Principles of small animal physiotherapy:
- Physiotherapy treatment aims to address inactivity caused by pain, muscle spasm, musculo-skeletal damage, surgery or neurological damage. If a dog or cat is unwilling to use a limb for one of these reasons it will need manipulation where a human could be instructed in occupational therapies.
- Inactivity can cause fibrous tissue to develop, which can adhere to fascia and possibly bone such as may happen after fractures of the femur in dogs or cats.
- A return to full normal function by the pet can therefore be difficult to obtain without therapeutic intervention.
- By application of appropriate stress to tissue during fibroblastic and remodeling phases of healing, scars can be stronger and more mobile. The timing of this can be from 5 days post injury onwards, with the remodeling phase lasting for up to a year.
- In neurological weakness and indeed any learned movement abnormality, early facilitation of weight-bearing and movement which is appropriate to the pathology can significantly improve recovery. There are many small animal patients with intervertebral disc disease which could benefit in this way.
- A good X-ray result does not always equal good function because of the soft tissue changes therefore physiotherapy can maximise potential.
Aims of Physiotherapy in Pets
- Physiotherapy is generally an adjunct to veterinary treatment, not in place of it.
- The aim is to work as part of a team to gain good communication between physiotherapist, the client and the veterinary surgeon.
As part of treatment aims are to:
- decrease pain
- limit excessive swelling
- restore joint range of movement as soon as possible
- restore normal muscle activity by facilitating normal joint alignment, gaining muscle and joint stability and mobility
- prevent recurrence of injury
- at all stages to involve the owners in treatment and give them appropriate advice regarding their animals' needs.
Conditions of pets which may benefit from physiotherapy:
- Ligamentous sprain
- Muscle strain
- Postoperative recovery from orthopaedic surgery
- Pain of spinal origin not necessitating surgery
- Hip dysplasia
- Joint pain
- Restriction of movement
- Neurological damage
Physiotherapy does not claim to be a magical cure, but can be an essential ingredient to achieving the best possible outcome.
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