Helen Fentem-Jones started her career over ten years ago working as a Junior Physiotherapist for the NHS but always dreamed of working with animals. After training as a Veterinary Physiotherapist at the Royal Veterinary College, Helen left the human physiotherapist world and began working at Dick White Referrals, where she has spent the last four years establishing one of the best rehab and physiotherapy units in the country. Here she explains why physio isn’t just for humans and the benefits for pets…
Over the last couple of decades veterinary medicine and surgery has surged forwards with continuing advances in surgical techniques and medical knowledge and as a result our pets are undergoing more complex surgical procedures, surviving more severe medical conditions and generally living for longer. It makes sense therefore that aftercare and rehabilitation strategies also need to advance and keep up, and this is where the veterinary physiotherapist and rehabilitation plays a key role for recovering patients and those pets suffering from old age.
So what is physiotherapy exactly and how can this be used to help our pets? One definition is that ‘Physiotherapy uses physical approaches to promote, maintain and restore physical, psychological and social well-being’ This is the definition given for physiotherapy within the human medical world, however it still holds very true and accurate for animals.
Following any sort of health issue, whether it is a medical condition, or intervention for an orthopaedic or neurological condition, many animals are significantly effected with their function, due to pain and disuse of muscles. In turn this creates muscle waste, which has a knock on effect with how well our pet can manage walks, toileting and other physical activities. These health issues will have an impact on their mental status as well, with many animals if unwell or in pain becoming very shut down, depressed or showing other symptoms of negative behavioural change such as aggression or reluctance to perform tasks.
Physiotherapy plays a huge role in helping the speedy recovery of pets following any health issues, and the physiotherapist will work closely alongside the veterinary surgeon for the best possible outcome. Physiotherapy treatment doesn’t always use specialised equipment, instead combining different treatment techniques including movement therapies, manual therapies, and soft tissue which include massage techniques and techniques aimed at loosening tension in soft tissue areas. These three different techniques can be used in both land based settings and water based in the hydrotherapy setting. A combination of exercise regimes and hands on techniques will both improve the physical function of our pets as well as having effects psychologically, with positive changes in behaviour.
Physiotherapy can help any of our companion animals from the popular cats and dogs, to the not so commonly seen ferrets and iguanas and is a method of treatment that has proven to work not only for humans but which drastically improves a pet’s life.