Physiotherapy is a science-based healthcare profession concerned with how the body functions and views movement and how the body moves as a central part of health and well-being.
Physiotherapist’s key areas of focus are
- Prevention – identifying, monitoring and screening risk factors
- Maintenance – for maximum flexibility, strength and performance
- Treatment – assisting healing and rehabilitation using manual and electrotherapies
The physiotherapy approach to promoting, restoring or maintaining the health of the patient, uses core skills which include:
- Skilled evaluation
- Skilled hands-on (manual) therapy such as mobilisation, manipulation, massage and trigger-point release; myofascial release techniques, stretching techniques
- Individually designed exercise programmes
- Specialised electrotherapy equipment
- Suitable walking aids, splints and appliances
- Owner education/advice
Broadly, the expected outcomes of a physiotherapy treatment programme include:
- Avoidance of invasive/surgical treatment where possible and where surgical treatment is contra-indicated
- Quicker process of recovery after surgery
- Improved or restored function
- Increased performance and strength
- Increased range of movement
- Minimising of muscle atrophy
- Prevention of further or recurrent injury
- Reduced pain
- Reduced inflammation, swelling & muscle spasm
- Repaired tissue damage
- Enhanced general well-being
A physiotherapist is a first line practitioner in human treatments; this means they make their own clinical judgements and treatment choices. This use of clinical reasoning is a problem-solving approach to patient-centred care.
With animal treatments, physiotherapists work in consultation with veterinarians.
Why Animal Physiotherapy?
Commonly asked questions about animal physiotherapy and why to choose physiotherapy as a treatment option for animals.
Why choose a physiotherapist to treat your animal?
Physiotherapists have specific training in analytical and treatment skills based on a thorough knowledge of anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. Whether it is to increase performance, prevent injury, enhance healing or improve quality of life, expert physiotherapy treatment from a registered physiotherapist can achieve remarkable results.
What does a physiotherapist actually do?
Just as humans have benefited from physiotherapy, animals do benefit as well. Physiotherapists assess, treat and rehabilitate injuries to muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, back pain, muscle imbalances, poor performance in sporting animals, over-use injuries, wounds and post-surgical conditions.
Working on humans is an important part of preparation for animal work, as the physiotherapist is able to develop observational and palpating skills assisted by patients’ verbal responses and feedback.
A physiotherapist’s most valuable tool is his or her hands, for palpating (feeling) and locating areas of normal and abnormal function on the animal’s body. The physiotherapist’s knowledge and understanding of anatomy, biomechanics, veterinary and physiotherapeutic procedures, neurophysiology and rehabilitation form a strong foundation for assessment and treatment.
Will physiotherapy help my animal?
The answer to that is yes.
Physiotherapy accelerates the healing process, relieves pain, and restores normal movement and function.
Physiotherapists are rehabilitation specialists and can assist in fitness training and specific exercise programmes.
All types of animals are referred by veterinary surgeons for physiotherapy treatment, including professional and working animals, e.g. race horses, show jumpers, competitive dogs and also domestic pets including cats and dogs. Other animals such as donkeys, monkeys, cattle, goats, parrots and ducks have been treated successfully with physiotherapy for a variety of problems.
What kind of physiotherapy treatments can be done on animals?
The physiotherapist will initially assess your animal to establish problem areas of function. This is essential before planning the treatment. Treatments may include a combination of techniques and modalities such as:
- Manual therapies – joint mobilization/manipulation
- Soft tissue techniques – specific massage, myofascial release, trigger point therapy
- Electrotherapy – ultrasound, laser/light therapy, muscle stimulation, TENS, electromagnetic therapy
- Hot and cold therapy
- Proprioceptive re training – sensory integration techniques
- Rehabilitation programmes
- Assessment for orthotic devices – support splints, walking harnesses/wheels, dog ramps, etc
- Advice (post-surgical) to owners on how to manage home care and exercise – written protocols, etc
Physiotherapists work in consultation with the veterinary profession to ensure the best possible treatment outcome.