Who let the dogs out... who-who-who?
Physical rehabilitation is becoming increasingly popular in veterinary medicine and benefits many of our patients in recovery from orthopedic intervention and in various neurological situations. Many of our weight challenged patients can also benefit from the added calorie burn that directed exercise and water resistance can provide in the aquatic treadmill.
Physical rehabilitation (physical therapy is a term used by our human colleagues and they prefer that we not use that term) is recommended for patients both dogs, and yes, even cats, with chronic osteoarthritis. Many times we can use the water treadmill also as a swimming exercise plan for the smaller patients. Physical rehabilitation helps to improve mobility, decrease and relieve pain, return patients to normal activities of daily living, and return to normal muscle mass and coordination after either acute debilitation and/or chronic hospitalization.
The first step in a planned program is to evaluate the patient and set goals. This evaluation is performed with information provided and concerns expressed by the pet parent. It is important to maintain adequate control of pain during this process. Each patient will have a unique program designed with exercises, balance/walking challenges and training, plus strength training and aquatic exercise. Many patients will need re-evaluations as their abilities and strengths increase or as waists decrease with weight loss programs. Patient progress and assessment of treatment outcomes are essential to determine how effective a program is and what adjustments need to be made with each progressive step (literally and figuratively). Personalities of the patients may differ and may respond to various therapies in both positive and negative ways. It is important to note that this a collaboration of the pet and the owner and our doctors and team to provide reasonable expectations for a desired outcome.