Veterinary Rehabilitation & Conditioning
Rehabilitation is not a new treatment modality for our animal patients. In fact, many rehabilitation techniques used in human medicine were originally developed using animals as models. As the field of veterinary surgery becomes more advanced, so does our expectations for the post-operative care of our patients. Veterinary rehabilitation is becoming the rapidly accepted and expected norm for the care and treatment of our companions. Rehabilitation promotes mobility, function and quality of life through diagnosis and physical intervention. It is used as an adjunct following surgery but encompasses much more than that. Veterinary rehabilitation is used in patients that are having difficulty moving due to age or disease or other physical impairment. In many cases, physiotherapy is used along with other medical services or treatments. Early intervention means faster recovery. Physiotherapy is also used in veterinary medicine as a treatment for chronic pain. No one deserves to hurt and all pain should be treated aggressively. The most common cause for chronic pain in our pets is osteoarthritis. The most successful method for treating osteoarthritis is a multi-modal approach – this means that there is not just one pill to treat the pain but several modalities must be used to break the pain cycle and then re-educate the body. An NSAID used alone with fail miserably. Then when we have broken the pain cycle, we can improve the function in these patients using physiotherapy so our pets can continue activities of daily living comfortably. With veterinary rehabilitation, every pet’s gait (walk, trot, run) will be evaluated if possible. The underwater treadmill is a great place for watching gait. Muscle mass may be measured and any asymmetry noted. It will be determined if the pet is shifting weight forward, backward, left or right to compensate for pain or weakness on one side or the other. The exam includes feeling the limbs, tendons, muscles for any areas of heat/cold, thickened skin, altered haircoat, sensitivities or asymmetries. Each joint will be evaluated for range of motion from the toes to the nose. Flexibility will be assessed along the spine. It is important to remember that age is not a disease. Common conditions treated in veterinary rehabilitation include: Musculoskeletal injuries, post-op orthopedic/neurologic disease, obesity, osteoarthritis, gait abnormalities, back pain, trauma and intervertebral disc disease. As newer and newer canine sports evolve in our development of the human-canine bond, so grows the importance of conditioning. The canine athlete is as important as the human athlete and their bodies should be treated and trained with as much dedication and rigor as their human counterparts. As new sports arise, we ask our companions to perform more and more strenuous and intricate maneuvers – be it agility, schutzhund (IPO), lure coursing, dock diving or search & rescue – these activities pay a toll on our companion’s bodies and we must help them prepare for their extreme athletic endeavors. The better the dog’s muscles are prepared for the activity, the more we protect him or her from injury or wear and tear. The concept of athletic conditioning is tantamount to the concept of any canine athletic sport.