CAM blogs

CAM Meets Kirsten Haeusler

Kirsten Haeusler is a rehabilitation specialist for small animals, from Germany, with over a decade of experience in animal physical therapy. She obtained a degree in Agricultural Biology from the University of Hohenheim, Germany, with a focus on Animal Behavior and Animal Nutrition in 2004. This was followed by a Ph.D. in Animal Science with a specialisation in the Motivational Behaviour of Animals, from the University of Hohenheim, Germany and graduated in 2006.

Growing up, she always was inclined to animal science, veterinary medicine and more recently, animal physical therapy. Her real passion came to life when she enrolled in the Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner Class in 2006 and received her Certificate as a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP) in 2008 from the University of Tennessee, USA.

Over the years, she has contributed to scholarly research, development of theories, patterns, and elucidatory programs for the veterinary industry. Part of her research consists of applying therapies, such as treatment on the underwater treadmill, a regular treadmill, shockwave therapy, pulsed electromagnetic field, etc to animals for post-illness rehabilitation and recovery treatments.

In order to intensify her studies regarding shockwave therapy and canine gait analysis, in 2017, she was invited to collaborate with Professor M. Allen at the Surgical Discovery Center at the University of Cambridge. In 2018 she also started a collaboration into canine gait assessment of the Labrador Retriever together with Professor Martin Fischer and his team at the University of Jena, Germany.


Kirsten kindly agreed to answer the following questions:

What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?
The awareness and approach to OA in dogs have gotten increasingly better. I opened my practice over a decade ago and back then options were very few for owners and their dogs. Most vets recommended medication and rest. Today there is much more knowledge out there, and owners are offered more options to help their dog cope with phases of less mobility and treatment plans to actively get them back moving with less pain and more quality of life. I have experienced that the field is heading to a team approach for OA patients instead of working in two parallel universes. We often experience a close relationship as a team approach to managing pain and increasing mobility. Nevertheless, there are still many things we need to improve, such as weight management and lack of movement for most of our pets. Moreover, when it comes to a decision for surgery, I would oftentimes hope there would be more prehab to alter muscle mass and improve tissue conditions to enhance a better outcome after surgery.


As a veterinary rehabilitation specialist what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

Listening, palpating, functional testing, imaging and an objective way of gait analysis should be included in the examination. Positively setting a baseline without creating a terrifying scenario for the owner and dog. Once the cause has been found, and functional testing along with imaging and gait analysis has been assessed, a treatment plan should be set up. This would include pain medications if needed, joint injections if needed, nutrition, manual therapy, therapeutic devices and exercise management. After a period of supervised management such as physiotherapy and maybe weight management, owners should be trained to implement most of the exercises into their daily plan.


How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?
A lot of new modalities leading to tissue engineering will develop. A trend and much interest is aiming towards less or non-invasive approaches towards using the body’s healing abilities. Talking about stem cells, seeded scaffolds and shockwave, we are close to exciting developments which lead to less invasive approaches. It will open up more options for geriatric patients which might not be able to go under anaesthesia anymore.


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?

Check on their weight and nutrition, it is the cheapest therapy so far. Furthermore, alongside this, offer as much support as needed toward natural walking, trotting and movement in general. If you are unsure about how to walk your dog, get advice as soon as possible asking a well-trained and qualified physiotherapist. Add challenging but enjoyable exercises to your walks, and get a check-up regularly. It is much better to catch subtle lameness and work on this, instead of having to deal with a severely arthritic joint. Seeing a gait and movement specialist regularly might still seem a bit unusual, but it will spare heartache, regret and money.