Physiotherapy for Pets

Our pets are now having far more complex surgeries than was previously possible and living much longer due to advances in veterinary surgery, medicine and nutrition. As a result, the benefits of veterinary physiotherapy are becoming much better recognised in post-surgical rehabilitation and helping to maintain function for our geriatric pets. What many people don’t know is just how many conditions can benefit from physiotherapy. Some examples include:

o Pain relief
o Soft tissue injuries
o Wound healing
o Tendon and ligament injuries
o Fractures
o Osteoarthritis
o Neurological conditions
o Optimising performance

Physiotherapy is not meant to replace modern veterinary medicine, but a supportive form of treatment that can be used to optimise recovery, slow the progression of degeneration or maintain condition. If you are interested in veterinary physiotherapy for your pet, please speak to your vet and they can discuss your options for treatment.

Once your pet has been referred, your pet will be fully assessed by the vet physiotherapist. Collaborating the information from the vet’s referral, your pet’s clinical history and the assessment on the day, the vet physio will design a unique program of care for your pet.

Manual techniques, such as massage, passive range of motion and stretching exercises may be used during the treatment session. Different massage techniques are used for different conditions. For example, massage can be soothing, relaxing and stimulate the release of endorphins – those lovely happy hormones! Or massage can be stimulatory, tapping into the nervous system and helping to wake up nerves that may have been damaged or degenerating from certain neurological conditions. Passive range of motion exercises wash synovial fluid over joint surfaces, nourishing the cartilage and maintaining joint health. Stretching exercises are used to maintain muscular suppleness for optimum comfort and function.

Electrotherapies are another tool at the physio’s disposal. The therapist will select an appropriate piece of equipment and manipulate the treatment parameters to optimise your pet’s natural healing ability or pain relieving mechanism. These therapies are very safe and incredibly versatile, aiding in the treatment of a whole range of conditions. And most importantly, many animals enjoy treatment so much that they totally relax and some even fall asleep!

Finally, your vet physio will demonstrate and teach you some exercises to do at home that will help to achieve the goals set for treatment. These may be as simple as command exercises, asking your pet to perform a series of sit-stand-lie positions to actively move particular joints through their functional range of movement or teaching your pet to ‘high five’ incorporating an active stretch. It may also include all sorts of fun with cones, poles or wobble cushions!

Physiotherapy can benefit pets that don’t have a health issue too, particularly performance animals such as horses and agility dogs. Doing their daily training can sometimes cause minor soft tissue injuries, areas of stiffness or tender spots that could benefit from a little TLC! Or in preparation for an event, you may like a hand with an exercise program to enhance performance on the big day.
Physiotherapy sessions are not like vet appointments. There is much more time (usually about an hour) and the type of treatment provided will be tailored to suit your pet’s needs, both physically and mentally. When a person has physiotherapy, they are asked to give consent for treatment. Now, whilst animals cannot verbally give their consent, the vet physio will read body language to gauge the animal’s reaction. Your pet will never be forced to take part in a treatment that they do not want to, although a little reluctance may be tackled with some tasty bribes!

Richmond Vets is now offering physiotherapy sessions with Katie, one of our nurses. Katie has worked with animals all her life and has been a familiar face at Richmond Vets for many years. She completed an undergraduate degree in Animal Science at the University of Nottingham, before spending a year working full time riding and training horses. She went on to complete her veterinary physiotherapy training and now holds the Advanced Certificate in Veterinary Physiotherapy. She is fully qualified, insured and a member of the Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists (IRVAP). Katie provides mobile veterinary physiotherapy services for small animals and horses as an associate of Bach Vet Physio. For more information, give us a ring at the surgery or send an email and we will be happy to help.