As a physio I am unable to treat your pet without the consent of your vet. Why? You may ask. Well there are a variety of reasons and all are for the best interests of your pet.
Firstly, I have to abide by the Veterinary Surgeon’s Act (1966) which is a document that provides guidance on the treatment of animals and forms a professional code of conduct for vets. This document specifies what is classed as veterinary surgery and what procedures can be carried out by certain individuals.
The section applying to physiotherapy states:
19.12 The Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962 allows for the treatment of animals by physiotherapy, provided that the animal has first been seen by a veterinary surgeon who has diagnosed the condition and decided that it should be treated by physiotherapy under his/her direction.
19.13 'Physiotherapy' is interpreted as including all kinds of manipulative therapy. It therefore includes osteopathy and chiropractic but would not, for example, include acupuncture or aromatherapy.
Secondly, by gaining this permission I am able to liaise with your vet in order to provide a treatment plan for your pet. This may involve accessing your pet’s veterinary history that is relevant to their condition and sending your vet regular reports to update on progress.
In some cases animals may suffer from conditions that mean that physiotherapy or certain aspects of physiotherapy are actually contraindicated. For example some electrotherapies should not be used if your pet has a metal implant or pacemaker.
Thirdly, your pet may suffer an illness or injury not related to the problem they were referred to the physiotherapist for during the course of treatments. In this instance the physiotherapist may refer you back to your vet for diagnosis or speak to your vet regarding the condition before performing further treatments.
If you feel that your pet would benefit from physiotherapy assessment and treatment you can find a physiotherapist and ask your vet to refer you to them or ask your vet for a physiotherapist they recommend. In some cases such as after injury or surgery your vet may suggest physiotherapy to aid in the rehabilitation and recovery of your pet.
If you wish to get your pet treated please download the veterinary referral form and send it to your vet for approval. Most vets do not charge for this as they understand the benefits of physiotherapy for your pet.
Hip dysplasia is one of the most common orthopaedic diseases in dogs and is a degenerative condition leading to osteoarthritis, reduced mobility and can have a significant impact on quality of life.
Genetics, weight and environmental factors all have a role to play in this disease which can affect any breed but is most often seen in Labradors, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers.
A normal hip joint allows the head of the femur (ball) to sit into the acetabulum (socket). This joint has a large range of movement and allows flexion and extension of the hip joint along with a small amount of rotation and abduction and adduction (moving the limb away from and towards the body).
The joint is supported and stabilised by the surrounding muscles, ligaments and tendons which allow movement but can also restrict incorrect movement.
In the dog with hip dysplasia the head of the femur and/or the acetabulum have developed abnormally and do not have the smooth rounded surfaces of the normal joint.
The muscles, ligaments and tendons that surround and support the joints are also affected. They become weak due to improper use and over time this weakness allows the joint to become unstable as the supporting tissues are unable to provide the structure and stability the joint requires.
Dogs with hip dysplasia may show signs from as young as 5-6 months or into middle aged to later years. Those affected often develop an abnormal gait which may be as subtle as stiffness when first rising but improves with exercise to difficulty running, negotiating stairs or limping. When running, dogs affected often demonstrate a ‘bunny hopping gait’ where both hind limbs move together. Changes in behaviour and temperament may also be seen as your dog copes with pain or tries to adapt to the condition and their environment.
Due to the abnormal movement of the joint, cartilage which protects, nourishes and cushions the joints begins to be damaged and wear away. Inflammation in and around the joint occurs as the body attempts to heal the damage and pain develops due arthritic changes, stretching of nerve endings and the inflammatory process.
There are many things you as an owner can do to help manage this disease and make your dog more comfortable. Firstly always follow advice from your vet once the condition has been diagnosed. They may suggest surgery, pain relief or conservative management.
