supplies and over-the-counter medicine and more than $15 billion on veterinarian care, figures that bode well for practices like Caraballo’s.

Meanwhile, health care in general is considered a so-called recession-proof business, especially as advancements progress and treatment improves. No surprise, then, those realities would spill over into the world of pet owners –people like Caraballo, who’s worked for 15 years in private veterinarian practice.

She had a German Shepherd back in 2011 named Sid who was about 13 years old. He started having problems with his back legs, and she wanted to try to help him without resorting to medication.

“I started looking into what I could do, and that’s what led me to rehabilitation,” said Caraballo, whose new center is an expansion of her practice into the musculoskeletal care of dogs and cats. “I decided to make the switch to rehabilitation, and I really like it.

“It’s something that’s very rewarding. We’re getting dogs that are paralyzed. Dogs that are barely moving. And we’re helping them to play and walk again. That’s very, very rewarding.”

Her East Memphis space includes 2,000 square feet, where she oversees physical conditioning programs for working, sporting and agility dogs.

“We’re getting dogs that are paralyzed. Dogs that are barely moving. And we’re helping them to play and walk again.”

–Roxana Caraballo

There are also weight-loss regimens for obese dogs that combine swimming in a heated indoor pool with a program of home exercise and proper nutrition.

Among the therapies Caraballo adapts that are likewise used by physical therapists in humans are things like neuromuscular electric stimulation; hydrotherapy; and exercises on equipment like exercise balls and balance boards.

To launch the new chapter in her career as a rehabilitation specialist, Caraballo completed a rehabilitation certification at the Canine Rehabilitation Institute and attended seminars in canine neurological rehabilitation, the multimodal approach to the geriatric patient, and canine sports medicine.

The goals of pet rehabilitation, she says, are pretty close to the goals for human patients. They include pain reduction, improvement of mobility and quality of life.

“When they come in, we do a full evaluation that’s not only looking at the injury itself but the whole body,” she said. “We design an exercise program in the clinic and also a home exercise program for the owner to do. We’re trying to get these dogs better and functioning again how they used to – moving better, jumping back into the car again, all the regular activities they can’t do now.”

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