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What is Veterinary Physiotherapy?

How can it help your animal?


General pets


Aims include assessment of health and application of preventative treatment/exercise to delay age-related pain.


Elderly animals


Maintain function and hopefully improve locomotion, relief of arthritis and improve circulation.


Paralysed animals


Depending on the case a variety of mental and physical stimulation can be applied to maintain body function and muscle tone, and hopefully return some degree of function.


Injured or post-operative animals


Whether an animal has received an injury or is recovering from an operation, a VP can in conjunction with vets provide pain relief and aid the healing process with a variety of manual and electronic therapies.


Sporting animals

Treat related injury, maintain or build fitness levels, to minimise injury.


Home management

A Vet Physio can give guidance on how best to manage the home environment, for pets suffering from long-term illness


chance rescue rehabilitation physiotherapy, Matthew Shackleton, Veterinary Physiotherapy
Chance was barely a year old when he was found abandoned in a park; he had been very badly hurt, and was suffering from a variety of issues, such as a dislocated elbow, fractured skull, and damaged stifle ligaments.
He was barely able to walk in the beginning, but with his amazing personality, supportive owners and full veterinary team and intensive physiotherapy, he really turned a corner. 
His programme included:
  • Environmental and
       management guidance
  • Enrichment advice
  • Exercise prescription
  • Owner guidance to complete
       daily therapies e.g. massage
  • Manual treatment

Case study

What is Veterinary Physiotherapy, and how can it help your animal?


A Veterinary Physiotherapist (Vet Physio) is simply an animal-based physiotherapist. The role of a vet physio is to identify dysfunction within movement or anatomical abnormalities (such as asymmetries within muscle, tendon, ligament and bone). A VP will then apply manual and electrotherapy techniques to reduce pain and improve function, treating tissues that might be causing these abnormalities and using exercise prescription to build strength and aid the return of function.

At Shackleton Veterinary Physiotherapy, our experience working within the animal science industry has taught us the importance of environmental and behavioural management for aiding recovery; if we can modify an animal's environment and support its behavioural needs, we can increase positive outcomes. As Vet Physios, we also mimic the role of an occupational therapist; as within human medicine, we have long understood the importance of a holistic approach of environmental management, rehabilitation and mental health for improved recovery.

Assessment will include: 

  • Gait and function assessment: assessing the animal's movement for lameness or abnormalities

  • Palpation: inspecting soft and hard tissue for signs of abnormalities that may have arisen due to injury or long-term compensation

  • Range of motion: assessing joints for limitation in movement or pain

  • Assessment of activity and exercise: checking daily routines to help support a rehabilitation regime

  • Environmental assessment: assessing environmental factors that reduce risk and support recovery e.g. flooring, stairs, bedding, inclines, heating

  • Behaviour: assessing for signs of pain, and behavioural changes due to lifestyle and compensation.

Treatment will include: 

  • Manual treatment: a variety of modalities such as massage, stretches, joint range of motion and mobilisations

  • Electrotherapies: a variety of therapies are available depending on the needs of the client (LASER therapy, pulsed-magnetic field therapy, TENS and NMES)

  • Environmental management: advice and guidance on management and environmental changes to support recovery or chronic pain/lameness

  • Behavioural and enrichment advice: advice on enrichment and management strategies to reduce stress associated with pain, and facilitate recovery through physical and behavioural enrichment

  • Exercise prescription: tailor-made exercise plans that are checked and amended at each session to maintain fitness, or rehabilitate injury and disease.

  • Reassessment at the end of each session, to check the effect of treatment. 

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