Frequently asked questions
Q: Will insurance cover my pet’s treatment? How do I arrange this?
A. Physiotherapy is generally covered by pet insurance for diagnosed health conditions. It may be part of ‘complementary treatment’ or part of the main Veterinary fees; this varies depending upon the insurance company and should be mentioned in the terms and conditions of your policy. Your insurer should be happy to discuss your coverage with you if you are not sure.
We ask that you pay for sessions at the time, and then reclaim this cost from your insurer afterwards. We will issue you invoices monthly (or more frequently on request) so that you can claim this back, and are happy to sign/complete insurance paperwork if your insurance company requests this.
Q. How many sessions are likely to be needed to improve my animal’s health, and how frequently will my animal need sessions?
A. This varies depending upon the health condition(s) that your animal has, and your personal circumstances. We can be particularly flexible regarding the number of sessions if you are paying ‘out of pocket’ (without insurance); please feel free to speak to us about this. We feel that any physiotherapy treatment is better than no physiotherapy treatment, so we will work with you to find what suits you and your animal.
Sessions tend to be more frequent to start with, whilst you and your animal get used to the treatment and exercise prescription. Over time, they become less frequent, and then stop when you and the Physio feel that the animal has progressed to a suitable point. If ad-hoc sessions are then needed again in the future, these can be booked in as needed.
With long-term conditions (such as neurological conditions) or those that may slowly worsen over time (such as osteoarthritis), treatment may take longer, or can continue indefinitely (if animal and owner are willing) to improve the animal’s quality of life as it becomes older.
Q. Can I make an appointment outside 9-5 working hours?
A. Yes. We have a small number of appointments available in the early evenings for people who are usually at work 9-5.
Q. Will my Vet need to agree to you treating my animal?
A. If your animal has a diagnosed health condition then your usual Vet will need to agree to formally refer the animal to us for treatment due to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. This is generally a simple process and is either arranged by us (after you give us your Vet’s details) or animals can be referred directly to us by your Vet.
If your animal does not have any diagnosed health conditions and you would like general advice on maintaining musculoskeletal health and fitness, or you would like a fittening/maintenance programme for your sporting animal, Veterinary referral is no longer required. However, if any undiagnosed health conditions are seen during treatment, your animal will be referred back to the Vet for an assessment and we will not carry out treatment.
Q. How long do your sessions take and what do they involve?
A. Initial sessions take from 1.5 to 2 hours, although a lot of this time is spent taking a thorough history about your animal’s health, Vet treatment, exercise regime, lifestyle, and the home environment. Subsequent sessions range from 1 to 1.5 hours, depending upon the complexity of the case and the animal’s behaviour.
Sessions involve assessment of your animal’s movement, function and lifestyle and advising you on the best way to manage them to allow recovery and support their health. Treatment involves hands-on therapies such as joint movements, stretches, and massage, and may include teaching you similar basic techniques to support your animal between sessions.
Exercise prescription is a vital part of sessions; we teach you to carry out a tailored exercise plan to allow your animal to become stronger and more functional between sessions. We then check you/your animal’s progress with this in following sessions to ensure that this is most effective.
We also use electrotherapies such as laser therapy, pulsed-magnetic field therapy, and TENS/NMES to reduce inflammation/pain/discomfort and support muscle strengthening, nerve regrowth and bone healing.
Q. What reports/notes will I get from my sessions?
After your initial session you will receive a detailed report by email which covers the history we took, our clinical findings, and treatment (such as environmental/lifestyle recommendations and exercise prescription). After each subsequent session, notes are sent by email which include clinical findings, exercise prescription changes (including photos taken in the session), and any suggestions to support your animal’s health and recovery.
Q: My animal is excitable/nervous/fearful/aggressive: can he or she still have treatment?
A: Yes. Our knowledge of animal behaviour and willingness to take the time to build trust with these animals is a speciality at Shackleton Veterinary Physiotherapy. We use modern techniques e.g. positive reinforcement (such as the use of food rewards) and slow introductions to ensure that treatment occurs at the animal’s pace and is safe for the Physio, owner and animal. Physiotherapy treatment should be flexible, kind, force-free, and animals should be willing participants; this is the most ethical approach and ensures that treatment is most effective.
Q. Will you speak to my Vet about anything that you find/treat in sessions?
A. Yes. The Vet will receive clinical notes and a treatment plan after your initial session, and (if required) any requests to assess a particular problem area or discuss Veterinary treatment options with you. In later sessions, we contact your Vet as needed to discuss your animal’s progress.
