This year marks 7 years since Sydney Chik who runs Paws Rehab, her own animal rehabilitation centre, ventured into animal physiotherapy and rehabilitation. She wasn’t initially studying to become involved in this field, however; she first studied Human Physiotherapy in Northumbria University, UK, and it was only later that she became a certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP) from University of Tennessee, US.
Currently, she’s a faculty member of the CCRP courses in Asia, and she’s also a certified Laser Therapist from the American Institute of Medical Laser Application (AIMLA).
According to Sydney, being a human therapist allowed her to understand how human bodies worked better. However, she found that humans could sometimes be very difficult to treat despite their understanding of their situation, simply because they refused to put in the effort to help themselves after treatment.
On the other hand, she found it inspirational how animals that most people wouldn’t have given a second chance at returning to a normal life could recover at least 90% of their agility after rehabilitation. After several months of working as a human therapist, she went to the US to pursue her dream of treating animals. “It was such a crazy idea to most of my friends and family members. That was a difficult decision at that point in time but luckily, I persevered,” Sydney said.
Animals Persevere Better Than Humans
Treating humans versus treating animals is definitely a different experience, as Sydney told us, “The main differences between treating human and animal client is that humans can voice out, telling you exactly where the pain is coming from but animals don’t. Hence, our assessment skill has to be very accurate to ‘feel’ and ‘watch’ what is going on in their body based on their reaction.”
At the same time, she has to keep in mind that the animals she’s treating may snap a little especially since they’re in pain, so she and her 2 other therapist assistants have to be extra cautious all the time.
Common cases that Sydney tackles are arthritis cases in older and overweight dogs. Dogs with long backs like dachshunds and overweight dogs may also struggle with paralysis due to neurological issues like intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) which is a condition that affects the spinal cord over time.
She’s also treated orthopaedic cases like hip dysplasia (HD) that is common in larger breeds like golden retrievers and could be worsened by environmental factors like slippery flooring. For smaller breeds like poodles and chihuahuas, she’s seen cases of patella luxation where their knee caps are constantly moving out of position.
One of Sydney’s favourite success stories when it comes to her patients is a case of a paralysed female dog from Ipoh where it was believed that the dog met an accident and was rescued. The rescuer brought the dog to KL, seeking expertise, but she was given a “death sentence” when they found out that she had a complete spinal cord transection.
Not wanting to give up, the rescuer continued looking and eventually found Sydney, who couldn’t promise much as animals in these kinds of cases are unlikely to walk again. To their surprise, with 3 months of intensive rehabilitation, the dog miraculously stood up on all fours and began walking again. She has since been happily adopted, too, Sydney shared.
Animal Rehabilitation Is Still Underestimated
When she first started out, she found a lack of awareness on the importance of animal rehabilitation to be a big challenge. Most of the time, paralysed and significantly injured cats and dogs are put to sleep, as many would think there’s no more hope for them. Sydney then decided to tackle this by volunteering her services to animal shelters, mainly no-kill ones.
“I realised that I need to start and create more awareness of the importance of animal physiotherapy to pet owners, that there are options available for animals even though the initial outlook looks bleak,” she shared. Physiotherapy isn’t just an option for post-surgery cure, as Sydney and her team also provide preventative care.
She’s often received pet patients whose owners have waited too long past the golden recovery period of their pets. “For instance, they could have a dog limping or paralysed for several months or even years before deciding to seek for physiotherapy treatment. This could definitely hinder the process of recovery which means the recovery may take much longer time or the pet might not even recover,” she said.
I would advise pet owners to be more proactive when it comes to your pet’s wellbeing. Do a lot of research to see how other alternatives like physiotherapy can help your pets instead of relying on pain medication or rather hoping that they will recover on their own because they just don’t.
Sydney’s One-Stop Centre For Pets
While Sydney does provide services (hydrotherapy included) for feline patients, she’s observed that she hasn’t gotten many yet. “Probably feline owners are not so aware about how rehab can help their cats yet. Feline and canine physiotherapy are supposed to be the same but it is very different when we treat as feline does not respond to treats and commands very well. They most of the time have their own thoughts on how things should be done!” she mused.
With her move to her latest location in USJ 19, she’s been able to expand not only her space but her services. She now runs a one-stop centre that covers pet grooming services and pet hotel services alongside her physiotherapy services.
For her, working with animals is really challenging but at the same time very satisfying. “Starting a trend is easy, but maintaining it is hard. Now the challenge would be to educate more pet owners about the importance of animal physiotherapy,” she concluded.
- You can find Paws Rehab at 12, Jalan USJ 19/A, USJ 19, 47620 Subang Jaya, Selangor.
- You can read more pet and animal-related content here.
Featured Image Credit: Paws Rehab