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  • Module 3: Physiotherapy

    Why do physio?

    Physiotherapy is not just a medical treatment or profession; it is also a way to improve life

    quality. It’s a way to make the life of your pet more comfortable which, in turn, should make

    him happier. So, the benefits of physiotherapy are not only physical, but mental as well.

    Whether it is because of injury or some medical condition, you should try physiotherapy for

    your pet, but only after you have sought a course of treatment from a pet physiotherapist.

    There are many types of physiotherapy. Taking your dog swimming or giving it a good back

    rub may act as physiotherapy (if prescribed). Playing with your cat for half an hour or more

    each day, so she could stretch her muscles a bit, instead of sleeping all day may be

    prescribed for therapy. Use physio for your elderly pet to increase mobility in the joints. If your

    dog had an accident, your therapist would most likely ask you to continue treatments at home

    to rebuild muscle strength and help your dog recover faster. Lots of different types of physical

    therapy exist.

    In this module we will look at several types of physiotherapy that may be prescribed for your

    pet. Are you ready to continue? Let’s read on.

    3.1 Hydrotherapy

    3.2 Laser

    3.3 Electrotherapy

    3.4 Cold therapy (Cryotherapy)

    3.5 Therapeutic Ultrasound

    3.6 Therapeutic exercises

    3.7 Acupuncture

    3.8 Massage

  • 3.1 Hydrotherapy

    Does your pet like to swim? Or take baths?

    Hydrotherapy is the use of water for, well, you

    guessed it - therapy. And when we talk about water

    here, we can talk about it being used in all the states:

    liquid, solid (ice) and gas. In hydrotherapy, the

    temperature (hot, warm or cold) is the most

    important factor. However, there may also be a

    mechanical stimulus – for example, the use of

    massage jets or rubbing your pet with a cloth while he’s in the pool. Additionally, substances

    may be added to the water to create a chemical stimulus. (Think about an oatmeal bath for

    humans or the addition of essential oils into a bath.)

    Types of Hydrotherapy

    When you are at the physio’s office you may see a special pool designed for your pet. This

    pool is often smaller than a regular pool, with ramps for easy entrance and exit, and, most

    likely, it is heated. It is this physio pool that is often used for prescribed exercise for your pet,

    for example swimming (with or without the hydro jets on) to increase muscular strength.

    Hydrotherapy pools are excellent as they require your pet to use many muscle groups.

    Additionally, a pool allows for strengthening of muscles in a non-weight bearing setting.

    (Think about running on a treadmill vs. water running in a pool. Definitely less stress on the

    joints when you are in the pool.) And finally, the water can provide increased resistance. But,

    what if you don’t have a pool at home? Bathing, washing, watering, and showering your dog

    may be done at home and all can be used for hydrotherapy.

    Bathing and washing your dog can have more than a positive effect on the smell of your pet.

    By using water at a moderate temperature to wash and bathe, there is also a beneficial effect

    on the tone of the neuromuscular system. Pouring water (watering) on a specific area of your

    pet is also used as hydrotherapy process, but more often than not, the water is colder than

    that used for bathing and washing, and specifically directed to one area – for example the


    And how about a shower! Who doesn’t love that? Well, showering is a form of hydrotherapy

    with a mechanical stimulus (that’s because of the shower head).

  • Once your pet physiotherapist has shared with you the proper temperature for showering

    your dog (as temperatures could be anywhere from hot to cold) and where you should focus

    the shower spray, you can easily continue this course of treatment at home.

    Benefits of Hydrotherapy

    The benefits of hydrotherapy for you fur baby (because aren’t they always our fur babies –

    no matter how old they are) are many. Dependent on what your pet is being treated for, you

    might see:

     Increased range of motion

     Muscle strengthening

     Relief from pain, swelling and stiffness

     Increased tissue healing

     Improved circulation

     Increased speed of recovery

    NOTE: Wraps

    Wraps may also be considered a form of hydrotherapy because of their use of water. Cold

    wraps, warm wraps, and warm-wet wraps can all be therapeutic in nature. Let your

    physiotherapist decide whether a warm or cold wrap is most appropriate for your pet. It is

    possible to jump the wrong way and do harm, for example, cold wraps are best after surgery

    as it helps reduce swelling, but once healing has taken place they may suggest a change to

    warm wraps.

