PETS NEED PHYSIOTHERAPY TOO
September 8 was World Physical Therapy Day. Dr Alopa Madane, an acclaimed physiotherapist, provides answers on why pets as well as humans may need physiotherapy to overcome pain and be successfully rehabilitated. This facility, which she offers to man’s best friend in Pune, is not yet available in Delhi or most major metros in India, leading to unnecessary suffering for our beloved pets.
Q: Do dogs require Physiotherapy after an injury or post surgery? Why?
A: Oh yes. Like humans, the recovery rate in dogs is always accelerated with the help of physiotherapy after an injury or a surgery. Dogs are playful by nature. They love running here and there, jumping, playing and being mischievous. These activities define a happy dog. Undergoing a surgery or having an injury affects this natural behaviour of dogs. Physiotherapy ensures that they gain muscle strength and joint range of motion earlier and helps them in being their playful self sooner. The benefits of physiotherapy are same for animals as they are for humans. Physiotherapy reduces their recovery time significantly and definitely improves the quality of life.
Q: When we speak of improving muscle strength, doesn't it improve on its own? Can't muscles get strong again naturally over a period of time?
A: Unfortunately no. After an injury or surgery, a muscle undergoes many changes in itself like muscle inhibition (difficulty in getting the muscle activated), muscle weakness and muscle atrophy (reduction in muscle size). These difficulties have to be tackled by specific rehabilitation techniques. If a dog is left to recover on its own after an injury or surgery by just putting him in a cage or crate to rest, the muscle inhibition will persist for a longer time, resulting in muscle weakness and atrophy.
Q: What does a typical "canine rehab protocol" look like?
A: There is NO SPECIFIC PROTOCOL as such. A canine physiotherapist must examine the patient first, get to know the history of his injury, must have knowledge about the typical day pattern of the dog, his surroundings, his breed, the activities that he typically performs throughout the day and then device a "TAILOR MADE PROGRAM" for him. Rehabilitation is the correct use of different techniques like electrotherapy, hydrotherapy (water exercises), strengthening exercises and mobility exercises (exercises to improve a joint's range of motion and flexibility in stiff joints), balance and agility exercises, specific muscle training, activity training. endurance training. etc. Therefore, rehabilitation of a dog MUST be done by a qualified physiotherapist only.
Q: How good is swimming for dogs?
A: Swimming is an excellent exercise FOR NORMAL DOGS, for dogs who have not undergone any recent surgery or who have not had any recent injury. Most of the time, people think that physiotherapy and swimming is synonymous. Well, it is DEFINITELY NOT. Many people who are working in the pet industry but are NOT from the medical field, often prescribe swimming as an exercise for any injury. What they do not understand is this may worsen the injury. Most of the healthy dogs enjoy swimming. But for an injured dog, it is a life and death situation because he knows that he is injured. The adrenaline rush may cause excessive and inappropriate movement in the injured joints, muscles and ligaments, aggravating the current injury status. A physiotherapist must check a dog's basic strength, joint mobility, ligament integrity, etc. before taking a patient dog into a pool.
Q: How is the response of the veterinary doctors to canine physiotherapy?
A: Well, its a novel and unexplored field. Quite a few veterinary doctors are open to this new field and do encourage canine rehabilitation by referring the patient for physiotherapy. Dr. Milind Hatekar (Pune), Dr. Kiran Kumar (Goa), Dr. Kunal Sharma (Delhi), Dr. Anirudh Ajjampur (Bangalore) are a few of the veterinary doctors who have trusted me and encouraged me to go ahead to create awareness about canine rehabilitation in India. I am sure there will be many other vets who believe in canine physiotherapy. And I am sure that those who are a little skeptical about referring a dog post surgery for physiotherapy will change their minds after they see the results. After all, veterinarians always work for betterment of their patients' health. They have nothing but their furry patients' best interests at heart.
Q: How do you manage to balance human and canine physiotherapy?
A: I started with my human clinic around 5 years ago. I totally love my profession and I get a lot of satisfaction when my patients get well. Passion for physiotherapy and love for animals made me think about canine rehabilitation. As of now, my weekdays are focussed on my human physiotherapy clinic and my weekends are spent for canine rehabilitation. When you have passion for the work that you are doing, you don't really get bored and you usually don't crave for a weekend or holiday.
Q: What can a pet parent do to relieve their pet's pain?
A: A pet parent can consult a physiotherapist (who has experience in veterinary rehab), to get their dog assessed, so that the physiotherapist can prescribe a simple yet effective, tailor-made exercise programme for the pet. If there is no such therapist available, they can try to take advice from their vet in this regard. The secret of a healthy muscular skeletal system is following a proper diet and giving your dog good exorcise. The exercise needs of dogs are specific to their breeds. The needs of toy breeds and hounds cannot be compared. A pet parent is expected to consult a physiotherapist (who has experience in veterinary rehab) to get their dog assessed, so that the physiotherapist can prescribe a simple yet effective, tailor-made exercise programme for the pet. Combining play activities along with daily walks is always a good idea. A pet parent should also consult a veterinary doctor so that they come to know whether their furry kid needs any supplements. Not all dogs need supplements, but it is always better to follow a regimen that is prescribed by a veterinary doctor as he or she will prescribe only what is needed.
FitPaws - Canine Physiotherapy