Physical rehabilitation and its application in veterinary medicine continues to be an exciting new field in which the potential for helping our pets has not yet been fully recognized. Human physical therapists have long been hoping to gain a foothold in this area and have had associations for animal therapy within their field for many years. But arguments between veterinarians and human physical therapists as to who should provide this service for our animals have moved to state legislatures while the need still exists to improve the service in our community. At the Canine Rehabilitation Institute a need has been recognized for collaboration between veterinarians, human physical therapists and licensed veterinary technicians to bring each skill level together for the good of the animal. State laws still vary as to what role each person is allowed to provide but with time these will be worked out so that the field of veterinary physical rehabilitation can improve.
The need for physical rehabilitation after injury, surgery or illness has not yet been recognized by most veterinarians. In human medicine there is an assumption that most debilitating injuries and surgeries will improve more rapidly with a better chance of full recovery if physical rehabilitation is begun at an appropriate interval after an injury or surgery. Today, most veterinarians, including many specialists, fail to give that information to their clients. Often cost is a factor because already a large amount has been spent on the original injury. But more often it is not considered in the beginning and not included in estimates for what needs to be spent for full recovery. Physical rehabilitation can vary from less expensive home exercise programs to in house therapy including underwater treadmill programs, laser and ultrasound therapies, e-stim and acupuncture. It can be extremely important to the outcome of anterior cruciate, intervertebral disc disease surgeries and many other orthopedic and soft tissue surgeries where the rehabilitation of muscle, tendon and nerve has not been previously considered.
Prevention of future injuries is also important in our geriatric, obese and even athletic dogs. Conditioning is not new to our dogs participating in sports or our equine equivalents but the idea that we all need to get off the couch and go to the gym is a new concept to most pet owners! Appropriate and specific exercise can help to build core body muscles or strengthen muscles in limbs trying to compensate for deficits on an opposite limb. Physical rehabilitators can train owners to help their pets choose a more healthy life style! As the availability of physical rehabilitation services increases in our area awareness and education of the client and the veterinarian will also increase. Most importantly, our pets will benefit from the knowledge of veterinarians, human physical therapists and licensed veterinary technicians working together to improve the comfort of our pets.
Article Provided By Julia Carter, DVM of Sacramento Veterinary Hospital and Rehabilitation Center