Animal Physiotherapy Conditions

Working with a small and large animals, registered Physical Therapist Donna LaRocque-Hennig provides a variety of animal rehabilitation services to her clients. Here are a few animal physiotherapy conditions that benefit from Donna’s expert services:

  • Soft tissue injuries – can be any injury to a muscle, ligament or a tendon. These injuries are often associated with pain and swelling. There may be some lameness. The injury may be very subtle, with the animal being just “off” or it may be readily apparent.
  • Osteoarthritis – like humans, most animals suffer from arthritis as they age or as a result of injury or surgical procedures. Arthritis in any species is always associated with pain, swelling, and decreased mobility. Animal Physiotherapy can help with maintaining joint mobility and strength thus prolonging the productive and happy life of the animal.
  • Post-operative rehabilitation for pets – this is an area of veterinarian medicine that is rapidly expanding. Veterinarians are increasing their surgical techniques to the benefit of our pets. As a result, the need for the follow-up rehabilitation has increased. After any surgery there is pain and often swelling that needs to be treated. There is usually a limitation in range of motion and strength that must be restored for the animal to return to its best function. Frequently now veterinarians are giving people good basic information on how care for their animal immediately after surgery. There is starting to be less focus on crate rest and more focus on earlier weight bearing. This is of great benefit to recovery. What is sometime lacking is the detail in what exercises to do and how much weight bearing is a good thing. This is where a physical therapist or veterinarian trained specifically in rehabilitation is of great value.
  • Canine hip dysplasia – is not as uncommon in canines as we would like it to be. Breeders are making great efforts to eliminate this disorder but we are not there yet. The first clinical signs often show up in very young puppies before any indications on x-ray. Good management at that point can prevent more severe problems later. Management consists of dealing with the clinical symptoms and developing a good exercise program to build and maintain the supporting hip strength throughout the dog’s life time.
  • Pet elbow dysplasia – again like hip dysplasia is not as uncommon as we are working on it being. It is treated in much the same way as hip dysplasia with the emphasis being on treating the acute flares and prevention of ongoing flares and long term management.
  • Muscle strains – happen in animals the same way they happen in humans. The muscle is asked to do a task that exceeds the load limit for that muscle, either very quickly or over a period of time. In the first instance, it is a sudden strain and in the second it is an overuse, repetitive type of strain. The first is usually quite easy to spot – the animal was doing very well, running around, having fun, performing well and then there was a sudden event, and the animal then changed. In the second instance, the onset is more gradual. Slowly over time, the animal just doesn’t seem to be doing as well or its starts to favour one limb or doesn’t like to move in a certain pattern but nothing is really obvious initially until the pain and discomfort becomes too great. The treatment also differs for both types of muscle strain and must be individually developed based on an accurate diagnosis of the muscle involved and the type of strain.
  • Ligament injuries – ligament injuries in animals can be an acute sprain or a chronic degeneration over time or a combination of both. They require careful assessment and treatment planning. Sometimes they can be managed conservatively but sometimes as in the case of an ACL or CCL rupture they may need surgical management followed by a very good Animal rehabilitation program specifically designed with the needs of your animal companion in mind. The rehab program for a 12 year old golden retriever who’s only job is to lay by your feet and offer encouragement is much different than the rehab program of a 3 year old border collie agility world champion.;
  • Post fracture Animal Rehabilitation – will almost always be associated with weakness and limited range of motion which need to treated to restore the animal to its best possible function. Often the animal will developed an abnormal gait pattern which will need to be corrected. Proprioception may be altered and need to be rehabbed.
  • Neurological conditions – there are many neurological conditions which can affect animals with minor to catastrophic results. Physical therapy can assist in the rehabilitation of most neurological conditions. The treatment program will vary with condition and prognosis and must be individually planned.
  • Animal General Debility – sometimes an animal will just become weak due to illness or age or lack of exercise or weight issues and professional help is necessary to safely restore the animal to fitness again. An assessment and exercise program developed by a physical therapist trained to work with animals can make the journey back to good health much safer.
  • Pet Sports injuries – can and do encompass any and all of the above. The difference in the treatment is that there is particular focus on returning the animal to its sporting condition and this may entail a higher level of training and rehabilitation. The program must also be sport specific.
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