Q. Will I need to get any special equipment for my pet’s treatment?
A. Possibly – whilst we provide all the treats, electrotherapies and exercise prescription equipment used in sessions, sometimes we recommend that owners buy equipment such as wobble cushions, balance pads, or cones/poles so that they can carry out exercises between sessions. We always aim to recommend the best value options in this case, and you may be able to reclaim the cost of the equipment from your insurance company.
Q. Are you a member of any professional organisations and are you insured?
A. We are members of IRVAP (Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists). We are insured to treat domestic animals (dogs, cats, horses, rabbits etc) and exotics/zoo species by Towergate Insurance.
Q: Which animals do you treat most commonly/have you treated in the past?
A: We most commonly treat dogs and cats, and regularly treat other small animals such as rabbits. We occasionally treat horses and prefer to use positive reinforcement-based handling/treatment for this.
We also treat various exotic and zoo clients, which have included tapir, giraffes, sea-lions, coati, giant tortoises, equids, and pet exotics (bearded dragons, tegu, tenrec). We are some of the very few Vet Physios in the UK who are insured to treat exotic/zoo animals due to our past work with exotic species.
Q. How does your treatment of exotics/zoo species differ to that of pets?
We are fully versed in protected-contact protocols and the use of modern zoo training techniques such as target-training and co-operative care. We only use hands-on treatment techniques when animals are habituated to human contact and this will not cause them stress. With animals in protective contact, we use target-training, environmental modification, and lifestyle management in order to achieve long-lasting rehabilitation. We will never sedate animals for treatment and aim to treat safely and ethically, supporting natural behaviour.
Q. Why is Shackleton Veterinary Physiotherapy insured to treat exotic/zoo animals, and most other therapists are not?
As the treatment of exotic/zoo animals is not covered on courses for veterinary physiotherapists and other musculoskeletal therapists, insurance companies do not generally cover them to treat these animals. Most musculoskeletal therapists are not aware of this. Additionally, only one insurance company may insure musculoskeletal therapists for the treatment of other species, after reviewing of their CVs to assess their past experience with these species.
Due to our past experience (working as Zookeepers, teaching Zoo management at university level, conducting research in zoo animal lameness, teaching CPD for zoo and veterinary professionals), our insurance company deemed that we would be covered for the treatment of exotic pets and zoo animals.
Q. What is the difference between physiotherapy and hydrotherapy?
A. Hydrotherapy occurs in water, in either a pool or an underwater treadmill, and hydrotherapists are only qualified to carry out treatment in the water, rather than on dry land. Hydrotherapy can be excellent for improving muscle strength, fitness and encouraging the range-of-motion of certain joints, due to the properties of the water.
However, hydrotherapy is not suitable for all health conditions, and as movement in the water is different to movement on land, it is important to use land-based rehabilitation techniques (such as physiotherapy) in conjunction with hydrotherapy.
Q. What is your current policy on COVID-19?
A. We wear masks when inside clients’ homes in order to reduce any risk of spreading viruses between clients. You are welcome to wear/not wear masks during sessions, but we do ask that you cancel your session if you have any symptoms of/test positive for COVID-19.
Q. Do you offer work experience to students?
A. We provide clinical placements to Veterinary Physiotherapy students from the University of Nottingham and other Veterinary Physiotherapy courses by arrangement; please contact us to discuss this.
Unfortunately, this means that we do not have any space available for students from non-Vet Physio courses.
Veterinary Physiotherapy as a profession
Q. What is a Veterinary/Animal Physiotherapist?
A. A Vet/Animal Physio is similar to a human Physiotherapist, but he/she has trained specifically to work with animals. There are a number of courses that people can take to train as a Vet Physio, however, course quality varies considerably and as the industry is not currently regulated, anyone may call themselves a Veterinary/Animal Physiotherapist.
Q. How does a Vet Physio differ from a Vet/Vet Nurse?
A. Vet Physios are not Vets or Vet Nurses, and vice versa: the courses that each of these professionals did to qualify focused on different assessments and treatments (although there is some overlap in some areas). Unlike a Vet, a Vet Physio cannot diagnose conditions, and instead must refer an animal back to the Vet if he or she notices that there could be an undiagnosed problem. Vet Physio is designed to work in conjunction with your animal’s usual Veterinary care.
Q. How does a Vet Physio differ from an animal Osteopath/Chiropractor?
A. All of these professionals should treat soft-tissues (e.g. muscles, tendons and ligaments) as well as hard-tissues (e.g. bones and joints). However, the techniques used to treat these areas vary, and physiotherapy tends to focus more on exercise prescription to create long-lasting improvements, as without building strength and returning function, manual treatments from any kind of therapist will only have short term results (for chronic issues).