Is Physiotherapy For Your Dog?

April 15th, 2021

Physiotherapy treatment can improve our dogs’ health. It can help with all kinds of health issues – from neurological conditions to soft tissue damage. But not only dogs can benefit. Apart from dogs, horses and cats are the animals that most commonly receive physiotherapy. So we can say almost any animal can benefit.

Because this is a very fascinating subject, I ask Veterinary Physiotherapist, Hannah Gill a few questions. Hannah provides a mobile canine and equine veterinary physiotherapy service throughout Cheshire, Shropshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and North Wales; as well as Somerset, Devon, Dorset, and Wiltshire.

How did your passion for veterinary physiotherapy start?

I first discovered veterinary physiotherapy whilst completing my BSc Animal Health and Welfare degree; as one of my friends was on the BSc Veterinary Physiotherapy course.  My plan at the time was to go on to vet school.

I researched the field of Veterinary Physiotherapy, found the Master’s course, and found that it would suit me perfectly! Completing the course and practicing under Reflexions Veterinary Physiotherapy has only solidified my love for the industry.

Is veterinary physiotherapy only for animals after injury?

In short – no!

Is physiotherapy for your dog? Hannah & Bo

Although veterinary physiotherapy is most widely known for its benefits to animals recovering from injury or surgery, it can in fact benefit all animals – from pets to performance.

“Maintenance” treatments can ensure that any potential issues are identified earlier; therefore allowing precautions and preventative measures to be put in place, as well as safeguarding long-term musculoskeletal wellbeing.

This could include treatment of:

– Active (or even not so active!) pets, retired horses, “happy hacker” horses.

– Sporting dogs such as agility, flyball, canine hoopers, obedience, canicross, etc., and horses in work such as pony and riding club, competition, schooling, etc.

– Working dogs such as gundogs, those doing police work, etc.

Veterinary physiotherapy is also proven to greatly assist mobility and pain management in dogs and horses with osteoarthritis and other degenerative diseases.

How can veterinary physiotherapy maximise performance?

Sporting and working dogs and horses are athletes in their own right. Veterinary Physiotherapy will allow assessment of the animal’s posture and way of going, before using methods to improve this!

This may include:

– Conditioning and fitness training

– Core and general strengthening

– Improving flexibility

– Improving proprioception, body awareness, and balance

– Controlling any areas of tension or discomfort.

The combination of these factors leads to a more balanced and stronger animal with sufficient core support over the abdominals and spine to allow the locomotive muscles to perform more efficiently.  Furthermore, improved balance and proprioception lowers the risk of injury alongside increasing performance.  In order for this to work, any areas of tension or discomfort must be alleviated.

“Increasing performance” does not just apply to performance and sporting animals! Performing these conditioning exercises alongside veterinary physiotherapy treatment would also benefit pet dogs going for their weekend walk or the happy hacker horse.  Correct posture, gait, and movement are imperative for long-term musculoskeletal health.

When should a dog or horse owner seek a veterinary physiotherapist’s help?

There does not need to be something “wrong” with your dog or horse to require a veterinary physiotherapist. Prevention is better than cure!  Including maintenance veterinary physiotherapy sessions for your animals will enable early identification of any potential issues.

In most animals, from sporting to pets, a sudden change in behaviour is an early sign that the animal may require veterinary physiotherapy (or indeed, veterinary attention). A horse becoming “cold-backed” or a dog suddenly slowing down on walks, for example.

I highly recommend having a veterinary physiotherapist on board as a part of a multi-disciplinary team from the beginning in sporting animals.  However, if this was not the case, a decrease in performance will be the first tell-tale sign of an animal struggling.  In agility dogs, this may manifest itself in slower course times, measuring jumps, knocking poles, and avoiding obstacles (such as the weaves’ early exit, refusing obstacles). In horses, signs such as behavioural changes, lack of topline, disunited canter, inability to work in an outline, or refusing jumps may occur.

Do we need vet referral to take a dog to a veterinary physiotherapist?

Under the Veterinary Surgeons (Exemptions) Order 2015, remedial veterinary physiotherapy may only be carried out under referral by a veterinary surgeon.  Therefore, if your horse or dog requires any remedial treatment for a past or current injury or condition, it is necessary to receive referral or consent from the veterinary surgeon prior to veterinary physiotherapy assessment and treatment. 

Maintenance treatment for healthy animals with no underlying injuries or conditions does not require veterinary surgeon referral or consent. Although the animal should still be registered with a veterinary surgeon. I would make your veterinary surgeon aware that treatments will be taking place as per guidance by my professional associations and register. If I were to believe that any potential disease, injury or pathology is present, treatment would cease. Then your animal would be referred back to the veterinary surgeon.

As well as vet consent, I am also required to gain formal consent from the animal’s owner for both maintenance and remedial treatments. As well as to enable me to discuss treatment with your veterinary surgeon. I also require consent regarding holding personal details and data where necessary.  

Where can people find you?

Reflexions Veterinary Physiotherapy is a mobile service; visiting you at your home, yard, or veterinary practice. I cover Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, and North Wales.

If you have any queries about veterinary physiotherapy, how it may benefit your animal, or anything else, please feel free to get in contact!

Facebook and Instagram: @ReflexionsVetPhysio

Stay safe, Jitka xx

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