By Deborah Bostock-Kelley

At Ehrlich Animal Hospital & Arthritis Therapy Center, a canine companion suffering from the pain of arthritis, joint and weight issues now have safe treatment options that could give him a better quality of life.

Founded by Dr. Farid Saleh and Dr. Langbenh, for over 25  years, the Center has been the place for pet owners to find comfort and resolution for their pet’s health issues.

Offering the latest technologies to help a pet rehabilitate and regain mobility, the Center features a state-of-the-art underwater treadmill for hydrotherapy. The hydrotherapy unit is surrounded by glass to make a tank. Water is added to support the body and create a low impact exercise environment by reducing the effect of gravity on decreasing weight-bearing up to 50%. This decreases pressure on the dog’s joints and muscles and is safe for unstable animals. It t is an ideal therapy for dogs that are suffering from joint disease, recovering from an injury, experiencing a neurologic issue, suffering from arthritis, or healing from surgery. Overweight pets or dogs that are in training for sporting events will find the water treadmill is good for their muscles and ligaments. 

“Dogs with arthritis will experience with hydrotherapy since it takes the pressure of the joints and keeps the muscles toned and allows the pet to exercise. Just like people, if you don’t move, you get stiffer, and other problems arise. Hydrotherapy is very beneficial.”

Along with Dr. Saleh, Shelise Lientz, certified in animal rehabilitation, will evaluate the dog to determine the best course of treatment.

The 16-session, 8-week hydrotherapy rehab works not only for arthritis. Pets suffering from obesity can come for therapy so they can exercise and lose weight without harmful impact on their joints during the 20-minute sessions.

“If a dog is developing or has arthritis and it doesn’t exercise, it gains weight, and the weight puts more stress on the joints. By doing hydrotherapy, you help the joints, they get exercise and have the chance to lose weight.”

Dr. Saleh relayed a story about a dog who’d had multiple knee surgeries. He was unable to find relief from arthritis that was so severe that he continually lifted his hind leg. After regular hydrotherapy treatments in combination with K-laser therapy, the dog was able to put weight on his foot. The noninvasive K-laser treatment works on the cellular level and targets affected areas to improve blood flow, decrease pain, and reduce inflammation. The procedure can be done in-house on the same day with the owner in the room. 

“You can see now that his leg touches the treadmill, which before it was totally off the treadmill.”

In addition to hydrotherapy and laser therapy to provide relief to sore pets, Ehrlich Animal Hospital & Arthritis Therapy Center offers the same treatments used for humans – stem cell therapy, platelet-rich plasma therapy, joint injections, and nutritional supplements.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy is derived from the pet’s own blood. The doctor removes blood from the pet, separates the platelet-rich plasma, activates it, and injects it back into the sore joint.

For stem cell therapy, through a minor surgical procedure, the doctor harvests the stem cells from the pet’s own fat, processes and combines them with the platelet-rich plasma. This gets injected into the arthritic joint, and some also get the anti-inflammatory treatment intravenously.

“Stem cell therapy and platelet therapy is most beneficial when used early in the condition,” explained Dr. Saleh. “Many times pets come to us at an older age where they’ve been dealing with these issues for a while, and though the treatments can still be effective, they are much more effective if we are dealing with a dog who is eight years of age versus a dog who is 12 years of age. Seeing a pet at earlier times result in better outcomes. If it is investigated early, than the treatment can be much more successful.”

Nutritional supplements include prescription oral and injectable glucosamine. The doctor or staff can teach the pet owner how to do injections if they are interested. Dr. Saleh said that a combination of modalities works best with the water treadmill. He has seen the firsthand positive response to platelet-rich plasma and stem cell therapies. These therapies offer a safe and natural cell alternative to relieve the pain of joint disease or injury, promote healing, and reduce recovery time using your dog’s blood and tissue. Results may be seen as soon as one week. 

Proactively, for a medium to large breed prone to arthritis, pet parents can bank their dog’s stem cells for future therapy needs. They simply make an annual payment for storage. Stem cells are not only helpful for arthritic conditions but can be beneficial in many diseases. Stem cells can be collected from a younger dog during a spay or neutering procedure and then be saved for injection in the future when the need arises. 

“We can collect the fat cells and store them. When the dog needs the cells in the future, they can be used immediately instead of having to anesthetize an unhealthy pet to collect the stem cells.”

Although arthritis has a  genetic component, measures can be taken to minimize the effect of arthritis. That includes keeping the pet at an optimum weight, regular exercise, and avoiding table food.

Dr. Saleh recommends that pet parents pay close attention to early symptoms like a dog that is slow to rise or lay down, not being able to walk as far as he used to, appearing slower after exercise or showing signs of tenderness. Many times this is misinterpreted that the dog experiencing normal aging.

“Most pets will not vocalize during the early stages of pain, and that is what most owners are looking for. Owners will say, ‘My pet doesn’t cry out so it must not be in pain,’” said Dr. Saleh. “Typically with arthritic conditions, it’s not one treatment alone that makes the difference; it’s usually a combination of multiple therapies, based on the pet because like people, every pet is different.”

Ehrlich Animal Hospital and Arthritis Therapy Center is located at 8009 Gunn Highway Tampa, FL 33626. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10:00 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 813-920-0566 or email ehvet@ehrlichanimalhospital.com. You also can get more information from their webpage www.ehrlichanimalhospital.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EhrlichAnimalHospital.