The newest veterinary prescription: physical therapy and rehabilitation for pets

By Dr. Latimer

The next time you visit your veterinarian, don’t be surprised if your pet gets a prescription for some form of physical therapy! Physical therapy and rehabilitation is a rapidly growing area of expertise in veterinary medicine- and it is gaining world-wide acceptance and support. Physical therapy is common in human medicine, and veterinary practitioners of animal therapy say that the benefits for their patients are remarkable – so much so that a prescription for physical therapy may be the newest standard of care for pets.

The demand for physical therapy and rehabilitation has grown dramatically during the past few years due to several factors. First, there have been extraordinary advances in veterinary medicine and surgery such as total hip replacement procedures which are becoming much more common. Sophisticated diagnostic procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging, arthroscopy, and tomography pave the way for even greater surgical advances, and these techniques demand expertise in rehabilitation therapy to help contribute to post-operative success.

Dogs now enjoy agility, herding, and even the “extreme games” for dogs which demand greater athletic expectations…and a higher level of care when these athletes become injured.

The third reason for the interest in veterinary physical therapy may well be the most important of all. Our pets- especially dogs, cats, and horses enjoy much longer lives than ever before. The geriatric pet population is growing dramatically, and concerned owners want their pets to benefit from the positive rewards provided by physical therapy for such age-related problems as arthritis, certain neurological conditions, obesity, and to help maintain overall quality of life. In fact, the response has been so favourable that physical therapy – when prescribed by a veterinarian is even covered by pet health insurance.

The interest in rehabilitation for animals is generating wide-spread excitement. A recent article in Veterinary Practice News magazine featured animal rehabilitation and physical therapy. Specialists in this new field have now published textbooks, and there is a growing number of training programs available to veterinarians and veterinary technicians at veterinary schools. Major veterinary conferences, such as Western Veterinary Conference – the largest in the world – now have entire tracks devoted to equine and canine physical therapy, and there is a strong effort to develop certification standards, and a possible specialty board.

Most veterinarians in Kingston are now incorporating rehabilitation into their standard of care. Professional sports stars have used these therapies for years- with great results- shouldn’t we do at least this much for our animal patients?”

Dr. Jeff Latimer is the owner of the Princess Animal Hospital, and can be reached at 613.634.7123 or by email at jeff@princessanimalhospital.com.