Physical therapy for dogs is a relatively new approach that has gained a great deal of popularity in recent years. It adapts many of the same therapy techniques used for humans in order to help canines that are recovering from surgery or injury or are battling degenerative disease. It can help to improve the overall quality of life for your dog by increasing mobility and encouraging healing, which is why more and more veterinarians are leaning in this direction.
The benefits of physical therapy for animals have been well documented in Europe for more than a decade, where PT has mostly been applied to horses. Within the last five years or so, the idea has caught on in the U.S. and has grown to include therapy for dogs, cats, birds, rodents and other animals. The basic idea is to offer alternatives to standard medication where the entire body is treated as a whole rather than focusing simply on a particular condition.
To this end, there are several veterinary schools that now offer programs in canine rehabilitation. The emergence of physical therapy for dogs as a legitimate medical approach has given much hope to concerned dog owners who don't like the idea of pumping their pet full of drugs or simply watching him deal with the terrible effects of chronic pain. This is a real answer that can help alleviate pain, improve mobility and encourage proper healing from the inside out.
The various techniques used in canine PT include massage, thermo and cryotherapy, passive range of motion, balance, coordination and strengthening exercises, hydrotherapy, electrical stimulation and acupuncture. Any or all of these can be used, depending on the type of injury or medical condition your dog is suffering from and each can have a pronounced positive effect.
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As in humans, massage is employed in physical therapy for dogs in order to stimulate blood flow and relieve tension. Since it can improve almost any medical condition, it is employed in most PT routines in conjunction with other, more specific techniques. The use of heat or cold can benefit stiff, aching muscles and provide pain relief so physical therapists will apply thermo or cryotherapy as needed at the beginning or end of a therapy session.
There is a wide range of exercises employed in canine PT depending on the specific type of condition. Some help the dog to regain balance and coordination, others encourage the dog to put more weight on an injured limb to build up strength and some are designed to restore proper range of motion so that the dog can get back to normal function.
As with human therapy, one of the most popular techniques used in physical therapy for dogs is hydrotherapy. Swimming and the use of an underwater treadmill are a great way to get a dog used to using injured or painful limbs while putting less stress on the limbs. This not only helps to build up muscle but can also increase endurance as well. Electrical stimulation and acupuncture may be applied to either stimulate muscles or combat pain and promote healing.
It can be terribly frustrating and disheartening to see a once active dog, particularly an energetic breed like the Australian Shepherd, suddenly laid low by pain and discomfort. But there is no reason why your furry friend should have to endure such pain when therapy can make his life easier. If your dog is suffering, talk to your vet today and find out if physical therapy can be the answer to his problems.