Excess weight puts more pressure on already weakened joints therefore keeping your dog at his ideal weight can help to alleviate some of the signs of this disease. You may also find your dog is more prone to putting on weight as they are less inclined to exercise. Regularly weigh your pet and check their body condition score to spot any changes and adjust their food accordingly. The staff at your local veterinary surgery may hold regular weight clinics to offer advice and support as canine nutrition is a minefield of information.
Many dogs with hip dysplasia benefit from frequent short walks instead of one long one. This helps to prevent them stiffening up through the day and means they do not overtire themselves.
In cold weather consider investing in a coat for your pet. By keeping the muscles warm you can help to reduce pain and keep your pet more comfortable.
Consider your dog’s home environment, do they have to negotiate slippery laminate or tiled floors? Do they struggle to do stairs to sleep upstairs? Is their bed padded and comfortable?
Physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and massage are often prescribed as part of the management of this disease and can help to alleviate pain, strengthen muscles and improve mobility. Specific exercises may be prescribed that target your dog’s weakened muscles and a home care plan can be discussed that fits your lifestyle and your pet’s needs.
Recent clients have got me thinking about recognising pain in our horses. I always feel that as the horse's owner/trainer/rider you often know your horse the best and can pick up on subtle signs that tings just aren't quite right sometimes before anything major presents itself.
However, pain can be expressed in a variety of ways. I have recently seen several horses with muscular tenderness and spasm in their backs that have shown it in different ways. One had started bucking when the girth was tightened, another was hanging onto the left rein and lacked inmpulsion, a third was now working better on what thier owner often thought of as their 'bad rein' than their 'good rein'.
As prey animal horses are very good at hiding pain and quite often the signs they are showing are subtle.
As horse owners we tend to be aware of the signs of pain shown when a horse has colic such as pawing at the ground, looking at the abdomen and sweating but what other signs do horses show?
As a physio one of the most common things I find with my clients and their horses is that there has been a change in the horse’s behaviour or personality. A reluctance to canter on one rein, bucking or rearing, moving away when being groomed or laying the ears back when saddled or rugged for example. The horse may or may not have lameness alongside these changes.
Horses like people have different tolerance levels of pain, we all know of a horse that only has to look at a stone to start limping!
So what other signs of pain can you look for?
If you do begin to notice any of these signs it is worth seeking the advice of a qualified professional such as your vet, physio or farrier to address any underlying problems.
Does your dog love what they do? Are they an agility angel, flyball fanatic or hardworking sheepdog?
Dogs love to have mental and physical stimulation and with so many sports owners can now get involved in there is an activity out there for every dog and owner.
Each sport has its own requirements from the stamina of CaniX to the speed and flexibility of flyball and agility or the total concentration required for obedience.
Now consider how you prepare your dog for their sport and what they do after exercise.
Do you warm them up slowly and gradually before the event incorporating some walking before upping the pace to a trot and incorporating some sport specific exercises?
Do you walk them off after their event to allow them to catch their breath and their muscles to cool down slowly?
Would you warm up and cool down a human athlete? If so, why not your dog?
A physiotherapist can help advise you on a warm up and cool down routine that suits your dog and they can help with the all important training plan if needed.
During intense activity and competition your dog is working his muscle, tendons and ligaments hard. There’s twisting and turning involved and in the case of a competition in can be a long day with multiple heats. This all puts strain and stress on your dog so why not have them regularly checked over by a qualified physiotherapist?
They can look at muscle build up, improve areas of weakness and give you exercises to perform at home to help prevent injury and maintain performance. They can also help recovery from injury, identifying areas of pain and to relax tight muscles.
We all suffer from aches and pains as we get older and lose some of that flexibility we once had and this goes for our pets as well.
Have you noticed your dog doesn’t walk as far as they used to? Your cat doesn’t sleep on the windowsill anymore? Your pet seems to be sleeping more these days?
These can all be signs that your pet is suffering from arthritis. It is always worth getting your pet checked over by the vet if they show a change in behaviour or activity levels.
If you feel your pet is slowing down or they have already been diagnosed with arthritis there are a few changes you can make to your pet’s routine to help keep them comfortable.