Happy & Healthy Pets
Boomerang Animal Rehabilitation Center at Brunswick Forest Veterinary Hospital helps pets live their best lives.
Wouldn’t it be great if our animal friends and pet children could tell us when they’re in pain, not feeling well or experiencing aching muscles and joints? Well, since pets aren’t able to speak, we have to rely on their soulful looks or lack of energy for signals of physical ailments and discomfort.
In some cases, dogs and cats may need physical therapy just like humans. For situations like these, animal rehabilitation centers are making strides and meeting necessary needs for our beloved furry friends.
One such center is Boomerang Animal Rehabilitation Center in Leland, which opened in November 2021 as an addition to Brunswick Forest Veterinary Hospital owned by Dr. Patrick Terry and Dr. Richard Zielinski. Its humble beginning is a story in itself.
About two years ago, Ariana Smith, registered vet technician at Brunswick Forest Veterinary Hospital, approached Drs. Terry and Zielinski with a dream of opening a rehabilitation center for animals. Interested and excited about what the future might hold for their pet clients, the veterinarians loved the idea but needed someone to get it up and running. When Smith expressed her passion for the project, Boomerang Animal Rehabilitation Center (BARC) was born, named in memory of Smith’s Australian Shepherd named Boomer (short for Boomerang), who suffered from arthritis in his senior years. Smith says she wished she had known years ago about rehab as an option to prolong Boomer’s activity and make his life more comfortable. He lived to 15 years old.
“Seeing Boomer age and knowing how he could have benefited from rehab is what propelled me to where I am today,” Smith says.
A college athlete, Smith’s former experience included clinic work that offered physical rehabilitation and combined her two passions – helping animals and taking a sports-minded approach to work. Combining her passions with the knowledge and vast experience of the two veterinarians helped the rehab center come to fruition.
Dr. Terry, who graduated from North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1995, was part of the National Veterinary Response Team from 2002 to 2017, attended the G8 Summit in 2004 and aided as a veterinarian to bomb-sniffing dogs. Dr. Zielinski, who graduated with his doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from North Carolina State University in 2003, practiced in the Piedmont Triad area for eight years before moving to Leland. Together, the two worked at Southwoods Animal Hospital until 2006.
Smith graduated with a BS in biology from Lees-McRae College and an associate degree in veterinary technology. She is completing her certification as a canine rehabilitation practitioner through the University of Tennessee
The equipment Smith uses in animal rehabilitation includes an obstacle course for dogs, incorporating step-over or weave-through bars, standing/stepping on balance equipment for strength building and balance to increasing proprioception and muscle gain. An underwater treadmill for hydrotherapy provides a low-impact exercise to help range of motion, arthritis and weight loss, operating at different water levels for all size animals, and even dry for controlled exercise. A new therapeutic laser aids in pain and inflammation and promotes tissue healing.
A variety of canine-specific equipment is used.
Physical impairments can range from causes or issues inhibiting physical ability or activity such as osteoarthritis, obesity, degenerative myelopathy (a genetic disorder that affects breeds such as German Shepherds with neurological disorders), IVDD (intra vertebrae degenerative disease), degenerative joint disease, CCL ruptures (ligament tears) and elbow/hip dysplasia. Pets may suffer from fractures causing nerve damage or a joint deformity. Physical rehabilitation aids in returning them to a better quality of life.
Two benefits of rehab for pets are decreased pain for specific conditions and minimizing medications. Relieving pain post-operatively after orthopedic surgery is key. Lack of use may cause muscle atrophy, arthritis, degenerative joint disease and long-term negative effects on a pet’s body.
“By introducing physical rehabilitation prior to surgery and afterwards, the pets are ensured comfort and maintained strength,” Smith says. “They can return them to their normal activity faster. A healthy weight for animals is very important, as it takes some of the pressure off their joints, allowing better range of motion and flexibility.”
Just like in humans, range of motion and flexibility can make a huge difference as animals age to help them feel their best for as long as possible.
Passion for the animals and focus on what is best for them inspires the staff at BARC.
“Even the smallest improvement or change can make a difference in the pets’ lives as well as the owners’,” Smith says.
Pet parents are also excited about the rehab center, and BARC is receiving great feedback. Here is one such testimonial from satisfied client Kevin Motley: “At [one] time my dog could not make it around the block without me carrying her for a half-mile home. After a few weeks of treatment, she is able to walk around the block without limping. Ariana has been great, she measures her progress each week and takes videos and pictures.”
Dr. Terry is pet parent to two cats, Zak and Seamus, and a newly adopted rescue puppy named Gracie. Dr. Zielinski has three dogs, Callie, Rufus and Layla, and two rats, Bentley and Willaby. Smith’s fur babies are Zee, found as a puppy on the side of the road and approaching 10 years old, and Nova, a two-year old coonhound mix rescue.
Want to go?
Boomerang Animal Rehabilitation Center (BARC)
1513 Brunswick Village Boulevard, Leland
Photography by Ariana Smith