Facility trains dogs to heal

Physical therapist offers rehab for Rover

Posted: Monday, January 08, 2007


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  Cramer fits Abby, a 14-year old Cocker spaniel owned by Wendy Focose of Kenai, with a leg brace to assist the dog with nerve damage in its back paw. Joseph Robertia

Canine rehabilitation practitioner Laurie Cramer, assisted by Arne Grisham of Kenai, monitors Silvertip, an Alaska husky, while the dog exercises in an underwater treadmill. Cramer recently opened Gone to the Dogs, a canine rehabilitiation and conditioning facility in Kasilof.

Joseph Robertia

Got a dog with a dinged-up knee, a pooch with a pulled muscle, or perhaps Fido needs to loose a few pounds?

Anyone who answers “yes” may soon have a solution to their pet’s problem. On Tuesday, a new canine rehabilitation and conditioning facility opens for business in Kasilof.

“It’s called Gone to the Dogs because that’s what all my friends think has happened to me,” said Laurie Cramer, owner and rehabilitation practitioner at the facility.

Cramer, a licensed physical therapist, has worked with human patients for the past 13 years and only recently decided to blend her passion for pets with her love for her work. She started taking courses in dog rehabilitation five years ago, she said.

Cramer has since completed all required courses for the Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification Program presented by the University of Tennessee, as well as a residency internship working at the Veterinary Specialists of Alaska clinic in Anchorage.

With the course work out of the way, Cramer now is ready to practice the principles she learned at a newly constructed facility off of Cohoe Loop Road.

“I want to use my knowledge to help animals,” she said.

To accomplish this, Cramer has many tools at her disposal, including carts, bracing and other adaptive equipment to aid neurologically impaired dogs; a low-level laser used to improve healing rates in wounded dogs; and land and heated underwater treadmills which can serve many purposes for dogs.

“The idea behind exercising in water is to unload the joints through use of buoyancy, while building strength, endurance and range of motion through use of resistance,” she said.

Cramer said the results are remarkable.

“We sometimes call it the fountain of youth, especially for older dogs,” she said.

As an example, Cramer related how, during her residency, a man carried in an old dog he feared required euthanasia due to the pet’s inability to walk on its own.

“After the dog was examined, it was clear it didn’t need to be put down,” she said.

Instead, veterinarians prescribed the dog start swimming in an underwater treadmill three days a week, for 15-minute intervals, she said.

“Now the dog gets around on his own and even jumps into the guy’s truck. The difference is pretty amazing,” she said.

Cramer said the underwater treadmill isn’t just for older dogs, though. She said it could speed healing time for dogs recovering from surgery and help with weight loss for dogs calorically challenged from too much time on the sofa.

The underwater treadmill also could help increase cardiovascular fitness and flexibility in athletic dogs, such as sled dogs, hunting dogs, police dogs and dogs that compete in agility, flyball and other sporting events, she said.

“It could really maximize performance,” she said.


Cramer fits Abby, a 14-year old Cocker spaniel owned by Wendy Focose of Kenai, with a leg brace to assist the dog with nerve damage in its back paw.

Joseph Robertia

Owner education is a big part of her service, Cramer said, and most owners will leave with homework, such as a home exercise program to do with their dogs. The facility also has a lending library with books and DVDs on various subjects, including stretching and massage, puppy development and dealing with the amputation of a pet’s limb.

Cramer is requesting that anyone interested in rehabilitation or conditioning for their pet have a referral from a veterinarian.

“It’s for the safety of all dogs,” she said.

Also, as part of Gone to the Dogs’ monthlong grand opening, Cramer will offering information on her services and provide demonstrations of the equipment Tuesdays, Thursdays and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, call 260-4469.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.

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