Ve­teri­nary world slow to em­brace phys­i­cal ther­apy

Bray People - - LIFESTYLE - Pete Wed­der­burn

IN OR­DER to be al­lowed to con­tinue to prac­tice in Ire­land, vets need to at­tend a cer­tain amount of con­tin­u­ing educ­tion ev­ery year. The most con­ve­nient way to do this is of­ten to at­tend a con­fer­ence: a whole year of up­dat­ing can be achieved in an in­ten­sive three or four days of lec­tures.

Ir­ish vets or­gan­ise their own an­nual com­pan­ion an­i­mal (pet) con­fer­ence, with in­vited speak­ers from around the world. The next one hap­pens in Athlone, early in Fe­bru­ary. Is your lo­cal vet go­ing? And if not, why not?

Pet own­ers should try ask­ing their own vets about what sort of fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion they at­tend: we vets are of­ten keen to talk about our pro­fes­sional in­ter­ests with in­ter­ested clients, and cu­ri­ous own­ers may en­joy find­ing out what we're learn­ing.

Con­fer­ences are still the main way to dis­cover new trends in the di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment of ac­ci­dents and ill­nesses. There are plenty of other sources of in­for­ma­tion, such as books, jour­nals, and, of course, the in­ter­net. But there's some­thing about peo­ple gath­er­ing in large groups in one lo­ca­tion that has a unique value. Ideas and in­for­ma­tion can be given out more ef­fec­tively and shared more rapidly and more widely.

I at­tend at least two con­fer­ences ev­ery year, at home in Ire­land, and overseas in the UK, USA or Europe. This al­lows me to keep a close eye on the lat­est ideas that are emerg­ing across the whole area of ve­teri­nary care. Some vets have a spe­cialised role within a prac­tice, with par­tic­u­lar in­ter­ests such as orthopaedics, or fe­line medicine. My own spe­cial­ity - as a vet in prac­tice and a vet in the me­dia - is NOT to have a spe­cial­ity: I aim to learn a lit­tle about a lot, rather than a lot about a lit­tle. I try to main­tain a rea­son­able un­der­stand­ing of as many dif­fer­ent facets of pet care as pos­si­ble.

Most of­ten, new in­for­ma­tion and ideas are de­vel­op­ments of es­tab­lished dis­ci­plines: re­cently devel­oped drugs, novel sur­gi­cal tech­niques or more re­fined ways of deal­ing with dog be­hav­iour prob­lems. But from time to time, en­tirely new ways of treat­ing an­i­mals emerge. One re­cent ex­am­ple of this is the area of phys­i­cal ther­apy. Over the past five years, there have been an in­creas­ing num­ber of con­fer­ence pre­sen­ta­tions on this sub­ject, from phys­io­ther­apy to hy­drother­apy to ther­a­peu­tic mas­sage of pets.

Phys­i­cal ther­apy is well es­tab­lished in the hu­man med­i­cal world. Sur­geons are care­ful to in­struct pa­tients about its im­por­tance: if peo­ple don't fol­low up their new hip surgery with the hard work of post-op­er­a­tive ex­er­cises, their re­cov­ery will be slower and the fi­nal re­sult will not be as good.

The ve­teri­nary world has been slower to ap­pre­ci­ate the value of phys­i­cal ther­apy. Of course it's more com­pli­cated: you can't make a dog carry out twenty re­peats of knee-stretch­ing ex­er­cises, and if you tell a cat to do twice daily neck ro­ta­tions, you'll just re­ceive a bale­ful stare in re­ply. But in re­cent years, vets have re­alised that there are other ways of achiev­ing the same goal of th­ese vol­un­tary ex­er­cises.

Holly the Col­lie re­cently had an op­er­a­tion to re­pair a torn cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in her knee. Her post-op­er­a­tive care in­cluded pas­sive range of mo­tion (PROM) ex­er­cises dur­ing which her owner gen­tly flexed, ex­tended, and ro­tated her knee.

Jessie the Golden Re­triever is on pain re­lief and other drugs for the arthri­tis in her hips, but she also does so-called “ac­tive range of mo­tion ex­er­cises” dur­ing which she is en­cour­aged to move and stretch her joints. Th­ese in­clude leash walking up and down kerbs, ramps and stairs, re­peated sit-stand ex­er­cises, weav­ing through a line of poles or cones,

walking in a fig­ure-of-eight pat­tern, and walking for­wards, back­wards, and to both sides. She's also taken over short ob­sta­cle cour­ses, step­ping over hor­i­zon­tal poles set at vary­ing heights and dis­tances apart. Her owner also gives Jessie reg­u­lar mas­sages of the mus­cles around her hip, which she really seems to ap­pre­ci­ate.

Bob the Ger­man Shep­herd has been to a ve­teri­nary phys­io­ther­a­pist for as­sis­tance in re­cov­ery from a com­pli­cated frac­ture to his left back leg. He's been given ex­er­cises that are rem­i­nis­cent of those given to hu­man pa­tients, in­clud­ing

the use of phys­ioballs, where his feet are placed on a large ball that is then rolled or rocked, the use of a rocker board in a sim­i­lar way, and stand­ing on bal­ance blocks that can be slid in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. Th­ese tech­niques en­cour­age mus­cle devel­op­ment and joint flex­i­bil­ity that might never hap­pen if he just car­ried on with his usual daily rou­tines.

Jingo is a Labrador who has suf­fered from se­vere arthri­tis of her knees for sev­eral years. Her owner has found that reg­u­lar hy­drother­apy makes a big dif­fer­ence to her. She reg­u­larly vis­its the Ca­nine Hy­drother­apy and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre in County Kil­dare, where she swims in the spe­cial, 11m long, doggy swim­ming pool, fol­lowed by ses­sions on an

un­der­wa­ter tread­mill. The tech­niques al­low her to ex­er­cise her mus­cles while the water sup­ports the weight of her body, min­imis­ing the stress on her creaky, arthritic joints.

Th­ese are just a few ex­am­ples of the ways that phys­i­cal ther­apy can help pets: there are many more pos­si­bil­i­ties. If you feel that your pet could ben­e­fit from this type of treat­ment, ask your lo­cal vet. And if nec­es­sary, ask your vet to re­fer you to a ve­teri­nary phys­io­ther­a­pist.

Phys­i­cal ther­apy is just one of the lat­est “new de­vel­op­ments” in the ve­teri­nary world: I won­der what new trend will emerge from my ve­teri­nary con­fer­ence trips dur­ing this coming year?

For more about the up­com­ing con­fer­ence for Ir­ish pet vets, visit www.vet­eri­naryire­land.ie

This dog is be­ing made to en­dure range-of-mo­tion ex­er­cises - no more fun than a hu­man hav­ing to do the same sort of thing them­selves!

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