November 24, 2022

Veterinary Physiotherapy: What It Is and How It Can Help Your Animal

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Veterinary physiotherapy is a scientific, evidence-based profession which utilises a holistic approach to assess and treat individual patients using therapeutic techniques. Veterinary physiotherapists work closely with veterinary surgeons, often through referral, ensuring a gold standard of patient care and client communication.

It is a relatively new field, but it is growing in popularity as veterinarians and pet owners increasingly recognise the benefits of physiotherapy for their patients. Physiotherapy can help to improve an animal's quality of life by reducing pain and increasing mobility. It can also be used to prevent injuries, such as those caused by repetitive stress or overexertion.

Veterinary physiotherapists use a variety of methods, including massage, stretching, and electrical stimulation, to achieve these results. In addition to treating individual animals, veterinary physiotherapists also work with owners to develop rehabilitation programs that can help animals recover from injuries more quickly and prevent further problems down the road.

The emergence of veterinary physiotherapy

Veterinary physiotherapy is a relatively new profession that has its roots in human physiotherapy.

The use of physiotherapy in the human world is well documented, going back as far back as 460BC, being used to treat minor injuries. Whilst the use of massage in animals has been depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Roman tapestries, the specific practices more similar to the veterinary physiotherapy we see today, have only been recorded in the UK from the 20th Century.

It was in the 1970s and 1980s that veterinary physiotherapy became established as a profession, and it has continued to grow in popularity.

Today, veterinary physiotherapists work with a variety of animals, from dogs and cats to horses and llamas. They use a variety of techniques, including massages, exercises, and electrical stimulation, to help their patients recover from injuries and improve their overall mobility.

What types of treatments are available as part of physiotherapy for animals?

As veterinary physiotherapists, we use a variety of therapeutic modalities to treat animals. These include massage, passive and active stretching, joint mobilisations, remedial exercises, and hydrotherapy. We can also use electrotherapies such as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), therapeutic long and shortwave ultrasound (US), and H-Wave.

When can veterinary physiotherapy be beneficial for animals?

Animals can benefit from physiotherapy for a multitude of reasons. These can include, but are not limited to:

- Injury rehabilitation

- Performance enhancement

- Recovery after strenuous exercise or competition

- Strength and conditioning

- Recovery post-surgery for orthopaedic and neurological conditions

- Conditioning pre-surgery

- Wound healing

- General health and well being

- Reducing recovery and healing times

- Injury prevention

- Management for specific conditions such as osteoarthritis

What does a veterinary physiotherapy session involve?

Appointments for veterinary physiotherapy generally last for around one hour. The session will begin with a thorough assessment of the animal in order to get a better understanding of how they are feeling and identify any areas that may be causing them discomfort. This will include watching them move and palpating (feeling) their body.

Based on the assessment, the physiotherapist will then determine which course of action to take. This may involve manual therapy techniques such as massage and stretching or the use of electrotherapies. The aim of the treatment is to provide relief from pain and discomfort, and help the animal to regain mobility.

Our team of physiotherapists are dedicated to providing high-quality care for your animal in order to give them the best possible chance of recovery.

How AG Veterinary Physiotherapy can help

Here at AG Veterinary Physiotherapy (AGVP), we have a small animal clinic base where our highly skilled veterinary physiotherapists treat an extensive canine clientele.

We also provide a mobile, large animal physiotherapy service, predominantly treating sports and performance horses.

When working with horses and dogs, we maintain close communication with our clients’ veterinary surgeons, thus ensuring treatment plans are tailored to individual patients, depending on their requirements for physiotherapy.

Manual techniques are really important to us as physiotherapists, and here at AGVP, we firmly believe that getting ‘hands-on’ with our patients allows us to provide a thorough assessment and treatment of individual animals.

Massage increases blood circulation, which is vital for tissue healing. It is also important for muscle relaxation. Stretching is also key for improving tissue flexibility and can help muscle fibre re-alignment post-injury. Remedial exercises are hugely beneficial for strength and conditioning, either for performance enhancement/fitness or for rehabilitation purposes.

We are able to demonstrate many of these exercises and generally, they can be prescribed as ‘homework’ for owners to carry out with their animals at home. At AGVP, we do utilise electrotherapies, as listed earlier, to support our manual treatments, help tissue healing and provide pain relief.

If you have any questions regarding veterinary physiotherapy for your animal, or would like to book an appointment, please get in touch with our office. 

References:

Veenman, P., 2006. Animal physiotherapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 10(4), pp.317-327.

https://www.navp.co.uk/physiotherapy-for-animals.html

Sharma, K.N., 2012. Exploration of the History of Physiotherapy. Scientific Research Journal of India, 1(1), pp.19-22.

https://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/animal-massage

Ramey, D.W. and Tiidus, P.M., 2002. Massage therapy in horses: assessing its effectiveness from empirical data in humans and animals. Compendium, 24(5), pp.418-23.

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