What is veterinary physiotherapy?
Veterinary physiotherapy is all about optimising wellness for our animals. Our job is to keep animals as comfortable as possible, doing the activities they enjoy, for as long as possible. We do this by helping to prevent injury, assisting with management of pain or discomfort, and supporting return to functional movement following injury, surgery or disease.
Whether it is giving puppies the best start in life through expert advice on appropriate exercise, assisting older pets as they age, helping those needing rehabilitation after injury or surgery or keeping sporting and working dogs fit and healthy, veterinary physiotherapy can benefit all dogs.
Much of my caseload is supporting older dogs in their golden years. Sam is a regular patient; he had hip dysplasia as a young dog, and now at ten years old has osteoarthritis in multiple joints causing significant pain. His treatment includes massage, stretching, therapeutic laser and controlled exercise. His dedicated owners have acted on advice regarding home adaptations such as raised bowls to make it easier for him to eat and drink, and rugs on tiled flooring to prevent slipping and further injury. Sam’s increased willingness to join his family for walks, improvement in muscle mass and quality of functional movements such as sit tell us that he is responding well to treatment, and his family are delighted that he is feeling so much better.
Having been faced with difficult decisions surrounding my own dogs’ care before I became a Veterinary Physiotherapist, I want to be able to support and empower owners with the knowledge they need to help their dog between appointments and long term.
Your Veterinary Physiotherapist is there to support you as much as your dog, including helping you to understand their diagnosis, loan of exercise equipment and electrotherapies, expert advice on management and home modification, manageable and achievable home exercise plans, ideas of how to make treatment cost effective and a listening ear when you need it.
Physiotherapy is often covered by insurance, so do check your policy.
What happens at an appointment?
Prior to your appointment I will seek delegation of treatment from your vet; this is a legal requirement that allows me an insight into your dog’s medical history, medications and determine there is no reason they shouldn’t receive treatment.
Your appointment may take place in clinic or our secure outside space in Brize Norton, or for mobile appointments in your home or garden. This allows me to cater for all dogs, helping to ensure that they feel comfortable and confident in their surroundings. It is always my aim to work with an animal to achieve best results.
I will take a detailed history, and we will discuss your goals. I will then assess your dog's movement, followed by a hands on assessment. Treatment is clinically reasoned and may include manual therapies such as massage, electrotherapies, heat/cold therapy and exercise prescription.
But my dog doesn’t like being handled?
All dogs are individual, therefore all veterinary physiotherapy appointments are tailored to the dog and their needs. One of the reasons I take a detailed history is to find out how your dog might respond to assessment and treatment, so that I can work in a way that is comfortable for them.
For example, it is not uncommon for dogs to not like their paws being touched. That may alter how I hold a limb, or whether any paws need to be touched at all. We can build confidence for future sessions through positive reinforcement at the dog’s pace as appropriate.
Body language and behavioural signs are key to reading an animal’s response to treatment. Every stage of assessment and treatment can be modified. When I take a history I ask what motivates your dog, so whether it’s praise, play, food or something else we can work with that to help build a relationship, confidence and trust.
Some dogs may need short ‘meet and greet’ familiarisation sessions before an assessment or treatment can be done, others I treat outside primarily through controlled exercise because that’s what works for them and their owner.
Safety always comes first, so I will work with you to ensure that your dog, you and I are kept safe throughout.
How often should my dog see a Veterinary Physiotherapist?
Recommended frequency of treatment is determined by a number of factors including age, activity, conformation, diagnosis, history of prior injuries, stage of healing (if injured) and budget. If there are any barriers to accessing treatment when needed, do discuss this with your Veterinary Physiotherapist as there are often many things we can suggest for you to do at home to support your dog.
For maintenance or general musculoskeletal health checks for pet dogs where there is no concern, it is generally recommended that dogs under the age of six have check ups every six months, and over six years of age every 3-4 months. This is however a very rough guide, and will be variable depending on the dog.
Some dogs that take part in sports might be assessed every 4-6 weeks to ensure they are fit for their activities, some pet dogs might have maintenance check ups every 6-12 months. Dogs recovering from surgery, or an injury such as cruciate ligament rupture/repair, may be treated weekly for a month, followed by quarterly checks. A spinal cord injury such as a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) may need more frequent support initially, and then be discharged from treatment when they recover.