Atlas Rehabilitation for Canines

Atlas Rehabilitation for Canines is Santa Barbara's only free standing, full service animal rehabilitation facility led by certified professionals. In June of 2017, Karen Atlas, MPT, PT, CCRT, teamed up with Dr. Bill Otto, DVM, to open ARC and offer physical rehabilitation services to pets. ARC is fully equipped with the latest underwater treadmill, cold laser therapy (class 3b), therapeutic ultrasound, Alpha-Stimulation (CES and MET), pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF), electrical stimulation (NMES and TENS), as well as innovative land based exercise equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is animal rehabilitation?

Animal rehabilitation is the treatment of pets recovering from injury or surgery, trying to prevent injury or surgery, and managing chronic conditions. Physical therapy is an essential component to recovery in the human medical field, and we take the same principals and apply them to the treatment of your pet! Our goal is to help your pet live a happy, painfree and functional lifestyle.

Who can benefit from animal rehabilitation?

Almost everyone! We treat a variety of diagnoses including: pre-operative and post-operative conditions, neurologic and orthopedic dysfunctions, muscle strains or spasms, ligament sprains or tears, dysplasias, degenerative myelopathy, arthritis, bursitis, and tendonopathies. We also see highly active pets and competitive athletes for conditioning and maintenance in order to prevent injury.  Athletes demand a lot from their bodies, and here at ARC we can help maximize your pet's full athletic potential.

While some conditions cannot be “cured”, the goal of rehabilitation is to improve your pet’s quality of life.

What kind of pets are treated at Atlas Rehabilitation for Canines (ARC)?

We see mostly dogs, but our therapist has also worked with a few cats and rabbits with great success.

What is an animal rehabilitation therapist? What qualifications does a therapist have?

Our therapist, Karen Atlas, is a licensed human physical therapist (PT, MPT) and a certified canine rehabilitation therapist (CCRT).  Since she is a licensed physical therapist, her education and experience has afforded her with an advanced understanding of biomechanics and joint kinematics making her a skilled movement expert.  Furthermore, in addition to Karen’s unique knowledge base, her manual therapy skills from her 20 years of experience as a licensed physical therapist has been integral to the success of her practice with animals.

Currently, there are two continuing education programs in the United States that provide certification in rehabilitation therapy with pets: The Canine Rehabilitation Institute (CRI) ( and Northeast Seminars ( You must be a licensed human physical therapist or veterinarian to obtain your CCRT from the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. The program through Northeast Seminars is very similar, but you become a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner (CCRP) upon completion.

What treatment options are available for my pet?

We offer a wide variety of treatment options and our therapist will work with you to design a treatment plan to target your pet’s specific needs. Treatment options include: hydrotherapy (underwater treadmill), land-based therapeutic exercises, balance therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, cold laser therapy, manual therapy/mobilizations, therapeutic ultrasound, microcurrent electrical therapy (AlphaStim), pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF), and brace/cart fittings.

My pet just had surgery. How soon can they start?

For many procedures, we can get started right away! We would start with passive modalities to relieve pain and decrease inflammation to expedite healing. Once the incision has healed, we can get your pet started with low-impact exercise in the underwater treadmill. Every pet is different and we do require that your pet be cleared by his/her veterinarian prior to coming in for rehabilitation therapy.  We will continue to be in good communication with your pet's veterinarian throughout their rehabilitation process.

How do I get my pet started?

You can call us at (805) 724-4ARC to schedule an appointment for an initial evaluation. We will contact your primary veterinarian and any specialists your pet has seen in order to obtain medical clearance in form of a referral/clearance and a copy of your pet’s medical records prior to your appointment.

Does my pet have to see their veterinarian prior to coming in for an appointment?

Yes. We require that your pet be seen for the issue that requires rehabilitation.  We only treat patients here at ARC and leave the medical diagnosing to your primary and/or specialist veterinarian.  This is required to ensure that your pet is in good medical condition, he/she is appropriate for rehabilitation, and to inform us of any underlying medical issues that could affect their plan of care.

What does the first visit entail?

The first visit entails a brief evaluation by our onsite veterinarian, a comprehensive physical assessment by our rehabilitation therapist, and any treatment that we do that day. If our therapist feels that the underwater treadmill is appropriate to try, for example, we will do this during the first visit as well!

I just saw my veterinarian, does my pet have to have another veterinary evaluation prior to starting treatment?  That seems redundant!

Yes. We require a brief evaluation with our onsite veterinarian (done on the same day and included in the cost of the initial evaluation) to establish an onsite veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR).  This is done to stay in compliance with potential changes of the California Veterinary Practice Act.  We understand that another veterinary evaluation seems redundant (we agree!  It is redundant!...especially since you just saw your primary/specialist veterinarian who referred you!), but this is the direction that the California Veterinary Medical Board is taking to regulate this specialty field.  We are actively engaged in changing state laws and regulations to make rehabilitation more accessible and increase consumer choice so this type of redundancy and barrier to treatment can be lifted.  We believe in professional collaboration, but a veterinary monopoly by mandating direct supervision of qualified professionals and limited to only veterinary premises is not good for California consumers and their pets.   We invite you to join us in the quest to increase consumer choice and access to qualified rehabilitation professionals and reduce unnecessary barriers that would only serve veterinary special interest groups.  ( 

Following your onsite veterinarian evaluation, our therapist must then do a comprehensive physical assessment in order to work up a treatment plan, just like you would need if you were to see a human physical therapist.

But my pet doesn’t like water!

While it’s true that the underwater treadmill is not for everyone, most pets take to the underwater treadmill very well! We strive to make it a fun and positive environment and even those that don’t like water typically acclimate to the underwater treadmill very well.

Can all pets go in the water?

Unfortunately no. During the initial evaluation, our therapist will determine if the underwater treadmill is an appropriate treatment option for your pet. We do recycle the water, so pets that are incontinent unfortunately cannot go in the underwater treadmill for sanitary reasons. We also do not allow pets with open wounds or sores to go in the water due to risk of infection. Other conditions that may prevent your pet from exercising in the underwater treadmill include: heart defects, epilepsy, asthma, and exercise-induced collapse.

Do you recycle the water?

Yes! We have state-of-the-art equipment that filters and recycles the water. We also keep the water chlorinated. The chlorine level is checked twice daily and is maintained at a safe, yet effective level. We change the water and do a full sanitization of the underwater treadmill approximately once every two weeks.

Will the chlorine hurt my pet?

We check the water twice daily to ensure that the chlorine level is safe, yet effective. If your pet has sensitive skin, the chlorine can cause some dryness. We are happy to rinse the chlorine off of your pet with fresh water after each session if this is a concern.