By Anna Lindley RVN - Newnham Court Veterinary Hospital
Human physiotherapy is an internationally recognised discipline and its positive effects post
surgery/ injury is well documented in the rehabilitation of humans. However, relatively little
attention has been given to veterinary patients afflicted with similar conditions. Happily it is
currently growing in recognition and most large referral practices in the UK now offer some form of physiotherapy.
The aim of animal physiotherapy is to restore normal movement after an operation/injury or during a disease process. Physiotherapists use massage, regulated exercises, hot and cold therapy and modalities such as laser, ultrasound and tens ( pain relief) to achieve their treatment goals and enable the animal to regain full use of the affected area.
Physiotherapists work with a with a number of conditions from orthopaedic surgeries/ diseases and neurological conditions to degenerative conditions such as arthritis.
My name is Anna Lindley, I’m a Registered Veterinary Nurse here at Newnham Court Veterinary Hospital. I am currently training to become an animal physiotherapist with the College of Animal Physiotherapy. I have always been interested in rehabilitation and this was put into practice when my own dog Tia, had more than her fair share of orthopaedic issues! As well as a lot of surgical intervention, through the years she had physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and acupuncture- all of which played their part in her rehabilitation by reducing pain, restoring function of movement, improving and prolonging her quality of life. They also helped to prevent compensation injuries, decrease the need for ongoing pain relief medications as well as giving her the endorphins it released after a massage session resulting in making her relaxed and happy.
Dogs can’t easily tell you that they are in constant chronic pain. With sudden acute pain such as treading on a thorn they will scream and show they are in pain. However, with arthritic pain or in the case of hip dysplasia for example, they just carry on- they may compensate by throwing as much weight as they can onto the opposite side( which then causes more issues), or they may just use the affected joint and stoically endure the pain it causes. It is our duty as owners and veterinary professionals to be vigilant and aware when our dogs are in pain and then take action.
Signs of a dog experiencing pain may be as subtle as licking their lips when walking, not jumping up on the sofa anymore or adapting walking up steps with an awkward bunny hop. How many times do people think it’s normal for an old dog to not want to walk?; “He’s just getting old and slowing down” they may say, but what if he could be more comfortable and have an improved quality of life? Pain relief and physiotherapy( and other complimentary therapies such as hydrotherapy and acupuncture) really can help ageing dogs feel more comfortable and whilst degeneration with the onset of age is inevitable, we can slow this process down and facilitate a much improved quality of life for the patient. After all the unconditional love all their lifetime this is the least we can do for our veteran friend.