Dr. Joel Jess, owner of Pekin Veterinary Clinic in Pekin, Ill., finished classes a little more than a year ago to become a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner. As a surgeon, he's happy to see his physical therapy patients recovering faster. As an owner, here's what he's learned about working this service into an existing practice:
- Don't start without capital and space. Training cost Dr. Jess $5,300, and he estimates that he spent $3,000 to $4,000 on a dual electrostimulation and therapeutic ultrasound machine, and $35,000 on a hydrotherapy tank. He also had room for the equipment—unlike some of his colleagues. "In class, people were saying, 'How am I going to get this stuff into my building?'" he says. Dr. Jess turned an unused kennel into his physical therapy room.
- Don't worry your referring veterinarians. Dr. Jess' rehab business has grown as he's gained the confidence of local veterinarians and reassured them that he won't be taking their business. "I make a point of telling referred clients, 'It's really great that Dr. Jones is sending you over after your pet's surgery. I commend him for being so aggressive with therapy,'" he says.
- Don't charge complicated fees. Dr. Jess doesn't charge by the modality. Instead, he charges a flat rate of $35 to $40 for whatever's needed. The approach means clients don't pick and choose because of cost.
- Don't neglect staff support. Dr. Jess examines each new physical therapy patients; after that he supervises team members' work. Their training has consisted of outside CE and one-on-one time with Dr. Jess.
- Don't expect fast money. Dr. Jess says his physical therapy business will have covered its expenses in three to four years. Best of all, though, he and his team see animals recovering faster. "The best surgery goes astray if the dog doesn't use the leg," he says.
Dr. Joel Jess spent $35,000 on his hydrotherapy tank, but saved money by building his own cavaletti rods (top).