What is veterinary rehabilitation?

I aim to get each patient to the stage at which they can once more enjoy an appropriate lifestyle

Rehabilitation aims to get each patient to the stage at which they can once more enjoy an appropriate lifestyle

 

 

Whether getting an older pet confident in managing their home environment again…

…achieving the best possible recovery after surgery or injury,,,

…or helping a sporting dog to return to competition.

I work to get each patient as comfortable, pain-free and mobile as possible.

 

For each patient, I provide a dedicated programme to improve comfort and mobility. Veterinary rehabilitation includes a broad range of physiotherapy techniques (manual and touch therapies, LASER, etc.), exercise therapies and veterinary advice. The programme of care is tailored to suit the lifestyle of each patient and owner. 

Some of my rehabilitation patients are also on long-term medication provided by their usual vet, and we find that the rehab/physio programme is a helpful add-on to the benefits provided by painkillers, etc.

What does The Rehab Vet offer in addition to standard rehabilitation?

As a veterinarian, I can assist your pet’s primary care vet when necessary by helping to diagnose what is wrong with the animal. Rehabilition sessions are routinely one hour long, and include plenty of assessment including video gait assessment. I email or phone the animal’s primary care vet whenever anything changes, and am happy to advise on further diagnostic tests, surgical management or a change of medication if required.

Which animals benefit from rehabilitation?

Most of my rehabilitation patients are dogs or cats, though rabbits and other “small furries” can also benefit. I advise considering rehabilitation for your animal if he or she fits into one of the following categories (please click on the links below for more information):

I always “link in” with the patient’s usual vet, providing them with regular updates by email or phone. If medicines or prescription diets are needed, these are usually collected from your usual veterinary practice. 

 

Pain management

Touch therapies used as part of a pain management programme. There is a pulsed electromagnetic therapy pad (also used for pain management) under the blanket

Touch therapies used as part of a pain management programme. There is a pulsed electromagnetic therapy pad (also used for pain management) under the blanket

My pain-relief programmes are ideal in many situations including post-surgical care, after trauma or injury, long-term discomfort in older animals or in those with chronic illness.  

Is my animal in pain?

Dogs and cats tend not to complain about pain in quite the same way as a person. If experiencing longer-term discomfort, these animals are unlikely to cry or moan but may show one or more of the following signs:

  • Lameness
  • Moving “stiffly”, sometimes with difficulty turning
  • Slow and hesitant on getting up or lying down
  • Self-grooming less often than before, or less effectively (cats)
  • Reduced appetite (though some painful animals will still eat)
  • Constantly licking one part of the body (this tends to suggest either discomfort or an underlying skin irritation)
  • Twitching, backing away or otherwise seeming uncomfortable when stroked or touched
  • Resting in a different position, e.g. no longer able to curl up to sleep

If you notice any of the above, then do discuss with your own vet who can make an initial assessment and help to decide whether analgesics (pain-relief medications) and/or further tests are required.

Many cases benefit from rehabilitation techniques in addition to medication, especially if pain is severe or has become chronic.

I provide a range of very safe pain-relief techniques that can be used in addition to or, if necessary, instead of, medication:

  • Gentle manual therapies including soft tissue mobilization
  • Pulsed electromagnetic energy (PEME) therapy
  • Low level LASER therapy
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Heat and cold therapies

I also provide:

  • Movement therapies that “teach” animals to move in a more efficient way, thus improving mobility in painful animals.
  • Therapeutic handling and touch techniques, including Tellington touch. These can help animals to “feel better” in association with medical and pain management.

If appropriate, I adjust the dosage of pain-relief medication during therapy, add in extra medication if required, and help to arrange further investigation (e.g. x-rays) if this becomes necessary.

 

 

 Older dogs and cats

Some older pets can no longer curl up to sleep due to stiffness.

Some older pets can no longer curl up to sleep due to stiffness.

 

Quality of life is essential for elderly pets.

Quality of life is essential for elderly pets.

