Dr. Janet Van Dyke, DVM at Canine Rehabilitation Institute

  I have always been fascinated by medicine. The complexity and authenticity of both, human and animal body,



I have always been fascinated by medicine. The complexity and authenticity of both, human and animal body, are absolutely spectacular, and what doctors and veterinarians can accomplish with the power of medicine and their knowledge, it’s just breathtaking.

We all have watched at a point in our lives, at TV or live, dog competitions, or particularly we have challenged our canine friends to attend special, en detail trainings. We have raised and grown a champion, a canine athlete, who is using his muscles strength, energy and agility motors, at maximum capacity.

Nowadays, canine athletes are enjoying the attention and professionalism of canine sports medicine specialists, in specialized centres of canine rehabilitation.

With maximum curiosity and interest in this field, I had the privilege to obtain precious information about the canine rehabilitation and sports medicine field, from an extraordinary person and veterinarian.

A strong feminine model in veterinary medicine, Doctor Janet Van Dyke, who is also a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR), will be my special guest for this interview.

V.J: You have graduated the University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine, in 1981 and you have completed your internship and surgical residency at the Animal Medical Center in New York city, in 1984.

How did you find the educational system back then and how the system prepared you to become the successful doctor you are today?

J.D: The educational system in 1981 was quite different from today’s, clearly! We had very few women in our graduating class, and the faculty was unaccustomed to training women. That being said, I believe that I received a good education that prepared me to enter an internship. I am very glad that I made the effort to pursue an internship, as I became very aware of how much more I needed to know before truly being prepared to treat patients. My internship and residency were very challenging. The Animal Medical Center is a huge hospital with over 100 veterinarians on staff full time. The case load is enormous as well (approximately 65,000 cases per year), so each intern and resident is given great opportunity to see a lot of cases, both routine and ‘rare’ cases.

V.J: What part of your personal road towards professional development, was crucial for you?

J.D: I believe that the internship and residency were the crucial steps. They gave me wonderful experience and great confidence that I could manage cases on my own. After my residency, I went into practice in a large, busy, multi-specialty practice that allowed me to continue to grow my experience while learning how to work in a non-teaching hospital. Many new lessons were learned during the 2 years that I worked here.

V.J: How would you describe veterinary medicine education nowadays?

J.D: Education has advanced tremendously. There is so much more for students to learn with the advancement of diagnostic techniques and treatment options. I firmly believe that we will soon need to change to a system in which students track in small vs. large animal as there is simply not enough time for each student to devote to learning about species on which they will never work.

V.J: You have founded the Canine Rehabilitation Institute in 2002. How you succeeded in building such an important column in veterinary medicine and how this brilliant idea appeared?

J.D: I had the great fortune to have many physiotherapists as clients during my training. When I would discharge their patients to them, describing the usual veterinary plans for post operative care, they would ask me if there was not a better approach..one more like their technique used, especially in pediatrics. I started to alter my treatment plans based upon knowledge I gained from listening to physios. Gradually, this altered my diagnostic techniques, surgical techniques, and home therapy plans. I devoted more and more time to working with physios, and finally realized that this information needed to be shared with my veterinary colleagues. When I reached out to those colleagues who I knew were practicing canine rehabilitation successfully, they each said that they would be happy to teach in a program that I was planning. The idea was born!

V.J: What major differences you see in 11 years of its existence?

J.D: The major change that I see is public awareness. More and more of our clients come into a practice expecting that rehabilitation is available in addition to surgery, etc. Veterinarians are now considering this ‘normal’ practice. Specialists are increasingly acknowledging the need for rehabilitation in addition to their own area of expertise. Clearly, the development of the new American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation has proven that this field is here to stay!

V.J: Canine Rehabilitation Institute offers certificate programs for Veterinarians (CCRT), Physical Therapists (CCRT), Veterinary Technicians (CCRA), Physical Therapist Assistants (CCRA), courses of Continuing Education, reminding here a couple of them, like Canine Sports Medicine and Canine Neurological Rehabilitation and also Internships. Please tell us more about the available programs and about the impact over the students.

J.D: We have graduated over 1200 students in our eleven years in business. Many, many students tell us that this training has totally revolutionized the way that they practice, starting with their patient evaluations. When veterinarians become adept at finding soft tissue impairments (rather than focusing solely on bone/joint), they are far more likely to find their patients’ true problems and to address them. Physios tell us how much they enjoy working with such a happy, determined, and willing patient group, while vet nurses and PT Assistants are delighted to find an all new field in which they can grow.

V.J: You are a strong, intelligent, successful woman and doctor. How does it feel to be on the board of directors of the IAVPM (International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management) and on the steering committee for the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation and what this work implies?

J.D: It has been a distinct honor to be elected to the boards of IVAPM, American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians (AARV), and Veterinary Orthopedic Society (VOS). I have learned a great deal from my fellow board members in each organization. The ACVSMR work has been very rewarding though extremely challenging and time consuming. There were so many details that needed to be in place before the first residency could be approved. Now, we have 10 active residents and over 80 diplomates.

V.J: What exactly is Pain Management?

J.D: The field of pain management has grown right along with the field of rehabilitation. Increasingly, clients expect us to be able to manage both acute and chronic pain in their pets. IVAPM brings together primary care veterinarians with allied health professionals (MD’s, physios, occupational therapists, etc), and secondary and tertiary care veterinarians (as well as students) to grow the field through research and education.

V.J: How would you describe a career in Canine Rehabilitation?

