Friday, March 11, 2011

Growing Number Of Pets Benefit From Rehabilitation And Other Therapies

A Guest Blog By:

Linda Wasche, LW Marketworks, Inc.

   Just as many baby boomers suffer from arthritis, achy muscles and stiff joints, so do many pets.  And more of these pets are benefiting from the same types of therapy that humans have long relied on including exercise, acupuncture, lasers, underwater therapy and massage.

In Allen Park, Michigan the newly-opened Water Gait Veterinary Rehabilitation is the newest of only a handful of pet rehabilitation centers in Southeast Michigan.   Water Gait, named after the water therapy used to treat many pet conditions and the movement or gait that veterinarians observe in assessing a pet’s condition, treats dogs, cats and even rabbits to alleviate pain and help pets regain mobility.  The new state-of-the-art center features an underwater treadmill, therapy pool, exercise area and more.
Patches in the underwater treadmill
Veterinarian Dr. Joyce Balnaves works with Patches in the underwater treadmill used to treat older cats and those with muscle weakness.

  Water Gait Veterinary Rehabilitation is at 15220 Southfield Road in Allen Park, Michigan. “Pets suffer from the same injuries and health conditions as humans,”  says veterinarian Dr. Joyce Balnaves, founder of Water Gait Veterinary Rehabilitation.  “Rehabilitation is essential in treating pain and improving mobility so that pets can live an active and pain-free life.”

Water Gait Veterinary Rehabilitation treats pets that are recovering from surgery, have been injured, or are suffering from chronic conditions such as arthritis, disc disease and hip dysplasia.   Some conditions are due to normal aging; others may result from an injury.  Dogs are increasingly being called into physically-demanding roles to assist police departments, serve in the military and as service dogs to humans with disabilities demanding higher levels of performance over longer periods of time.

 Balnaves says that Water Gait Veterinary Rehabilitation is one of a growing number of pet rehabilitation centers opening around the U.S.   The Canine Rehabilitation Institute ( has graduated more than 1,000 veterinary and physical therapy professionals since it opened in 2002.  Of the 27 veterinary schools in the U.S., 17 now offer some form of rehabilitation training, and a new specialty college, The American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (, was approved for formation last year by the American Veterinary Medical Association AVMA ( 

“As more pet owners consider their pet part of the family, they want the same treatment options that are available to humans,” Balnaves said.  “And, like humans, pets are living longer.  Pet owners want to make sure that their pet is able to get around and  function while enjoying a good quality of life.”
Water Gait Veterinary Rehabilitation provides a number of treatment options.  Acupuncture, which uses fine needles to stimulate the nerves, is typically used to treat pain from arthritis and other conditions. Laser therapy helps speed up healing, reduce pain and increase circulation.  Water therapy, using underwater treadmills and therapy pools, strengthens muscles and helps improve a pet’s range of motion and flexibility.  Exercise and massage relax and stimulate muscles, reduce pain and improve circulation.
Pet rehabilitation centers, such as Water Gait Veterinary Rehabilitation, work in conjunction with a pet’s primary care veterinarian who diagnoses the pet’s health problem and makes a referral to a rehabilitation facility.  In this way, the primary care veterinarian obtains a complete picture of the pet’s health and can rule out any other underlying medical issues.
Scooter – therapeutic laser treatment
Dr. Joyce Balnaves uses the newest class IV therapeutic laser treatment on Scooter who is being treated for back pain and osteoarthritis.

Cost of pet rehabilitation typically ranges from $50 to $150 per session or more, depending on the seriousness of the pet’s condition and the particular treatments being administered.    Prior to treatment, a thorough physical rehabilitation exam is conducted.
For information, go to or call 313-422-3318.

How can you tell if your pet is in pain?  Dr. Balnaves says to look for these signs:
  • Difficulty jumping up or down
  • Crying when getting up or down
  • Reluctance to play or exercise
  • Unusual posture
  • Lameness or weakness
  • Uneven wear on nails
  • Sensitivity to being touched or petted

About  Dr. Joyce Balnaves, DVM, CVMA, CCRT
Dr. Balnaves has been a veterinarian since 1986.  She is certified in veterinary medical acupuncture (CVMA) and is a certified canine rehabilitation therapist (CCRT).  She also has training in pain management, medical massage, manual therapy and therapeutic laser treatment. She is a member of the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians, International Veterinary Association for Pain Management, Michigan Veterinary Medical Association and Southeast Michigan Veterinary Medical Association. She holds a doctor of veterinary medicine (with honor) and bachelor of science (with high honor), both from Michigan State University.   Dr. Balnaves live in Canton with her husband Michael, sons Sean and Ian, three cats, a rabbit and Water Gait mascot Jake, a Sheltie.            


  1. Pets who live in Michigan are so lucky!!! How I wish we could have something like this in our country!
    Water Gait Veterinary Rehabilitation sounds really great and I hope more pets get help there.

