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CAM Meets Dr Amber Ihrke

Dr. Amber Ihrke was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada.  She attended the University of Nevada-Reno and received dual degrees in Biology and Veterinary Science in 1992. She attended veterinary school at the University of Missouri and received her DVM in 1996. She started practicing rehabilitation in 2010 and received certification in rehabilitation from the Canine Rehab Institute in 2011. She continued her education with Acupuncture certification in 2013 from The Chi Institute, received a diploma in Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy (chiropractic) from The Healing Oasis in 2015, and a Veterinary Pain Practitioner certification from the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management in 2017. From 2017-2020, she trained as a resident of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR) and in 2021, she became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Dr. Ihrke is the medical director of Integrative Pet Care of Homer Glen in Homer Glen, IL, a rehabilitation, and sports medicine specialty clinic. In addition, she teaches veterinary rehabilitation as a senior instructor at The Healing Oasis Wellness Center. She is also a Past-President of the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians.


Amber kindly agreed at answer the following questions:

What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?

Osteoarthritis is best treated via a multimodal approach. My specialty in rehabilitation plays an important role in managing these patients. The key to improving outcomes is catching the patient early, however most of the patients I see are in the later stages of the disease process which can sometimes make treatment challenging. Educating owners on recognising the first signs of arthritis is fundamental because we know with early, aggressive management, we can positively impact these patients to allow for improved mobility and quality of life.


How do you see treatment for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?

The growing Interest in veterinary rehabilitation for these patients has already made great strides in improving outcomes.  Advances in the ability to diagnose early stages of arthritis (before radiographic changes) will be hugely important in the early identification of these patients. I am excited about the research involved with regenerative medicine (PRP/Stem cells) and radioisotopes to affect change at the cellular level.  In addition, improvement in the efficacy of multimodal management, especially with rehabilitation and pharmaceuticals will have a positive impact joint health and pain management.


What do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

Early diagnosis is essential for the employment of a multimodal, targeted, individual approach for each patient. Don’t just treat the arthritic joint, treat the entire patient with a tailored plan that can lead to the most favourable outcome. This can include pharmaceuticals, supplements, diet changes, physical medicine modalities, manual therapies, assistive devices and many more. There are many options for these patients, but early recognition of the signs is paramount.


If you could have the opportunity to give one tip/piece of advice to an owner with a dog suffering from arthritis, what would it be?

Owners need to understand they are their pets most important advocate and the first line of defence against arthritis. Be mindful of any changes in behaviour and mobility as these could be early signs of arthritis. In addition, maintaining lean body mass and fitness are also keys to reducing risk of arthritis throughout their pet’s life. The goal is to have a happy, healthy, pain free pet and owners have a huge role in making that a reality.