Share on :

Animal Physical Therapy Benefits

May 29th, 2018
Animal Physical Therapy Benefits

How to get Your Pet up to Their Full Strength?

If you have ever experienced an injury or undergone a surgery, then you understand just how important physical therapy is. Rehabilitation workouts not only help to reduce pain but also strengthen muscles in different areas, and hasten the recovery process. Ideally, physical therapy is the best way to get you back in shape after you’ve encountered a traumatic event.

However, it is not only humans who can benefit from physical therapy. Rehabilitation is also being recommended to animals, particularly our canine companions. Animal physical therapy helps to address an array of problems from orthopedic surgery to arthritis, neurological disorders, and paralysis. If you’ve come across a video of a dog attempting to walk on an underwater treadmill, then you’ve seen a small section of animal physical therapy at work.

How to Know if Your Pet Needs Animal Physical Therapy

Just like we humans, animal rehabilitation offers a ton of benefits. But how can you decipher when your dog or cat needs it? If you start noticing subtle changes in their behavior, you should probably consult an animal physical therapist. These include:

  • They are experiencing difficulty getting up
  • They are hesitant to go down or climb a flight of stairs
  • They are reluctant to take walks
  • They can only walk for a short distance
  • There’s evidence of pain such as appetite loss, vocalization, and longer nap sessions

If your pooch is exhibiting any of these signs, you should confirm that there is nothing severe going on. As such, you’ll need to take them to a vet, who can perform a complete physical exam. This will include diagnostics like taking blood samples as well as radiographs.

Animal Physical Therapy Benefits

Animal rehabilitation is used to treat a range of conditions including:

  • Arthritis and degenerative joint disease
  • Recovery of an amputation
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Paralysis
  • Injuries to soft tissues and tendons
  • Neurological system disorders like degenerative myelopathy
  • Nerve disorders like vestibular disease and fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE)
  • Obesity

adorable puppy running

Animal Physical Therapy Techniques

If you’ve decided to take your pet for animal therapy, you can choose from an array of exercises as highlighted below:

  • Passive range of motion (PROM) – with this technique, the therapist manually manipulates your dog’s joints back and forth. This is meant to mimic your pet’s natural movements and it helps to boost his range of motion and joint flexibility.
  • Heat and cold therapy- as in the case of human beings, these two types of therapies can greatly help with physical rehabilitation. Ideally, heat and cold therapy can be performed alongside PROM. Warm compresses are great for preparing your pet’s muscles for rigorous activity. On the other hand, cold therapy minimizes the likelihood of inflammation. It also helps to treat pain that your pooch may experience after exercising.
  • An underwater treadmill- this has become one of the most popular techniques employed in animal rehabilitation centers. It’s a less strenuous way of exercising since it does not strain their joints. To increase the level of intensity, you’ll need to add water to a swim tank. With a high water level, less of your pet’s weight is carried.

As your pooch develops more strength, you can decrease the level of water in the tank. But if you want to continue increasing your pet’s strength, consider taking him for longer therapy sessions.

  • An obstacle course- the primary role of these courses is to improve your dog’s balance, dexterity and paw placement, especially for dogs diagnosed with neurological injuries. Obstacle courses include hills, steps, balance bars and ramps.
  • Therapeutic ultrasound- this is a unique kind of ultrasonic wave, which helps in stimulating muscle activity. The treatment technique warms up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments so as to boost healing and strength.
  • Cold therapy laser- this is another physical therapy procedure that is quickly gaining popularity. The cold laser targets individual cells. The greatest benefits of a cold laser include better blood circulation, decreased pain, and improved healing.
  • Massage- massage is great for relieving tension in your dog’s muscles and boosting muscle development. This technique is also crucial in speeding up the recovery process from injuries or surgeries. Ideally, the way massaging works is that it improves blood flow to the area being massaged.
  • Electrical stimulation- as its name suggests, this method uses electrical currents so as to foster muscle development or eliminate pain. It includes processes such as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

Are There Any Risks to Animal Physical Therapy?

Since pets cannot communicate or express their feelings the way humans do. It means that you should start by finding the best animal therapist for your pet. He should have experience and expertise to perform the different techniques. The two professionals you can consult are a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner or a certified veterinarian. In doing so, you will be minimizing the likelihood of any complications arising from the animal rehabilitation.

Although it’s often considered safe, performing any other animal therapy methods in the wrong way can have devastating effects. It could even worsen the condition affecting your pet. Another thing to keep in mind is that canine rehabilitation, even if done rightly, can lead to some form of discomfort or pain. As such, it’s vital that you take care by feeding him appropriately and giving him other pain medications.

The Bottom Line

Pets take care of their owners in so many different ways. People who live with dogs or cats are said to have better cardiovascular health, a decreased risk of depression, minimal stress levels, and better social interactions. Pets have a significant impact on our overall health. Dogs, cats, horses and other animals are incredibly helpful to our health and wellbeing, what about their own? One of the best ways to care for these animals is through animal rehabilitation.

Animal rehabilitation is primarily about employing the basic principles of physical therapy with the aim of improving function, mobility, and animals’ overall health. There are different techniques that can be used such as massage, electrical stimulation, hydrotherapy, obstacle courses as well as heat and cold therapies.