Davidson explained that this screening process means that dogs trained as service animals are probably less likely to develop certain orthopedic problems as compared to those of the general population that are not always tested for these things.
She said that there have been no reported health risks directly related to service animals, but, as with companion animals, they can still develop health problems over time. If a service dog does develop a disability, through proper treatment the dog will be able to continue to serve.
“We occasionally treat a service dog that has developed a disability,” Davidson said. “But they often return to work after physical rehabilitation.”
Rehabilitation is important with any animal, but Davidson said it can be a crucial factor in the recovery of working dogs. She explained that since service animals require a certain level of physical ability to perform their jobs, they are expected to return to a higher level of function after surgery and rehabilitation than the average companion dog.
“Since service dogs have so many responsibilities, it’s important they make a full recovery before returning back to work,” said Davidson, a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.
The dedication of the new college shows the importance placed on having experts in the field of rehabilitation for service animals. When service dogs are hurt, they cannot fulfill their jobs. Through proper rehabilitation, however, the dogs can continue to serve their owners.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.