Physio can work wonders for dogs

Canine physiotherapy
Canine physiotherapy

Earlier this month, Alnorthumbria Vets held an event at the Pegasus Centre, near Morpeth, to highlight the benefits of physiotherapy for dogs, both in the training of performance dogs and in the treatment and rehabilitation of muscle and joint injuries and degenerative disease such as arthritis.

The event was well attended, with more than 80 dog owners and enthusiasts listening to informative presentations by physiotherapist Hazel Potter and vets Jess Bedwell and Simon Caple.

The highlights were probably the practical demonstrations of some physiotherapy techniques and exercises, made all the more interesting by the rather variable degree of co-operation from the canine patients drafted in for the event.

Arthritis is a common problem in both pets and working dogs, but their active lives can be prolonged by a combination of medication and physiotherapy, and, if appropriate, weight loss through diets.

Simon and Jess used x-ray images to show the joint damage associated with arthritis and explained some of the medical and surgical treatments available.

Hazel then described some simple exercises and routines to improve mobility, both in the long term for chronic problems and in the shorter term for post-operative recovery.

One case that she presented was a little dog with profound hind limb paralysis following a disc prolapse that had undergone emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord. Hazel had worked with the dog’s owners to provide physiotherapy support, which enabled a slow, but sure return of function until the little chap was shown running and playing with his brother three months after his op. That’s a remarkable tribute to the surgeon, the physiotherapist and the dog’s powers of recovery.

Agility and flyball competitions are increasing in popularity. Like any athletic activity, in humans as well as animals, the muscles and joints can be subjected to a fair bit of punishment, and Hazel emphasised the importance of proper warm-up and cool-down periods before and after training and competition.

Injuries can still happen, but with prompt and proper veterinary and physiotherapy support, our canine athletes will stand a better chance of returning to peak performance as soon as possible.