Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine

Veterinary Specialty Center’s Rehabilitation and Integrative Care (RIC) Department provides pets, service animals, athletic and working dogs a place to heal, feel better, condition/train, and thrive. Whether focusing on non-surgical options (e.g., pain, orthopedic, neurological conditions), surgical recovery, improving quality of life, or optimizing performance, we offer a wide range of conditioning and therapeutic services in our 8,600 square foot facility.

Our Patients

Because dogs are so closely integrated into the humane lifestyle as companions, service dogs, athletes, and working dogs, dogs make up a majority of rehabilitation. However, other animals benefit significantly from these therapies. Yes, cats do well with acupuncture, therapeutic LASER, pre- & post-surgical rehabilitation among many other rehabilitation and integrative therapies! Did you know cats suffer just as much from arthritis as dogs? But arthritis in cats is significantly under-diagnosed.

Physical Rehabilitation/Therapeutic Exercise

Physical rehabilitation or therapeutic exercise is readily used for dogs and cats that have had orthopedic procedures to reduce/alleviate pain, improve quality of life and restore mobility. Our most common post-operative patients are dogs that have had stifle injuries and have had surgery (most commonly a TPLO). However, physical rehabilitation offers these same benefits in patients for which surgery is not recommended or is not an option. Often times we see patients (particularly athletes or working dogs) that show pain or lameness during activity, but seem relatively normal otherwise (non-surgical lameness).

Therapeutic exercise is used for many different non-surgical, pre-surgical, and post-surgical situations. Some examples include neck/back pain or injury, arthritis, strains/sprains, and weekend-warrior syndrome, among many others. Back patients with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), are our second most common type of post-surgical rehabilitation case. An intervertebral disc is like a cushion between our vertebrae and it can extrude into the spinal column causing pain and paralysis. Dachshunds are the most common breed to suffer from this condition, but it can occur in any size dog.


People are not the only ones that suffer from arthritis. It is one of the more common chronic conditions that can affect older pets or younger pets that have been injured or have various congenital conditions. Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints causing them to become unstable, destroying the cartilage. Once the cartilage is gone, bones will rub against each other causing pain and decreasing mobility.

Dogs and cats with arthritis may have subtle, but almost expected, signs for their age such as shorter walks, stiffness when they get up or sleeping more. There can also be more dramatic and life-altering signs of arthritis-like – difficulty getting in the right position to eliminate, not being able to go upstairs, or showing signs of pain (crying out or avoiding favorite activities). These signs are all indications that your pet may need assistance with pain management with a combination of physical and integrative therapy.

We also treat patients with cancer, kidney disease, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), dry eye, neural dysfunction, wound healing, and many other medical conditions.

Mental Health & Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation and integrative medicine go well beyond just physical rehabilitation. Integration of the nervous system is a necessity for life and a large part of the nervous system’s role involves psychology. For centuries, scientific fields such as Physiological Psychology, Psycho-Neuro-Immunology, even Sports Psychology, have been bringing to light the significant and integrative role brain physiology and psychology plays in not just mental health but also physical health, fitness, and performance (e.g., athletic, cognitive, K9) as well as emotional maturity and well being of animals as well as humans. For even longer, Eastern cultures have taken advantage of the multi-directional relationship of the mind and body in both healing and training/performance. RIC recognizes and practices this integrative approach.

Therapies used in rehabilitation and integrative medicine are also used in psychological rehabilitation but with different focuses and goals for conditions such as psychological effects of chronic pain, anxiety, compulsive behavior, emotional lability, among many others. By recognizing physical health is affected by mental health and vice-versa, patients benefit from RIC’s integrative approach.

A great deal of recent research has been focusing on dog psychology (e.g., cognition, affect). But in fact, dog cognitive performance (e.g., learning, memory) and affect (e.g., emotional stability) has been at the forefront of the working K9 and service dog for centuries. From World War I & II war dogs, military working dogs (MWDs), detection and/or patrol dogs in law enforcement (LE), search and rescue (SAR) dogs for missing persons to dogs that detect cancer, diabetes, heart attack, seizures, etc, mental and psychological performance and well being have been a significant focus. Athletes, human and non-human animals, require psychological focus as well as physical conditioning to optimize performance. Let’s not forget the criticalness of emotional stability and sound decision making in the face of physical and psychological challenges required by these dogs. RIC recognizes the importance of 1) both mental and physical training, conditioning, and rehabilitation in the face of injury or trauma (e.g., post-traumatic stress, aversion behavior) and 2) integration of mental and physical therapy in arriving at recovery.

Available Therapies

During a patient’s initial and follow-up evaluations, our specialized veterinarians will devise a plan appropriate for your pet’s condition and goals. Therapies that we offer and from which we organize a plan include some of the following.

  • Physical exercises
  • Land & Underwater treadmills
  • Cart and prosthetic fittings
  • Therapeutic LASER/PhotoBioModulation
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Acupuncture
  • Therapeutic massage
  • Postural Restoration Therapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Acoustic compression therapy
  • Herbal medicine
  • Nutrition & Nutraceutical therapy
  • Affective/Behavioral/Cognitive (ABC) conditioning for performance optimization

Importantly, our Rehabilitation and Integrative Care team works in conjunction with our specialists and your veterinarian to complement their medical plan.

What to Expect on Your Visit


Our specialized rehabilitative and integrative doctors and their specialized team assess each patient. This includes working closely with you to understand each patient’s lifestyle, treatment goals, role in their home pack, and their family’s ability to manage their needs and treatments whether it’s bringing them in for therapy or creating some home therapy programs.

We set up regular rechecks with our doctors to re-evaluate, modify and progress the treatment or conditioning plan as needed. We encourage you to ask questions and give feedback so we can continue to progress with each patient’s treatment plan.


Treatment plans may involve professional treatment here at the RIC facility, a home program for treatment, or a combination. We work with you to make sure the plan is appropriate for our patients, their family and lifestyle. We use positive reinforcement and encouragement for all approaches towards our patients, and remain flexible so that if a patient is not tolerating treatment for any reason, we can make appropriate changes that facilitate effective treatment within each session.

Often treatment plans’ initial therapy starts here with us, then progresses to a combination of RIC and home treatment program, with the goal of graduating to a home maintenance program.

Home Plan

We work with you to create a home plan for your pet to help assist in their long-term recovery. These plans may include home therapies such as applying warm a compress to exercises for strength, endurance, or flexibility. There are some modalities you can rent or purchase for use at home as well (e.g., K9 Fit Club, Multi-Radiance, MyPetLASER, Assisi Loop, HelpEmUp Harness). We’re happy to discuss these with you if we recommend these modalities.


Starting Monday, April 8th through the end of September, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will begin their road resurfacing project along Waukegan Road from Lake Cook Road to Half Day Road (IL 22). Please allow additional travel time to our hospital during the construction. Learn More: Waukegan Road Resurfacing Project