Local vet treats four-legged athletes
Kim Henneman, owner of the local veterinary business Animal Health Options, has a unique take on how to treat the animals that come into her clinic.
She offers a holistic approach to veterinary care, focusing on treatments such as acupuncture, homeopathy and using Chinese herbs. And she uses all of those methods to provide a service many don’t think about when it comes to their four-legged friends: sports medicine.
Over the last two years, Henneman has become dual-certified in canine and equine sports medicine by the American Veterinary Medical Association. It’s a distinction she says is extremely rare since sports medicine only recently became an approved specialty.
She says sports medicine for animals is an important service to offer in town. Though people sometimes don’t think about their pets as athletes, that’s exactly what many of them are in an active community such as Park City.
"They’re all athletes," Henneman said. "They get pulled muscles and pulled tendons. Around here, people go hiking and biking all the time. They don’t think of their dogs as athletes, but they’re going out doing 10 miles on the bike, and the dog is doing 10 miles out and 10 miles back. Those dogs are fit and they have issues that can pop up."
Though she only recently became certified in veterinary sports medicine, Henneman has been offering the service at Animal Health Options for years. It all started during the Winter Olympics in 2002, when she realized there would be demand for healthcare for the detection dogs providing security at events.
"We thought, ‘There are going to be a lot of detection dogs around,’" she said. "’And I’m not going to be able to work during those two weeks because of all the traffic and stuff going on, so what can we do to help those animals?’"
Sports medicine has led her to places she didn’t expect. She has volunteered several times at the Iditarod, the famous dog sled race in Alaska, where she treated dogs at each of the race’s checkpoints. She calls it one of the most incredible experiences of her life.
"Those dogs are amazing," Henneman said. "It was so much fun and such a powerful experience for us as veterinarians. We were like boots on the ground. We were the ones having to deal with any health issues that popped up."
And she has even brought what she learned at the famous race to her local practice.
"I apply things I learned there every day to the pug that comes in and maybe does the occasional agility course," Henneman said. "What those elite athletes do, it still can be applied to normal animals."
Some of the most common injuries she sees in dogs are pulled muscles, as well as back and wrist problems. The biggest thing owners can do to keep their pets healthy is to look for subtle clues that something is wrong, because dogs are naturally inclined to persevere through pain.
"If you see anything that looks a little bit off — even if the dog is just limping a little bit — don’t say, ‘Oh, let’s just give him a little time and he’ll work through it,’" Henneman said. "A lot of times there’s an injury involved and just like us, injuries can progress to where they can become more serious."
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