Animal Physiotherapy? Ludicrous! Or maybe not?

Last week I was treating ten year old English Cocker Spaniel, Jesse, with a massage and a hydrotherapy introduction, which his owners had received as a gift from one of their friends. At the end of the session the owner turned to me and commented ‘I totally could not see the point of physiotherapy for dogs, but now I understand that it makes total sense!’. This reflection: why would you even consider physiotherapy for your pet… it’s just a business that is out for your money and has no real benefits… just give them a pain killer instead, is one that veterinary physiotherapists will hear sooner rather than later. However, let’s assume Jesse is not a dog but a guy, maybe he has chronic back pain or arthritis, or had knee surgery following a football injury, would the same comment still be made? Probably not. Moreover, most people would think it normal and even necessary that in complement to regular treatment, whether conservative or surgical, the patient gets physiotherapy as soon as possible to limit the damage and speed up the recovery.

So why would this not be applied to our pets? Indeed, animal or veterinary physiotherapy works in much the same way and is based on widely recognized physiotherapy in human medicine. A lot of pet owners dote on their animals and would do anything to make their lives as happy and pain free as possible. More and more pet owners, as well as veterinarians, want to step away from the impulse to just give medication, or have an orthopaedic or neurological operation, and leave it at that. This is where physiotherapy comes in. Animal physiotherapists use several manual and electrotherapy techniques to promote and speed up the recovery process and to bring the veterinary patient back to a good functional status. Depending on the country one lives in, physiotherapy for animals may be carried out under veterinary referral. Some countries are less stringent on this and will allow a pet owner to seek treatment from an animal physiotherapist without prior veterinary consent. However, we feel very strongly about the fact that animal physiotherapy works in complement to the regular veterinary diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, for the benefit of your pet, it is crucial that there is a close working relationship, in one form or another, between pet owner, physiotherapist and veterinarian.