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What do vet physios do for our pets?

Updated: May 27, 2021

Maybe you’re toying with the idea of getting physio for your pets or perhaps you’ve never heard of vet physio before?

So lets start at the beginning.

What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is used for the treatment of disease or injury without drugs or surgery or in addition to drugs and surgery. In our pets vet physio is most commonly used to treat:

What do dog physios treat?

  • HD- hip dysplasia is a growth condition affecting the hip joints and leading to laxity of the hip joints

  • ED- elbow dysplasia is the same but in the elbows

  • CCLR- cruciate ligament rupture is a full or partial tear of the cruciate ligament in the knee joint which leads it unstable and very painful

  • Arthritis- degeneration of your pet’s joints leading to stiffness and pain

  • OCD- this is another developmental condition but instead of affecting the whole joint it affects the cartilage

  • Bicipital tenosynovitis- inflammation of the biceps tendon sheath

  • IVDD and FCE- disc diseases in dogs leading to neurological issues

  • Back pain- pain or trigger points in the back musculature

  • Rehab from surgery to regain movement

What do horse physios treat?

  • Locking stifle- this occurs mainly in young horse's whose quadriceps are weak and occurs when the patella of the knee gets locked in position after sleeping.

  • Kissing spines- arthritis of the spine in horses where the tops of each spinous process rubs the next one

  • Tendon and lig injuries- this can be to any tendon or ligament but is usually the ones in the lower limb.

  • Arthritis- degeneration of your pet’s joints leading to stiffness and pain

  • Shivers- neuromuscular disorder leading to tremors in the hindlimbs

  • Stringhalt- neuromuscular disorder leading to exaggerated movement of the hindlimbs of horse's

  • Laminitis- inflammation of the hoof and lack of support of the pedal bone leading to rotation

  • Navicular- degeneration of the navicular bone

  • Back pain- pain or trigger points in the back musculature

  • Rehab from surgery to regain movement

Want to know more about common injuries vet physio's see in dogs and horses? Check out the common injuries here:

But what does a vet physio actually do?

A vet physio uses a combination of manual and electrotherapies to help improve your pets range of motion, muscle mass and strength and to reduce and prevent any pain or injuries.

So let’s take a look at electrotherapy machines first.

Types of electrotherapy in physiotherapy:

  • Laser

  • PEMF

  • Heat

  • TENS

  • NMES

Why do we use them?

Electrotherapy benefits:

  • Reduce pain

  • Improve muscle mass

  • Reduce muscle tension or spasm

  • Speed up healing

Do physiotherapy electrotherapies have any side effects or disadvantages?

Like everything there are some limitations:

  • Laser can’t be used with NSAID’s except in specific circumstances when advised by the vet

  • PEMF and laser can’t be used in pets who have tumours or cancer

  • Some pets don’t like TENS and NMES

But what about manual therapies?

Manual therapies include massage and exercise therapies to help improve muscle mass, strength and tone and improve joint range of motion.

The type of massage or exercise therapies used will vary depending on each individual pet, what condition they have and what stage of recovery they are in.

Let’s take a look at an example so you can get an idea of what I mean.

A dog with arthritis but no lameness is going to need to work on their range of motion more so than anything else. SO their session is going to consist of laser to help improve joint function and reduce pain. Massage to reduce tension in overworked muscle or any trigger points (these usually occur in the back due to reduced limb movement). Exercise therapies need to be completed each day and in this case, would consist of passive range of motion to the limbs to improve their movement, weight shifting exercises to improve muscle mass and core strength to help relieve the overloading of the back and walking therapies.

So in a nutshell what physio does is help your pet live a longer, happier pain-free life.

But what happens if physio doesn’t work?

Then it’s time to head back to your vets for more diagnostic tests to find out if the same condition has progressed or if your pet has another injury. This doesn’t happen often in diagnosed cases but in cases where your vet has struggled to give a diagnosis even if physio is helping your vet will still likely want to do additional tests.

Prefer to watch?

Need help finding a physio near you? Drop me a message or check out the NAVP register here:

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