Pet rehab: Dogs in ‘doggles,’ cats get post-surgery care

For dog and cat owners, seeing their loyal companions endure aches and pains can be difficult to bear.

Veterinarian Stephanie Garlichs has experience helping animals get back on their feet.

She opened Whidbey Canine Conditioning & Rehabilitation at 302 N. Main St. in Coupeville last July.

It’s the only animal center around that can help animals of all activity-levels recover after surgeries, provide laser therapy, get dogs running on tiny treadmills and give stiff cats a soothing massage.

“People (here) really care about their animals and want to do the best for them,” Garlichs said.

“People on the island are really pet-oriented.”

She’s been practicing for over 25 years and worked at Penn Cove Clinic before opening her own practice.

Garlichs said she saw an unfilled need for rehab medicine to provide “physical therapy for pets.”

Whidbey veterinarians now often refer dogs and cats to Garlichs after an animal undergoes surgery.

Garlichs also has online booking available at

Garlichs has a master’s degree in animal behavior, is trained in animal massage and canine conditioning and is Fear Free Certified, a program that educates practitioners on how to best decrease an animal’s stress.

Being “fear free” is pretty important for animals to relax and recover, she said. Setting animals at ease is an art, from the ambiance of the room to subtle body language.

Photo provided

Photo provided

“We don’t do anything scary,” she said. Coaxing with treats doesn’t hurt, either.

One common injury she sees is dogs in recovery after knee surgery. Hurt knees are a really common injury, Garlichs said, for dogs athletic and those not so athletic.

She also sees many elderly animals with arthritis.

It may look like playtime, but each piece of equipment in her center serves a purpose.

The obstacle course and balance pads help animals work all their muscles and to walk on uneven surfaces.

“Core training is really important for dogs too,” she said.

Using lasers on animals sends light waves into the tissue to help healing, such as with Doppler, who is almost 15 years old.

The Australian Shepard-mix wore snazzy “doggles” to protect his eyes as Garlichs gently massaged and used the laser equipment on him last week at the

Doppler has been benefiting from his sessions of laser treatment, his owner Mona Galope of Oak Harbor said. She said she’s seen an improvement in mobility, though wishes they’d started years ago.

“It’s been great for Doppler,” Galope said.

Garlichs works with cats too, including a 20-year-old cat who loved her massages. The main objective, of course, is to not cause any pain, she said.

“I want them to be happy.”

After a days work of canine massages and furry coaching, all that’s left is for her to break out the lint roller.