  2. @Alittlesprite, I agree, I would love to visit it. I may have to.

    @Priscilla, I thought of you the instant I posted this with all of the work you have done with Mika (and Eva too, but mostly dear Mika). You invested in that water pool and you helped Mika with his rehabilitation. Mika is doing so well because of all that you have done for him! xoxo

  3. That sounds like a terrific place. I don't think my kitties would go for any type of therapy that involves water, though. =^..^=

  4. Great story! I couldn't help but think of my pal Moki though. He's doing great with his rehab.

  5. Thank You very much for sharing...Very cute post!

  6. @Julia it does, I really must check it out in pawson myself. I hope your kitties never need that kind of therapy! ((((hugs))))

    @Brian I know a doggie (Mika) who is doing super well with therapy too! Glad your friend Moki is doing well too!

    @Amin thanks so much! Happy you liked it!

  7. Thanks for sharing Caren! Me has aches and pains but they are nothing like my poor hairy slobbery sister Sam. She used to go when we lived in the city!

  8. Dear Caren,

    " With Patches in the underwater treadmill " That's looked " Amazing !!! "
    I never expected they use this treat with the cat ! But as long as it's work, That's the best ! ..Really interesting post : )
    Thank You


  9. this is so cool! water therapy in general is totally awesome, add pet and it is pawesome. I love all the holistic type alternatives and options we are starting to see offered for our canine and feline buddies.
    Caren, thank you so much for the mention on the Catio Blog, YOU ARE THE BEST! xoxox

    Lisa, Madison and Abgial

  10. @Lisa, Madison and Abigail/Kritters That Twitter- I agree about water therapy! I used to be a lifeguard and I used to teach swimming and water is the BEST! I am thrilled about the advances for our furry friends as well! Lisa you are most welcome!! I didn't even know that you would see it! I hope she contacted you! Love ya!!

    @Puddy, I bet you could go swimming too! lol. Seriously I hope you don't ever need to and that if you do it is just for fun. I am so glad you enjoyed the post, that will make Linda very happy! xoxo

    @Nellie, ohhhh noooo, Sam had to do the water therapy? What did he have wrong? Did it help? I sure hope so! xoxo

  11. Wow, that is so cool! Thank you for sharing about this neat place.

  12. I've seen a lot about this recently, and I have mixed feelings. Since I can't sit my cat down and explain to her that this is for her own good, I wonder if the treatment would be seen by her as torture? I guess you just have to know your own pet and trust that you would know if they can handle the stress :)

  13. Wonderful information! I am really impressed. And the name Water Gait is catchy and clever, while the therapy itself makes total sense. I wish something like this was available for our Old English Sheepdog, Abby. She is ten and growing more arthritic daily. We will go the med route soon. Today she came in the car to pick up 15-yr-old Feather kitty after a night at the vet (diagnosis: megacolon...$600 kidney failure-yea!) and Abby had such difficulty getting in and out of the car. This post will help me determine a better course for her, an improvement in the quality of her life.

  14. @meowmeowmans you are welcome, glad that you enjoyed it!

    @OKcats I see where you are coming from and I would imagine that they would carefully assess the cat to make sure that it would be a good candidate both emotionally and physically. I understand though. Also...the cat in the water looks like there is hardly any water there and the cat looks fine but I agree it would depend on the cat.

    @Lydia thanks much! Glad you liked it! Yes the name is so catchy and clever and I know what/who you are thinking of! lol. Thank goodness your baby has no kidney failure, thank God!!!! Poor Abby, I hope you find something that will help her. Let us know.

  15. Water gate. That's an awesome idea.

  16. Really interesting and informative post - thanks!

  17. I hope that I never have to go in the water like that.

  18. it makes perfect sense that therapies that work on us would be useful for our pets. My Rosie is rather tightly wound, having been abused before we adopted her, and I've been giving her a massage each morning to start the day out calm and relaxed and it does seem to help. Great post!

  19. thanks to everyone who read and left a comment! I am sure Linda will appreciate it and I agree that this was a most important post! xoxo

  20. That is very interesting. Until I read this I never knew such services existed

  21. Very interesting, Patches looks completely relaxed in the water!

  22. This was verreh interesting! I dunno about that water therapy though! Oh noooooooooes!

  23. thanks very much everyone! I didn't know this existed either until this post. I am sure Linda will be happy to read all of your nice comments!

  24. Oh this is such a wonderful facility! I've never known a place like this.

  25. Great post. My vet does a lot of this stuff too. It is wonderful what they can do now.

  26. @Tamago so good to see you here again! I was worried that maybe I had posted something you didn't like, you spoiled me with always commenting! So glad to see you back! :)

    @Cats of Wildcat Woods, Linda always does such a great job of guest posting. Thanks! Wow your vet offers this wonderful therapy too? You are soooo lucky! Yes it is wonderful they can do this now.