An Introduction to Animal Physical Therapy

Animal physical therapy is a newer form of animal health care that is becoming more and more popular among pet owners. Veterinary physical therapy is beneficial to animals that have pain or have undergone a surgical procedure.

Animals That Benefit From Physical Therapy

Many animals that suffer from neurological or orthopedic conditions and soft tissue disorders can benefit greatly from physical therapy.

After a surgical procedure, an animal that receives rehabilitation services can speed up their recovery and heal faster. The therapist will work with an animal post-surgery to make sure there are no complications from limb immobility or non-use.

The therapeutic exercises can also help animals that suffer from chronic pain, arthritis and have injuries. Animals with abnormal gaits or posture can also be treated to help them walk or stand correctly.

Animal Rehabiliation Techniques

A variety of techniques are used by physical therapists to help improve an animal's quality of life.

Hydrotherapy is used post-surgery, and helps animals lose weight or maintain strength. During hydrotherapy, an animal may be placed in a pool with the therapist. Smaller animals, such as dogs, may use a special tub that can be filled with water according to the animal's height. Animals with hip dysplasia, knee problems, spine problems or arthritis benefit from this type of rehabilitation because they are able to stretch and move in a near-weightless environment.

Many therapists offer massage services to animals. Animals that are very active benefit greatly from this as they may have a lot of tension in their muscles.

Animal physical therapists use cold and heat therapies on their clients. Cold therapy can help reduce inflammation in muscles or joints and reduce any bruising an animal may have. A cold pack will cause vasoconstriction in the area in which it is applied, thus decreasing swelling and inflammation.

Heat therapy helps relax an animal's muscles and control painful muscle spasms. Heat may be used before a massage or stretching exercises.

Electrical currents are used in animal physical therapy to help stimulate muscles and nerves. The electric current causes one or more muscles to contract, depending on where electrodes are placed. The muscles, as a result, are strengthened without the animal having to exert much effort. The electric current also increases the blood supply to the particular area, promoting healing.

Lasers may also be used to treat a variety of injuries to help an animal's body heal from within. During this painless therapy, photons of light that are not hot are absorbed into injured cells, stimulating them. This stimulation increases the cells' metabolism, causing an increase in circulation.

Physical therapy is a logical treatment for animals that are injured or are recovering from surgery. Many animal rehabilitation centers allow pet owners to board an animal during the day, while they are at work, so exercises can be done throughout the day. This specialized type of animal rehabilitation should only be performed by a licensed physical therapist that specializes in animal care.