Rehabilitation in Pets

Considering the insidious nature of osteoarthritis, the months or years of onset lead to increasing levels of disability, it often amazes owners that anything can be done to roll back the effects of the disease. Osteoarthritis is what happens after the cartilage in joints degrades to the point of bone rubbing on bone.  This can happen through an injury, developmental malformation, disease, or simply by continuous wear. This bone-on-bone rubbing can lead to increased bone formation, and rubbing between bones in the joint. Bones feel pain actively, and this rubbing and increased bone formation can lead to inflammation in and around the joint. At this point, the pain cascade has been activated, and any movement can lead to increased pain, yet maintaining activity is vital to ensuring the patient stays strong! Oftentimes, drugs are utilized to that end, however, these drugs do have drawbacks – as they can cause liver dysfunction with continued usage. One thing we can now offer is rehabilitation medicine.

Rehabilitation medicine is often used to help maintain and decrease weight, increase movement and strength, and even treat pain to improve mobility. If you were to chose rehabilitation therapy, your pet would be carefully assessed by a veterinarian before beginning any new treatment modalities, including Blood Work, x-rays, and maybe other diagnostic tools – ensuring we know where we are starting and what conditions we are treating. A careful rehabilitation assessment will be the next step. Your pet’s joint movements, muscle mass, gait (way of walking), strength, and reflexes would be assessed. Once modalities are chosen, targeted areas might receive laser therapy for decreasing inflammation, ultrasound for warming, neuromuscular electrical stimulation for muscle strengthening, and balance and proprioceptive exercises to help with agility, strength, and overall movement. In some situations, various kinds of movement games, swimming, and even an underwater treadmill are used.

Rehabilitation medicine can make a significant difference to your pet when he or she has osteoarthritis! While the program cannot totally erase the negative effects of arthritis on the body, rehabilitation may slow the progression of osteoarthritis and help your pet to regain movement and flexibility lost over years – and maintain the capacity for life with vigor!