Animal Physiotherapy: Assessment, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Animals
The aim of this book is to provide physiotherapists andinterested others with a broad base of information on aspects of animal physiotherapy. It begins with essential applied background information on animal behaviour, nutrition, biomechanics and exercise physiology. Following this are three chapters focusing on the assessment of the musculoskeletal and neurological systems in animals from both a veterinary and physiotherapy perspective. The next section reviews physiotherapy techniques, drawing from both the human and animal literature in their discussion. The final two chapters apply this information to an evidence-based clinical reasoning model describing the physiotherapy approaches to treatment and rehabilitation of animals, giving case examples.
Physiotherapy is an established, independent profession with an excellent reputation for evidence-based practice. In the medical field, physiotherapists form an essential part of musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiorespiratory care from paediatrics to geriatrics and sports medicine. Physiotherapy research has led human medical advancement in areas such as back and pelvic pain, whiplash and women’s health. The positive perception of physiotherapy in the human sphere, together with an increased awareness of options and expertise available for animals has resulted in a demand for physiotherapy for animals.
Animal physiotherapy is an emerging profession, representing qualified human physiotherapists who are using their skills on animals. Physiotherapists provide a functional assessment to identify pain or loss of function caused by a physical injury, disorder or disability and they use techniques to reduce pain, improve movement and restore normal muscle control for better motor performance and function. Physiotherapists can provide equivalent levels of care and follow-up treatment for their animal patients as they can for people. In small animal surgery the demand for postoperative physiotherapy has paralleled the increase in surgical options for small animal patients. Elite equine athletes and their riders now access a team of professionals including the veterinarian–animal-physiotherapist team. More and more people prefer to opt for treatments where they can see progressive results, professional teamwork and high levels of care and expertise.
Interestingly, despite the very real need for physiotherapy in animals, up until very recently there has been a lack of postgraduate-trained professionals for the application of physiotherapy to animals.
The issues are simple:
• Physiotherapy is not in veterinary curricula and is not commonly a part of veterinary medicine or surgery.
• Physiotherapy and physical therapy are protected by The Physiotherapists Registration Act (Australia)1 or equivalent.
• Veterinary diagnosis (pathoanatomical) and treatment (i.e. medical or surgical) in animals are protected by The Veterinary Surgeon’s Act (Australia)2 or equivalent.
The solution the professions have come to in many countries is also simple and relies on both veterinarians and physiotherapists continuing to practise within, and be regulated by their own profession. Physiotherapists, when working with animal patients, work on referral from a veterinary surgeon rather than autonomous first contact practice as with human patients. This new area of expertise has been embraced both by physiotherapy professional bodies and registration boards, as well as educational institutions. Leading universities in the United Kingdom and Australia have led the way in providing postgraduate university-based training for physiotherapists to specialise in treating animals. Formalised, special interest groups (SIGs) of animal physiotherapy have been established by many physiotherapy professional groups around the world; for example, the Animal Physiotherapy Group of the Australian Physiotherapy Association is one of only 12 special interest groups of the Australian Physiotherapists Association. Other SIGs have been formed in the UK, Netherlands, South Africa, Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland, Spain and other European countries. This has predominantly been occurring in the last one to two decades and numbers in these special interest groups are rapidly rising.
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