Animal Rehabilitation

A testimonial to our Sport & Strength Department (and John!) from Stephanie in Hastings:

Does my pet need rehabilitation?

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota offers a Sport & Strength Department to provide rehabilitation services to:

  • pre and post-surgical patients
  • patients suffering from chronic osteoarthritis or pain
  • performance dogs in need of conditioning to be their best
  • patients who need to shed a few pounds

From the most athletic dogs to those carrying a few extra pounds, many pets can benefit from the programs offered by the Sport & Strength Department!

Xena in rehab from AERC of MN on Vimeo.

Veterinary physical rehabilitation can be performed in many ways; from something as simple as stretching, to muscle or nerve retraining exercises, to the use of exercise equipment.  We customize programs to each individual, ensuring your pet recovers in the shortest amount of time and returns to his previous quality of life.  In order to do this, we strongly encourage your involvement!

Our Sport & Strength Department utilizes a wide variety of rehabilitation equipment such as underwater treadmill, therapeutic laser, cavalletti rails, exercise peanuts (similar to exercise balls in people), and wobble or balancing boards to assist in providing your pet with the means to recover quickly.

Your pet’s progress will be tracked and assessed regularly by our board-certified surgeon and rehabilitation technician.

Why conditioning for the canine athlete?

Much like a human athlete, a canine athlete needs to be in the best physical condition in order to perform optimally.  By emphasizing balance, endurance and the core muscle group, we are able to improve your dog’s physical condition. Being in great shape will also help to minimize those strains and sprains that are very much a part of any sporting event.  Similar to rehabilitation patients, our conditioning patients have the opportunity to take advantage of all of our rehabilitation equipment.


The Equipment

  • Underwater treadmill – the multidimensional recovery tool. Provides a virtually weightless environment through the buoyancy of water, which also reduces stress on the pet’s joints.  Heated water in the treadmill encourages circulation and helps reduce inflammation.
  • Cavalletti rails – Improve range of motion in the joints as well as retrain muscles and nerves.
  • Exercise peanuts – Improve core muscle strength as well as balance.
  • Therapeutic laser – Reduces inflammation, improves circulation and helps heal tissues
  • Therapeutic ultrasound – Reduces inflammation, improves circulation and helps heal tissues
  • Wobble / balance boards – Improve balance and retrain muscles and nerves.

The Sport & Strength Department is staffed by technician John Nielsen, CVT-VTS (ECC), CVPP, CCRP and Brooke Knotek, CVT. John is a Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner, and a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner.

How do I make an appointment?

Scheduling an appointment is easy.  If you prefer to contact us via email, you can email John Nielsen at You can also call (651) 501-3766 to be directed to the Sport & Strength Department. If you would prefer to do so online, please click here.  All patients undergo an initial assessment.  From there, we partner with you to determine the best program for your pet!