Physiotherapy for animals falls into three main categories: Manual Therapy, Electrotherapy and Remedial Exercise. Usually it takes a combination of all three to completely rehabilitate any animal post injury or surgery. You can see a number of these techniques used in the videos on the website.
These are therapies that the veterinary physiotherapist applies with their hands to the animals. These include massage (remedial or sports), myofascial release, mobilisation of joints, manipulation of joints and soft tissues and passive stretching. If you would like to see how passive stretches are performed on horses, click HERE to have a look at this excellent video by my colleague, Helen Morrell. Animals respond extremely well to touch. This is why we pat them or stroke them when we want to communicate.
Massage produces a number of physiological changes within the soft tissues, including vasodilation, relaxation, desensitisation of facilitated areas, lymphatic drainage, release of endorphins and allows normal interchange of fluids and gases within the tissues.
It also forms a bond between the physiotherapist and the animal.
These are therapies that pass some form of electrical or light energy into the tissues to produce a specific physiological effect. These include machines that stimulate neurons and muscles such as H-wave or interferential therapy. These can be used by the trained physiotherapist to create pain relief, or to treat soft tissue injuries. Other therapeutic machines that can be used for treatment and pain relief produce a pulsed electro-magnetic field which penetrates musculoskeletal tissues such as the Biomag or Magneto-pulse, and some machines create strong light that penetrates musculoskeletal tissues such as Lasers and other phototherapy machines such as the Imita.
Another machine regularly used by physiotherapists, and which falls under the heading of electrotherapy is ultrasound. However, ultrasound is not technically an electrotherapy; it is a mechanical therapy as it works by bombarding the tissues with sound waves which produce positive physiological effects within the tissues.
Injury can initially be caused by poor static and dynamic conformation, and also injury itself can be responsible for changes in an animal’s posture. Unless these are rectified by skilful physiotherapeutic exercises, they are likely to result in a relapsing or evolving condition. Devising a remedial exercise prescription for an animal can be the most challenging part of veterinary physiotherapy, but it can also be the most rewarding. It is highly recommended that you seek veterinary physiotherapy for your animal immediately post injury or surgery, so that the best possible prognosis can be achieved.
All these manual therapies and electrotherapies can have deleterious effects if used incorrectly or by someone who is not properly trained and qualified. Always make sure that your physiotherapist belongs to a recognised professional association like ASSVAP. Then you can be sure that your animal will receive the best possible treatment.
For legal reasons, your Veterinary Surgeon must approve physiotherapy before treatment can start. If in doubt, contact Gail who will give you any advice you need.