  • Cold wraps

    are comprised of several layers and soaked in cold water (or used

    in conjunction with ice cubes) to lower temperature or reduce

    swelling on an inflamed area – just like you put an ice pack on your

    ankle if you twisted it.

    Warm wraps

    are prepared with heated water and often used to aid a pet’s

    tissues, muscles or tendons – similar to you applying a heat pack

    to aid your sore muscles after strenuous exercise.

    Warm-wet wraps are used to treat acute inflammation in your pet (usually 2-3 days

    after the beginning of the condition).

    3.2 Laser

    Laser means Light Amplification by Stimulated

    Emission of Radiation. Essentially, a physiotherapist

    will use rays of light to penetrate the tissues. The

    absorption of the rays is different for the various

    tissues. And, the depth of the penetration of the rays

    depends on the wavelength of the light rays. Laser

    rays are the ones that have the deepest effect on the


    Laser use in veterinary medicine

    Laser therapy can be of great use in the regeneration processes. When there are some long-

    lasting lesions or injuries, laser treatment of low intensity can be used to speed up the process

    of regeneration. Also, laser therapy can be used as acupuncture, in the way that instead of

    needles, we can use laser rays. The method is completely harmless and in most patients the

    symptoms are successfully eliminated. This method is used in treating inflammation of the

    muscles, joints, tendons and many other conditions (And laser therapy acupuncture may be

    a great alternative to traditional acupuncture if you have a pet with a fear/low tolerance of


  • You are usually allowed to stay with your pet while the have this therapy, and many pets

    seem to actively enjoy laser therapy, as if they can feel it doing them good.

    3.3 Electrotherapy

    Electrotherapy, the application of an electrical current through the skin, while common as a

    means for therapy in humans, has really only developed for our pets in the last twenty or so


    Electrotherapy can be used for healing wounds, pain control or relief, and reduction of

    inflammation. Some of the more advanced uses of electrotherapy involve the re-educating of

    muscles and increased muscle strengthening. For example, if your dog has suffered an injury

    to his hind limb, a physiotherapist may recommend electrotherapy to increase the strength.

    By placing small electrical patches on strategic areas of your dog and then allowing an

    electrical current to flow to these areas, you can cause the muscles to contract, which aids in

    rehabilitating the area.

    Additionally, your therapist might try using electrotherapy to increase blood circulation or help

    with joint mobility.

    There are some very specific forms of electrotherapy which your physio may discuss with

    you. These may include galvanization therapy, ionotherapy, faradizing, and diadynamic

    therapy. Be sure to ask your therapist about these specialized electrotherapy treatments.

  • A method of electrotherapy you may be able to perform at home on your pet is TENS. This

    stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and involves the stimulation of

    nerves in the skin via an electrode held in place with a sticky patch. This can help the relief

    of long-term back pain or arthritis. Your animal physio first needs to show you where to locate

    the patches (and shave some fur!) but this is definitely an option to explore.

    3.4 Cold therapy (Cryotherapy)

    Cold therapy involves exposing your pet’s body or part of his body to extreme cold for a brief

    period of time. The cold leads to vasoconstriction, or the reduction of blood flow, to the treated

    area. So why would we want to do this? By doing this, it reduces cellular metabolism and it

    has an anti-inflammatory effect. Additionally, this can reduce the occurrence of muscle

    spasms in our pets.

    Many therapists may recommend cryotherapy as a treatment in our pets for:

     Arthritis, tendinitis

     Trauma

     Postoperative-pain, in

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