National PT Month:
Physical therapy has long been an accepted standard of care in human medicine to enhance recovery after orthopedic or neurologic surgery, expedite healing after an injury, decrease pain in arthritic joints, and maximize the return to full mobility and function. Only recently have these same rehabilitation techniques that work so well on humans been applied to our four-legged family members. With a little modification for the musculoskeletal differences, what works for us also works for our pets!
VCA employs physical therapists and veterinarians with advanced certification in animal rehabilitation to work on your best friend. After a thorough evaluation, your rehabilitation therapist may utilize a number of different treatment techniques and modalities including manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, gait training, neuromuscular re-education, hydrotherapy, laser, therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, heat and/or cold therapy, and acupuncture. In some cases, assistive devices such as boots, slings, harnesses, wheelchairs (carts), orthotics or prosthetics may be required.
Here is a great example of a pet that benefitted from physical rehabilitation treatments:
“George” was a 6 month old Golden Retriever who was hit by a car. This resulted in multiple rib fractures, bruising of his lungs, and severe nerve damage (brachial plexus avulsion) to his right front limb. George had no sensation and no functional use of the right front limb. He dragged his paw underneath him when he walked (see video #1). George’s owner was advised to amputate the damaged limb, but he opted to try rehabilitation instead.
Over the next 5 months, George was treated with manual therapy, laser therapy, acupuncture, neuromuscular re-education, therapeutic exercise, electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill, gait training, and was fitted with a custom orthotic (brace) for his front limb. Here’s George walking in the underwater treadmill: video #2. Despite his water-loving lineage, he panicked when the water level was raised, so we kept the water level low.
Here’s George walking outside: video #3
George is now a beautiful, full grown 2 year old dog who is walking on all 4 limbs!
Click to view video: