A veterinary physical rehabilitation specialist shares her gift with Indianapolis animals, including her own Dachshund
By Wendy Wollenberg
Bobbie Werbe never experienced the career uncertainty that many young people face. Growing up in a household where dogs and cats were considered family members, she found her calling to become a registered veterinary technician (RVT) early on. “I declared to my parents at a very young age that I wanted to work with animals,” she recalls. “And, I knew that I would specialize in rehabilitation.”
Werbe worked in a veterinary office while attending high school in Indianapolis, graduating a semester early in order to spend more time there before entering the veterinary program at Purdue University in 2000. There, Werbe worked toward two degrees―a two-year associate degree and a bachelors of science degree in veterinary technology. The program encouraged Werbe to specialize in physical rehabilitation―her lifelong dream.
Werbe continued her education at the University of Illinois, where she gained hands-on experience in the field of physical rehabilitation. After graduating in 2004, Werbe enrolled in a continuing education program at the University of Tennessee, specializing in canine rehab. She earned her certification as a canine rehabilitation practitioner (CCRP) and quickly found a job opportunity working in the university’s orthopedic surgery and physical rehabilitation department. She even became an instructor in the program. “I never dreamed that I would be able to teach others in this field,” Werbe says. In 2007, Werbe also became certified as an equine rehabilitation practitioner (CERP).
A case of homesickness brought Werbe back to her hometown of Indianapolis, where she joined the staff of Circle City Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital in Carmel, Indiana in May. As part of the surgery and physical rehabilitation departments, she treats dogs of all breeds with orthopedic impediments such as torn anterior cruciate ligaments (50 percent of patients, Werbe estimates), arthritis, neurological issues, and decreased mobility because of weight problems. “I’m almost like a doggie Jillian Michaels,” Werbe says. “We see dog’s lives changed just by losing weight through proper nutrition and exercise.”
In 2006, Werbe’s work became intensely personal. She met a Dachshund named Billie who had a herniated disc in her back, a common malady for the breed. Billie’s family couldn’t afford the surgery to correct the ailment, so Werbe adopted her and had the operation performed. Two weeks later, Billie was in rehab, using an underwater treadmill to practice walking and build up strength. Werbe outfitted Billie with a wheelchair, which she took to immediately. “Most dogs do well with wheelchairs as part of their physical rehabilitation,” says Werbe, who now does wheelchair fittings. “They use it as a mobility device, building their self-esteem and setting themselves up for success.”
Despite being paralyzed for six weeks, Billie responded well to treatment and a year later was walking on her own. In 2009, the now nine-year-old Billie suffered another herniated disc. This time, Werbe began physical rehabilitation 12 hours after surgery, and Billie was walking within three days. Billie is now a certified therapy dog, sharing her immeasurable strength with patients at local hospitals.
Billie became a big sister in 2010 when Werbe adopted another Dachshund named Winnie. Winnie suffers from a genetic heart condition and had an emergency procedure when she was four months old. Now controlled by medication and exercise to build up the heart muscle, Winnie’s condition doesn’t hold her back. “It’s like Billie and Winnie were separated at birth,” says Werbe. “They wrestle and play and never like to be apart.”
To learn more about Circle City Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital, visit CircleCityVets.com.