Whether your canine companion or your competition horse has suffered an injury, received surgery, or displays signs of degenerative disease and pain, complementary therapies such as physiotherapy can assist in their welfare and care.
Physiotherapy isn’t just for people! It is now becoming a popular treatment in the veterinary sector and can be carried out on the majority of animals! It is most commonly used in dogs and cats but I do have the odd pig, cat, goat, sheep and rabbit on my books!
The aim of physiotherapy is to restore and maintain range of movement, as well as the function and performance of the animal. It is also aimed at restoring the patient’s independence post-surgery or injury.
Treatments vary as do the conditions that are treated by physiotherapy. Hands on techniques such as soft tissue massage and trigger point are popular methods, but passive range of movement techniques, assisted exercises and modalities such as cavaletti poles, balance pods and electrotherapies such as ultrasound, PEMF, laser therapy and electro stimulation are all commonly incorporated into treatment plans.
Each treatment plan is tailored to the individual patient. It is importance that the therapist selects to right program and tools in order to ensure the best outcome for the patient.
A huge part of a rehabilitation treatment plan is owner education, this aims to allow the owner to help their pets at home and be fully involved in the rehabilitation process. As well as the owner being hugely involved in the process it is essential that there is a multimodal approach. This is where the veterinary team, physiotherapist and client all work closely together and may include other areas of interest such as hydrotherapists to ensure that the animal is receiving the very best care and is progressing as it should.
Physiotherapy can be used to treat a variety of complaints. These include spinal conditions such as intervertebral disc disease; joint complaints such as hip and elbow dysplasia, arthritis; neurological conditions, injuries to the muscles, tendons and ligaments; fractures; age related degenerative issues; post-surgery and pain management. Physiotherapy is extremely beneficial when used as a preventative and can help with early identification of injuries and conditions that can be treated by the veterinary surgeon at the earliest convenience.
The benefits for physiotherapy are huge! There are many research papers that will detail the importance of using physiotherapy to complement traditional veterinary treatment for an animal. Physiotherapy is known to help rehabilitate animals quickly post-surgery and injury, ensuring that there is an improvement in function and quality of life. Physiotherapy has also been shown to assist with working and competition animals to increase and optimise their performance.
As with any type of job in any industry, there are some politics surrounding Animal/Veterinary physiotherapy. This is derived from who can and can’t practice, how to train, what qualifications you need before you train, which association is better to be attached to and so on!
There is an awful lot of misleading information on the internet as well as being given out and it can all be very confusing for owners and veterinary surgeons alike!
There is not and there never has been, any legal requirement to be a human physiotherapist in order to work with animals and become an animal / veterinary physiotherapist. In the same way that vets do not have to be doctors and vet nurses do not have to be human medical nurses, animal physiotherapists do not have to be human physiotherapists! Some have chosen to make the transition from human to animal, but they have to undertake further training to do so. This does not mean that they are more highly qualified than those that have chosen the animal pathway.
There is no need to only seek the help of a ‘chartered veterinary physiotherapist’, there is actually no such thing! Now in the profession we know that this title has been used by some practitioners, but there is actually no such title as “Chartered Animal Physiotherapist” or “Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist”. The Charter is purely related to the human physiotherapy field and has no bearing on animal physiotherapy.
If you are in any doubt who to contact in order to find a veterinary physiotherapist in your area, please take a look at associations such as ASSVAP, IAAT, IRVAP, NAVP, ACPAT who will have a list of suitably qualified therapists in your area.