Veterinary Physical Rehabilitation: More than Help for Injured Pets

August 19, 2020

Veterinary Physical Rehabilitation—More Than Help for Injured Pets

We are smack dab in the middle of summer, when the days are filled with outdoor activities, and the weekends hold camping trips, hiking adventures, and lake visits. You love including your pet during your outdoor adventures—they are an integral part of your family, after all—but, they have been slowing down lately, and you’re not sure they will keep up. 

Many pet owners assume that their pet’s “slow down” is due to normal age-related changes, and accept that their older, or pudgier, pet can’t participate in family activities to the same extent. They often don’t realize that many treatment options exist for arthritic, or overweight, pets that can help them retain their mobility, so they don’t have to sit out family activities. 

Veterinary physical rehabilitation has steadily gained popularity, as pet owners realize its benefits for their furry companions who are recovering from surgery or an injury. But, physical rehabilitation can benefit pets in other situations, as well, and can be particularly helpful to arthritic or overweight pets who have slowed down. CASE’s physical rehabilitation department can tailor a rehabilitation plan specifically for your pet’s condition, to help them to continue enjoying life as an active family member. 

What is veterinary physical rehabilitation?

Much like human physical therapy, veterinary physical rehabilitation is used to speed recovery, improve or maintain strength and body condition, and restore physical function, and employs a variety of techniques and therapies, including:

  • Hydrotherapy — Hydrotherapy takes advantage of water’s natural buoyancy and resistance, using an underwater treadmill to assist patients in walking.
  • Passive range of motion (PROM) exercises — PROM exercises are manipulations a therapist performs that require no effort from an injured patient. PROM exercises help pets maintain joint flexibility and muscle strength, and prevent muscle atrophy in pets with paralysis or limited mobility.
  • Therapeutic exercises — Therapeutic exercises are a component of almost every patient’s rehabilitation plan, and our certified rehabilitation practitioner will choose exercises targeted to your pet’s specific condition. Many therapeutic exercises do not require specialized equipment, and can eventually be done at home. 
  • Therapeutic massage — Veterinary therapeutic massage is the manipulation of a pet’s soft tissues by a therapist who uses their fingers and hands to stimulate healing and recovery. Its benefits include improved circulation, reduced edema, improved range of motion, and pain relief.
  • Laser therapy — Low-level laser therapy’s many benefits include enhanced wound healing, muscle regeneration, decreased inflammation, and pain control. Laser therapy is often used to manage pain in pets with chronic conditions, such as arthritis.

How can veterinary physical rehabilitation help arthritic pets?

Pets with arthritis (i.e., degenerative joint disease) typically experience many disease-related effects, including:

  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Decreased mobility
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Lameness 
  • Muscle atrophy

It is important to realize that arthritis is not a normal aging change, and can be successfully treated to return or maintain a pet’s mobility and function. If your family veterinarian has diagnosed arthritis in your dog or cat, our physical rehabilitation service will design a treatment plan that can vastly improve their quality of life. Many therapies used during physical rehabilitation can decrease your pet’s pain and inflammation, and improve their range of motion and mobility, while maintaining muscle mass for long-term health.

Veterinary Physical RehabThere are a variety of rehabilitation techniques that are ideal for arthritic pets. For example, since hydrotherapy relieves the pressure on sore joints and allows a pet to move with less pain, arthritic pets can regain muscle mass, balance, and mobility, as well as confidence while walking. Both dogs and cats can participate in hydrotherapy, despite cats’ notorious dislike for the water. Other therapies, such as PROM and therapeutic exercises, can help arthritic pets gain muscle strength and joint flexibility. Passive therapies, such as therapeutic massage, laser therapy, NMES, and therapeutic ultrasound can decrease inflammation and pain, to allow your pet to participate in other therapies more comfortably. 

How can veterinary physical rehabilitation help overweight pets?

With more than half of pet dogs and cats classified as overweight or obese, weight gain is a common problem in our furry companions. In addition to weight-related health complications, such as chronic inflammation, heart disease, and hypertension, overweight pets lack the energy, stamina, and zest for life of their healthy counterparts. Your overweight pet may not be able to join family outings and activities as much as they—or you—would like, and are stuck watching glumly from the sidelines. Decreased activity leads to muscle loss and weakness, which, in a vicious cycle, further perpetuates inactivity.

Helping your pet lose weight should be easy, right? If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know it’s not as simple as pledging to decrease your pet’s food intake and stick to a walking schedule. Your kids sneak the dog extra treats, life gets busy, and before you know it, your pet is heavier than ever. At CASE, pet weight loss is a team effort, and our physical rehabilitation team can work with you on a plan to help your pet successfully lose their extra weight, and gain muscle and strength. Let us do the heavy lifting during your pet’s rehabilitation sessions! We will use a combination of techniques, such as hydrotherapy and therapeutic exercises, to help your pet find their inner athlete. Our team makes visits fun, and your pet will look forward to their regular trips to the gym. Once your pet has mastered the therapeutic exercises, we will teach you how to do them at home, so your pet can benefit from more frequent activity, while regularly visiting our physical rehabilitation department for weigh-ins and other therapies.

If your heart breaks as your arthritic or overweight pet watches sadly as you leave on your next adventure, consider veterinary physical rehabilitation. Speak with your family veterinarian, or contact us, to discuss whether your pet can benefit from our rehabilitation services.