The gregarious barking of Kakak greets visitors to Paws Rehab Centre in Subang Jaya, Selangor. As her hind legs are paralysed, Kakak – a rescued pooch – wears a wheeled walking aid. Her owner, Sydney Chik, welcomes us with an obliging smile.
“Kakak’s rescuers couldn’t afford to pay for her medical expenses anymore so I willingly adopted her,” explains the canine physiotherapist.
“She has been with me for a year-and-a-half. She is doing good, progressing from zero movement to being able to move on her own with food motivation.”
Chik started out as a physiotherapist for people, working at a local private hospital for over two years before changing course due to her passion for animals.
She then spent over a year studying canine rehabilitation in the United States. There, she came to realise how in demand veterinary rehabilitation was, with well-equipped rehab-specific equipment and therapeutic treatments.
Upon her return to Malaysia, Chik worked closely with non-profit animal shelters such as Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better and Furry Friends Farm.
“The greatest job satisfaction is when I see paralysed dogs walking again,” muses Selangor-born Chik, 28.
She also helps senior canines with mobility issues (due to severe arthritis) adjust to better quality of life, thanks to muscle strengthening via physiotherapy.
Besides referrals from animal shelters, Chik approached veterinary clinics to introduce the physiotherapy services she offers.
Word eventually got out and she got referrals from other veterinarians and pet owners that she had treated.
“Physiotherapy complements standard veterinary treatments. Therefore, vets recommend undergoing rehabilitation treatments to improve a patient’s recovery process,” says Chik, adding that physiotherapy for animals works in the same way as it does for people.
Asked about the challenges she faces, Chik says working with animals is already a challenge in itself.
“Unlike humans, animals are not able to explain their discomfort or pain so it is all based on my own assessments,” explains Chik.
Her pet rehabilitation centre – which is presently home-based – came about in 2013.
Paws Rehab Centre features electrotherapy machines, a treadmill, a pool and other rehab-related equipment such as gym balls and yoga mats. Available are customised wheelchairs and splints, pet supplements and accessories such as toe-grips and harnesses for disabled animals.
The walking aid devised by Chik uses rubber wheels to reduce noise and is held together with stainless steel screws so that it is easy to clean. Paralysed pets tend to have no bladder and bowel control, and therefore need regular cleaning.
“Such devices for dogs and cats are very common in the United States but not here. I adopted the concept and created one using PVC pipes instead of aluminium and steel to lower the cost,” says Chik, who customises each walking aid according to the patient’s size and physical condition.
As the current centre is within a housing area, Chik hopes to relocate to a more suitable location soon. “My ultimate goal is to set up a one-stop centre for pets, inclusive of boarding facilities, grooming services and a pet café,” she concludes.
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