 

A tailored programme of veterinary care and physiotherapy is ideal for many older dogs and cats as it provides:

  • Pain-relief (using a combination of medication, gentle electrophysical and manual therapies).
  • Ongoing assessment and management of concurrent age-related problems, from behavioural change to hormonal or metabolic disturbance.
  • Exercise/movement therapies to help maintain strength in key muscles and to optimise patterns of movement, so helping to preserve quality of life.
  • Guidance for owners, from nutritional advice to the teaching of simple pain-relieving massage techniques to use at home.
  • A combination of therapies with a practical focus tailored to the individual animal. E.g. aiming to restore the dog’s ability to manage and enjoy the daily walk or, for a very disabled cat or dog, aiming to maintain the ability to stand and posture for toileting.

As they get older, many dogs and cats start to slow down, partly due to age-related “wear and tear”. It is very common for these animals to experience pain related to osteoarthritis, a degenerative change that can occur in more than one joint at a time. Just as in some elderly people, many older pets can also experience some muscle wasting and weakness. Nerve degeneration can also occur in old age and cause weakness/lameness, especially in certain breeds of dog.

Once any of these changes start to occur, dogs typically develop new posture and movement habits. The changes may be subtle, or you may even see your dog starting to “slouch” instead of sitting, or “flop down” instead of curling up as they once did. These new movement patterns become habitual and often result in chronically tight, painful muscles, especially in the neck, shoulder and chest regions.

Signs of joint and muscle discomfort in cats tend to be more subtle, e.g. reluctance to jump, poor self-grooming or a change in the way they react to human touch. Pain management techniques certainly help improve quality of life in this situation.

 

Post-operative (after surgical procedures, e.g. cruciate surgery)

Following orthopaedic or spinal surgery, physiotherapy benefits cats and dogs in the following ways:

  • Pain management (alongside medical pain-relief).
  • Improved quality of movement during the recovery period. This reduces subsequent over-loading and stiffness in other parts of the body.
  • Improved circulation and tissue healing.
  • Safe, incremental strengthening of the affected body part from day one post-op right up until return to full exercise.
During the first few days after an operation, it is essential to improve patient comfort and to protect the operated area.

During the first few days after an operation, it is essential to improve patient comfort and to protect the operated area.

Sports and competition dogs

Dogs competing in any activity must of course be in peak condition. Reduced performance can manifest as a subtle lameness (sometimes coming almost sound again by the time that the animal returns home), hesitation during competition or apparent clumsiness such as knocked jumps.

Whether assessing a dog for the cause of such a problem, or just performing a wellness assessment prior to the start of the competition season, I check for orthopaedic and muscular problems, subtle alterations in proprioception (“position-sense”) and, if necessary, check for metabolic or other issues. Alongside advice on diet, exercise progression and injury prevention, I find that movement therapies, PEME, manual and touch therapies particularly benefit many competition dogs.

 

Neurological conditions

Dogs and cats with disc disease or other neurological conditions benefit greatly from rehabilitation. Examples include:

  • Dachshunds (or other breeds) after spinal surgery
  • Non-surgical management of disc problems 
  • Older dogs with back pain with or without disability
  • “Spinal stroke” (fibrocartilaginous embolism) in dogs or cats

Rehabilitation is also worthwhile for several other neurological conditions. Contact me here if you’d like to check before booking.

If the damage has not been too great, many animals eventually regain the ability to stand and walk again. The body has a wonderful ability to heal and recover after injury or surgery. During recovery, dogs and cats have to relearn how to coordinate their legs. This learning process starts immediately after surgery or injury, and continues for many months. 

Rehabilitation for these animals includes: 

  • Pain control (massage, Tellington Ttouch, electrotherapies, checking your pet’s painkiller regime and communicating with your primary care vet if this needs adjusting).
  • Helping get any “lifestyle adjustments” just right during recovery, e.g. sling-walking, lead-walking, how to lift your pet safely, outdoor access and/or crate-restriction if needed.
  • Helping disabled animals learn to “sit” and “stand” again, as preparation for walking. 
  • A bespoke exercise plan, including good quality exercises to help improve coordination, balance and strength.
  • Keeping a check on related medical issues (e.g. bladder and bowels) and communicating with your primary care vet if an extra check-up and/or medication is needed.

Osteoarthritis

Developmental conditions

Chronic (long-term) lameness

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