Physical therapy for EVERY dog
My name is Jennifer Hinchly and I am a qualified, insured and registered Veterinary Physiotherapist at Brize Veterinary Physiotherapy www.BrizeVetPhysio.com, based in Brize Norton, west Oxfordshire. I assess and treat all types of dog, horse, cat, rabbit or other small animal.
As long-time fans of Liberty Orchard with my playful ex-street dogs Peanut and Pebbles, and older family dog Flick, I wanted to share a small insight into how physiotherapy can be tailored to suit all dogs no matter their history, temperament, behaviour, or preferences.
I am excited to be working with the team at Liberty Orchard and keep an eye out on the website for some exciting sessions to come as lockdown eases.
Have you ever noticed a change in your dog's movement?
Perhaps a stiffness after exercise, a behavioural change, or they can’t get into the car like they used to? Have they had an injury or surgery? Do they seem just ‘not quite right’?
These are all common issues that I see in dogs on a regular basis.
As a Veterinary Physiotherapist, I am a part of the wider veterinary team that supports owners and their dogs. Whether young or old, small or large, sociable or nervous, a pet, athlete or working, or anything in between, physiotherapy can be tailored to help prevent injury, manage pain and restore function. In collaboration with Liberty Orchard, there are many exercises that can be practised at the Orchard which can help with your dog’s movement.
What is veterinary physiotherapy?
Veterinary physiotherapy is all about optimising wellness for our animals. Our job is to keep animals as comfortable as possible, doing the activities they enjoy, for as long as possible. We do this by helping to prevent injury, assisting with management of pain or discomfort, and supporting return to functional movement following injury, surgery, or disease.
Whether it is giving puppies the best start in life through expert advice on appropriate exercise, assisting older pets as they age, helping those needing rehabilitation after injury or surgery or keeping sporting and working dogs fit and healthy, veterinary physiotherapy can benefit all dogs.
Much of my caseload is supporting older dogs in their golden years. Sam is a regular patient; he had hip dysplasia as a young dog, and now at ten years old has osteoarthritis in multiple joints causing significant pain. His treatment includes massage, stretching, therapeutic laser and controlled exercise. His dedicated owners have acted on advice regarding home adaptations such as raised bowls to make it easier for him to eat and drink, and rugs on tiled flooring to prevent slipping and further injury. Sam’s increased willingness to join his family for walks, improvement in muscle mass and quality of functional movements such as sit tell us that he is responding well to treatment, and his family are delighted that he is feeling so much better.
Having been faced with difficult decisions surrounding my own dogs’ care before I became a Veterinary Physiotherapist, I want to be able to support and empower owners with the knowledge they need to help their dog between appointments and long term.
Your Veterinary Physiotherapist is there to support you as much as your dog, including helping you to understand their diagnosis, loan of exercise equipment and electrotherapies, expert advice on management and home modification, manageable and achievable home exercise plans, ideas of how to make treatment cost effective and a listening ear when you need it.
Physiotherapy is often covered by insurance, so do check your policy.
What happens at an appointment?
Prior to your appointment I will seek delegation of treatment from your vet; this is a legal requirement that allows me an insight into your dog’s medical history, medications and determine there is no reason they should not receive treatment.
Your appointment will be a mobile appointment in your home, garden or at Liberty Orchard. This allows me to cater for all dogs, helping to ensure that they feel comfortable and confident in their surroundings. It is always my aim to work with an animal to achieve best results.
I will take a detailed history, and we will discuss your goals. I will then assess your dog's movement, followed by a hands-on assessment. Treatment is clinically reasoned and may include manual therapies such as massage, electrotherapies, heat/cold therapy, and exercise prescription.
But my dog doesn’t like being handled?
All dogs are individual; therefore all veterinary physiotherapy appointments are tailored to the dog and their needs. One of the reasons I take a detailed history is to find out how your dog might respond to assessment and treatment, so that I can work in a way that is comfortable for them.
For example, it is not uncommon for dogs to not like their paws being touched. That may alter how I hold a limb, or whether any paws need to be touched at all. We can build confidence for future sessions through positive reinforcement at the dog’s pace as appropriate.
Body language and behavioural signs are key to reading an animal’s response to treatment. Every stage of assessment and treatment can be modified. When I take a history, I ask what motivates your dog, so whether it is praise, play, food or something else, we can work with that to help build a relationship, confidence and trust.
Some dogs may need short ‘meet and greet’ familiarisation sessions before an assessment or treatment can be done, others I treat outside primarily through controlled exercise because that is what works for them and their owner.
Safety always comes first, so I will work with you to ensure that your dog, you, and I are kept safe throughout.
How often should my dog see a Veterinary Physiotherapist?
Recommended frequency of treatment is determined by several factors including age, activity, conformation, diagnosis, history of prior injuries, stage of healing (if injured) and budget. If there are any barriers to accessing treatment when needed, do discuss this with your Veterinary Physiotherapist as there are often many alternatives that we can suggest for you to do at home to support your dog.
For maintenance or general musculoskeletal health checks for pet dogs where there is no concern, it is generally recommended that dogs under the age of six have check-ups every six months, and over six years of age every 3-4 months. This is however a very rough guide and will be variable depending on the dog.
Some dogs that take part in sports might be assessed every 4-6 weeks to ensure they are fit for their activities; some pet dogs might have maintenance check-ups every 6-12 months. Dogs recovering from surgery, or an injury such as cruciate ligament rupture/repair, may be treated weekly for a month, followed by quarterly checks. A spinal cord injury such as a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) may need more frequent support initially, and then be discharged from treatment when they recover.
For more hints and tips follow @BrizeVetPhysio on Facebook and Instagram. If you have any questions or comments please get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text/WhatsApp 07561030179. Check out Liberty Orchard Secure Dog Walking Field too at www.libertyorchard.net, @ https://www.facebook.com/libertyorchard/ or contact Sarah at email@example.com.
Impact of Covid-19: all appointments are risk assessed according to RCVS, AHPR and Government guidelines, with appropriate safeguards in place. Further details and policy available at www.BrizeVetPhysio.com.