The field of veterinary rehabilitation offers options for pets by enhancing their recovery from trauma, aiding in injury prevention, and maximizing quality of life for those living with chronic debilitating conditions.
Many of us are aware of the benefits of physiotherapy for humans. Just as we can benefit from physiotherapy, our pets, too, can also benefit from physical rehabilitation by minimizing pain and maximizing joint and soft tissue health and function. Whether the goal for your pet is to resume normal activities following a surgical procedure or injury, to regain function after neurological compromise, to lose weight, to manage osteoarthritis, or to stay one step ahead of the competition in athletic endeavours, rehabilitation can help to make that goal a reality.
Benefits of Rehabilitation:
Physical rehabilitation can optimize the health and happiness of a pet through:
- Faster and more complete recovery from surgery or injury
- Prevention of injury, re-injury, or compensatory problems
- Improvement in quality of life for pets suffering from chronic pain or debilitating medical conditions
- Bonding more deeply with you as you work together to meet health goals
- Experiencing success by meeting realistic goals, whether those are getting back to running on the trails, competing in agility trials, hanging out at doggie day care, losing weight, or simply being able to face routine daily challenges
Therapies and Services We Provide:
- Manual Therapy
- Low Level LASER Therapy
- Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation
- Therapeutic Exercise
- Splinting and Assistive Devices
- Fitness and Conditioning Programs
What to Expect
Rehabilitation starts with a referral from your family veterinarian to our Rehabilitation Department. Your veterinarian will provide information on the condition to be treated, current treatments (including medications), past surgeries, concurrent conditions and the goals of rehabilitation.
Once received, the rehabilitation therapist will review the information provided and develop a plan designed to address the issues outlined by your veterinarian. The plan will include recommended therapies, a recommended number of sessions and the costs involved. This will be sent to your family veterinarian who will review it with you. The plan will be signed by you and your veterinarian and sent back to the Rehabilitation Department. Once received, you will be contacted to set up your first appointment.
The number and frequency of rehabilitation appointments depends on each individual pet, the nature of their injury or condition and their progress. Some pets may require several weekly appointments while others may require an appointment every one to two weeks. In certain cases, more frequent sessions may be required in the early stages of treatment with fewer sessions needed once your pet achieves specific progress goals.
Pets with chronic conditions such as arthritis or degenerative neurologic conditions are likely to need longer-term rehab to optimize their success and quality of life. Pets with more acute conditions, such as a muscular injury or those recovering from orthopedic surgery, may need shorter-term rehab to achieve their recovery goals and can go on to benefit from a fitness program in the longer term.
During follow-up appointments, the therapist will assess your pet’s progress, provide treatment and adjust the treatment plan for your pet as needed. Homework may be assigned which may involve massage, stretching or therapeutic exercise. These appointments are 30 to 45 minutes in length.
Some dogs are excellent candidates for a fitness and conditioning program. A fitness and conditioning program is not the same as a rehabilitation program. It is appropriate only for dogs that are not lame, have not been recently injured or had recent surgery, and do not suffer from a debilitating orthopedic or neurological condition. Ideal candidates for a fitness program are canine athletes (sporting and competition dogs), overweight dogs who need to shed some pounds and dogs who simply need more exercise than can be facilitated by their owners in daily life.
Follow-up Fitness and Conditioning Sessions
The frequency of fitness sessions depends on the needs of each dog and the amount of conditioning work done at home between sessions. Weekly or twice weekly sessions are typical for many weight loss and athletic conditioning plans. During sessions, your dog will use the underwater treadmill and/or specialized indoor exercise equipment (such as physio balls and cavaletti rails). These sessions are 30 minutes in length.
A variety of treatment options are available as part of a rehabilitation program. The specific techniques chosen for your pet will depend on the nature of their injury or condition. Each topic below provides detailed information about the treatment methods that we offer.
- Hydrotherapy through the use of an underwater treadmill
- Manual therapy (massage, stretching, joint and/or soft tissue mobilization)
- Therapeutic exercise for improving range of motion, strength and balance
- Therapeutic laser therapy
- Thermotherapy (heat and ice)
- Wheelchair/cart fitting
- Assistive devices- harnesses, slings, etc
Many conditions can be improved through a rehabilitation program provided by our facility. The most common include:
- Post-surgical rehabilitation
- Cruciate ligament injuries
- Luxating patellas
- Hip or elbow dysplasia
- Femoral head excisions
- Trauma and fractures
- Total hip replacement
Rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery, or as an alternative option for those patients with a non-surgical orthopedic condition, is essential in allowing a patient to maximize their physical potential. Post-surgical rehabilitation optimizes the surgical result and helps a pet to return to normal activity while minimizing the risk of compensatory injury or other complications. It also helps to relieve pain in these patients as well as in orthopedic patients who do not undergo a surgical procedure. Dogs with hip dysplasia who do not undergo surgical intervention can show significant benefit from a rehab program designed to strengthen the muscle groups surrounding the hip area and manage pain associated with this condition.
Soft Tissue Injuries
- Muscle Strains or soreness
- Ligament sprains
These injuries are most common in canine athletes and working dogs but can affect any dog. Rehabilitation is typically the treatment of choice in these patients. A comprehensive rehab program can speed recovery for dogs with either acute injuries or more chronic/ongoing soft tissue injuries.
- Interbertebral disc disease
- Fibrocartilagenous embolism
- Lumbosacral disease
- Wobbler’s syndrome
- Degenerative myelopathy
Osteoarthritis/Degenerative Joint Disease
Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs and cats. It results from a gradual loss of the protective cartilage lining within a joint with time and can be a debilitating condition. Rehabilitation cannot cure osteoarthritis but is an excellent tool in managing this condition. Pain management, therapeutic exercises designed to strengthen appropriate supporting muscles and underwater treadmill therapy can optimize quality of life in arthritic pets
Obesity is a medical condition which affects a significant percentage of pets. Dogs and cats who carry excess weight have a reduced life expectancy and are at risk for increased health problems such as osteoarthritis, type II diabetes, cranial cruciate ligament injury, and cardiopulmonary disease. Fortunately, implementation of a rehab or fitness/conditioning program (the latter being appropriate for obese pets who do not have any concurrent conditions) can turn a heavy pet into a fit pet! Underwater treadmill sessions and therapeutic exercise, combined with dietary adjustments, can make a world of difference to the health and longevity of these pets.
Cats with orthopedic or neurological conditions can benefit from physical rehabilitation in the same way that dogs can. In fact, they respond very well to some forms of manual therapy as well as to low-level LASER therapy. Options for pain control are typically more limited in cats (compared to dogs). Fortunately, many cats suffering from painful conditions such as osteoarthritis show significant improvement in comfort and mobility with low-level LASER treatments and thermotherapy. While it can be a bit more difficult to convince cats that therapeutic exercise is beneficial, the Rehabilitation Therapist can adapt certain exercises to fit into playtime with your cat. Some cats are even great candidates for hydrotherapy in the underwater treadmill!