Veterinary physical therapy practices are beginning to spring up in the U.S., Canada, and other countries. One such practice, Sterling Impression Animal Rehabilitation Center of New England in Walpole, Massachusetts (www.starcone.com) sits in a small strip mall. An unlikely location but a convenient one for pet owners.
Inside the doors are an underwater treadmill and a hydrotherapy pool and that's only the beginning. Dr. Marjorie McMillan created Sterling Impression when she realized there had to be a better way to treat animals with lameness problems. The veterinarian had spent 2 years carrying her paralyzed 15-year-old Labrador Retriever. The issue was personal for her. She knew how owners with lame pets felt because she was one. Dr. McMillan headed to the University of Tennessee Veterinary School to learn Physical Therapy where groundbreaking work was, and is, being done in this field.
Dr. McMillan and Cathy Simons, CVT, created the Water Wellness Center and changed the name to Sterling Impression when they moved the location of their practice to allow for the heated lap pool and whirlpool area. Why Sterling? That was the name of Dr. McMillan's beloved Labrador Retriever. Show me a pet owner who can't relate to the reason for the change of name.
Therapeutic ultrasound, custom-made carts and more can be involved in the treatment. Mobility issues are helped in many ways, and getting the immobile large dog into the pool happens with the assist of a hydraulic lift. And I should mention that even cats benefit from water therapy.
Spending a day there was one of the most heart-warming experiences I've had. Watching dogs walk using the underwater treadmill, going for laps around the mall with a little dog whose hind legs were in a cart, watching pets wearing life vests and swimming after toys that are thrown across the lap pool is heartwarming. You can see how much better they feel. Massage therapy also helps these beloved companions. The care and concern of the staff matches that of the owners. This is a team effort and it pays off for the pets, the owners, and the staff who take pride in their accomplishment when they see the results of their work.
Sterling Impression is a happy place where feeling better is a great feeling for everyone involved.