Physiotherapy uses a range of techniques to help a patient recover from an injury or disease and enables them to reach the point of normal everyday mobility. It is a complimentary therapy that is carried out upon veterinary referral. In ideal cases an animal that has suffered an injury or had an operation will recover fairly quickly. However, sometimes an injury may not be healing as well or even at all. The aim of physiotherapy is to condition the pet’s body so that it can heal the injury in a quicker and more natural way.
There are various techniques used within the overall umbrella of physiotherapy that include massaging, exercise programmes, specific rehabilitation programmes, electro-therapy and joint manipulation.
What Does it Treat?
Common injuries that lead a vet to refer a cat or dog to a physiotherapist include tendon, muscle and ligament strains, fractures, sprains, back/neck/pelvic pain, joint problems such as stiffness or pain caused by arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament ruptures, obesity, lameness, general difficulties with movement and even behavioural issues. Physiotherapy can also be great for rehabilitating a cat or dog after it has undergone neurological, orthopaedic or general surgery.
Whilst the use of physiotherapy is often used as reactionary course of treatment, it can also be effective as a preventative process. The use of various techniques to keep the body in shape and working at an optimum level means that there is less likelihood of the cat or dog developing a condition or picking up an injury.
Most animal physiotherapists will have studied human Physiotherapy at university, and then on completing their degree, will have undertaken either a Post-Graduate Diploma or Masters in Veterinary Physiotherapy. Once they have completed their training and gained their qualifications they will then join their professional bodies, the ACPAT (Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy) and CSP (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy).
However, it is important to note that the title ‘Animal or Veterinary Physiotherapist’ is not protected meaning that anyone can name themselves as an animal physiotherapist. Therefore it is wise to make sure your animal is referred to a ‘Chartered Physiotherapist’, a title protected by law that means a person with such a title has achieved the highest level of training, as outlined in the paragraph above.
Legislation dictates that animals may only be treated by a veterinary surgeon or someone they authorise to do so; all animal physiotherapists that belong to ACPAT meet this requirement. As such, all animal physiotherapists that belong to the professional bodies work closely with veterinary surgeons; they will only assess an animal if it has been referred to them by a vet or if they have gained consent from the vet.
Be on the Lookout
Unlike humans, animals are not great at letting us know if they are in pain or discomfort, in fact, they will often hide an injury and you may not realise that something is specifically wrong until other signs, such as behavioural issues or overall reduction in mobility, present themselves. If you are worried that your cat or dog has even a slight niggle, book an appointment with your vet to make sure everything is okay.