J.D: Many canine rehabilitation therapists work in practices where sports medicine/rehabilitation is the entire focus. Others add rehabilitation to their daily practice work while still offering ‘routine’ care. Those who work full time in rehabilitation work with canine athletes, geriatric patients, pediatric patients, dogs recovering from surgery, injury or congenital impairments. No two cases are alike, and each brings a new ‘puzzle’ to solve. It is extremely rewarding!

V.J: What exactly implies and how you can reach professionalism as a Canine Rehabilitation Therapist or Canine Rehabilitation Assistant?

J.D: To become certified as a CCRT, one must be a licensed veterinarian or physio. The training program consists of three ‘modules’: Introduction to Canine Rehabilitation is a 5-day course that focuses upon anatomy, biomechanics, physiotherapy terminology, assessment techniques, physical modalities, and therapeutic exercise. Canine Rehabilitation Therapist is a 5-day program taught entirely by physios. This course focuses upon assessment techniques and expands upon the therapeutic options. Canine Neuro-Rehabilitation is a 3-day course taught by a veterinary neurologist and a human neuro-rehabilitation physio. This course focuses upon neuro assessment and neuro-specific treatment options.

To become certified as a CCRA, one must be a licensed or registered veterinary nurse or PT Assistant. These candidates take the same Introduction course, followed by 2 modules: The Canine Rehabilitation Assistant course is a 5-day course taught by a veterinarian, a physio, and a veterinary nurse. This course focuses upon the skills needed by vet nurses and assistants, such as therapeutic exercise, home exercise, client education, physical modalities, equipment maintenance, and patient comfort. The Canine Sports Medicine Module trains attendees about all of the sports in which dogs compete, the injuries common to each sport, breed-specific issues, training techniques, issues related to geriatric athletes, and ergogenic drug use in sports.

After completing the 3 required modules and the associated examinations, the candidates then complete a 40-hour internship at a practice approved by CRI. With this completed, the candidate is certified, and we promote their practice on our website’s „Find a Therapist” page that is sorted by country and region.

V.J: Why Canine Rehabilitation Therapy is so important for our beloved four legged companions and how pet owners feel about it?

J.D: Canine Rehabilitation Therapy brings great improvement to quality of life for our canine companions and athletes. Geriatric patients can regain mobility. Neurologically impaired patients can regain independence. Orthopedic patients can return to peak performance. This brings great satisfaction to pet owners, working dog handlers, and trainers.

V.J: What is the recovery rate after therapy?

J.D: This is entirely patient-dependent. Research shows that dogs receiving rehabilitation care recover more quickly from surgery/injury. We are now seeing that neurological patients can recover far further than we used to believe. Canine athletes and working dogs are able to return to full work faster and with better results.

V.J: Are there any methods of therapy recommended at home, in the absence of a certified therapist?

J.D: All patients receive home care instructions that are modified as they progress through their recovery. These home care plans are all created by certified therapists, and the owner/handlers are trained by our certified assistants so that we are assured that the patient receives the best possible care when at home.

V.J: What are the most common affections and procedures?

J.D: Probably the most common causes for dogs to be referred for rehabilitation are stifle injuries (ACL) and neurological impairments. The procedures used are primarily manual therapies (assessment as well as therapy) and therapeutic exercises, though we do use physical modalities (laser, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, etc) as well.

V.J: Are you familiar with the authenticity of the veterinary medicine educational system from Romania? None of the five universities of veterinary medicine from Romania has AVMA accreditation, there are no student loans for tuition, extremely rare opportunities of so called „internships” and no residency.

From your professional point of view, how do you see this fact? Can you explain us why it is important for a student to learn in an AVMA accredited institution?

J.D: The American Veterinary Medical Association has a very thorough system for evaluating veterinary schools. They look at everything from curriculum to faculty to facilities to assure that the students will receive a thorough and current education that will provide them with the tools needed to practice veterinary medicine at today’s standards. If a veterinary school does not meet these standards, the students are receiving less than optimal training. The only way to know if a school would meet these standards is to approach the AVMA about accreditation: www.AVMA.org

V.J: In USA it is known that being a veterinary technician is a very well seen profession and it is also a very rewarding career. Licensed, registered, and specialized almost in every veterinary medical segment, you have very well trained and educated vet techs.

From your perspective as a veterinarian, having vet techs under your service, how important it is to have very well qualified vet techs and how do you evaluate and consider them referring your co-working? Is there always a veterinarian-vet tech bond for a better collaboration?

J.D: We depend upon our trained veterinary technicians to assist us in all aspects of veterinary practice. The technicians do the time-consuming hands-on work for us from assisting during physical examinations, to taking radiographs, assisting with anesthesia and surgery, and handling most of the rehabilitation therapies prescribed by the veterinarian. It is key to understand that the technician can not diagnose, so the team works in such a way that the technician follows orders prescribed by the veterinarian as the vet goes through the diagnostic procedures. The technician then assists the veterinarian with all therapies, and generally, the technician is in charge of owner-education when the patient is discharged from care.

V.J: Can you offer us please, some career advices in Canine Rehabilitation?

J.D: My best advice is to learn as much as possible. The textbook, Canine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (Ed: Zink and Van Dyke) is available from Wiley-Blackwell (or Amazon.com). Our certification courses are offered in the US as well as the UK.

You can find Doctor Janet Van Dyke and all the information about the programs here:

Janet Van Dyke,

DVM, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
Chair, Residency and Credentials Committee
American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR) www.vsmr.org
Affiliate Faculty, Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) www.ivapm.org
and Veterinary Orthopedic Society (VOS) Veterinary Orthopedic Society of America Boards of Directors

Immediate Past-President, American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians (AARV) www.rehabvets.org