The field of animal physiotherapy has been around for some time, but it is becoming increasingly mainstream as both dog owners and vets have gained a better understanding of its benefits. Veterinary physiotherapists qualify by taking a post-graduate course specializing in the rehabilitation of animals.
The same techniques that physiotherapists use to treat a variety of injuries and conditions in humans have been adapted to suit animals. Those practicing physiotherapy with animals most commonly treat dogs and horses.
Family pets, show dogs, and working dogs can all benefit greatly from physiotherapy. Dogs whose activities involve a lot of agility are especially susceptible to the types of problems that physiotherapy can address.
One of the most common issues affecting dogs is problems with their joints. These issues can be caused by a number of things, but often the cause is elbow or hip dysplasia, a developmental disease that causes the hip or elbow socket to form abnormally. This can cause the dog a severe amount of pain and lead to arthritis. It occurs more frequently in larger dogs.
The goal of treating this condition is to work with the dog's vet to manage the condition so that the dog can live comfortably. The physiotherapist will use a number of rehabilitative exercises to keep the dog's muscles strong and more able to support the dog, thus allowing it to be more mobile and suffer less pain.
The same applies to dogs with arthritis in other joints. Sets of therapeutic exercises designed to promote healing, along with machine therapies, such as PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic magnetic field) can help relieve pain, and preserve muscle condition.
Another common issue faced by dog owners is having their dog hurt themselves, resulting in a bone fracture. Including physiotherapy in your dog's healing process will ensure that your dog makes a better recovery. Treatments can be used to prevent muscle atrophy due to lack of use while injured, which can only add to the problems the dog faces.
PEMF can be used on certain settings that encourage bone building cells to build on the fracture site. This is particularly good for non-union fractures that haven't healed properly after having been in a cast.
Dogs are prone to muscle strains or damage due to their often over-exuberant nature. They also suffer stiffness and aches and pains due to old age. A number of stretches designed to isolate certain muscle groups can help relieve muscle tension, especially when combined with massage and trigger point release.
Both PEMF and therapeutic ultrasound can be used to help damaged muscles heal by encouraging circulation. This brings fresh nutrients to the afflicted areas, and clears out debris at the injury site.
One excellent treatment for dogs is hydrotherapy, in other words, controlled swimming by experts at a dedicated dog hydrotherapy rehab center. It is particularly good for obese dogs that need to slowly increase their exercise to lose weight. It is also an excellent treatment for dogs suffering from joint problems.
Hydrotherapy can also be used to treat dogs that have had recent surgery to repair their cruciate ligament. This is a fairly common injury in dogs. Swimming allows the dog to strengthen its muscles without stressing its joints. Hydrotherapy must be introduced slowly and correctly to avoid over-stressing the dog's heart. When done properly is has wonderful benefits.
For physiotherapy to be the most effective it needs to be a team effort between the vet, physiotherapist, and owner. Often times the physiotherapist will leave the owner with a set of instructions that need to be strictly followed, such as basic stretches and limiting walks.
If you feel your four-legged friend could benefit from physiotherapy, you can get more information and perhaps a referral from your dog's vet.
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