Currently, it is common for physiotherapists to have their own practices and work from the referrals of multiple veterinarians for a limited number of conditions. Some veterinary practices, however, have embraced physiotherapy, adding a rehabilitation therapist to the practice team. In this way, they optimize the skills, knowledge and effects of both the veterinarian and physiotherapist, and bring about the best possible result for every patient.
There are many good reasons why every veterinary practice should have an inhouse physiotherapist:
Number one on my list of benefits of an inhouse physio is pain control. Physiotherapists and their modalities can significantly improve pain control in a number of cases, thus reducing the use of medications such as opioids and non-steroidal drugs. This applies to post-surgery cases, to chronic arthritis, soft tissue injuries, abnormal gait patterns, compensatory pain, overuse injuries, neurological injuries … the list goes on. If a patient is experiencing pain, chances are that far better control will be attained by incorporating physiotherapy into the management plan.
The addition of a physiotherapist to your team will mean expanded options of treatment for degenerative conditions, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and arthritis. These chronic, debilitating conditions are best managed with a multimodal and multidisciplinary approach, improving pain, mobility, strength and functionality, slowing down the degeneration and improving both quality and length of life for patients.
Physiotherapists not only work with animals in-clinic, but give owners the tools to manage conditions safely over time, incorporating home modifications, diet changes, regular targeted exercise and more to ensure that the need for chronic medication is reduced or eliminated for as long as possible. This provides the client a sense of control and confidence in their ability to keep their pet healthy and pain free, as well as making them more aware of the day-to-day condition of their pet, which means when a flare-up occurs they will be quick to recognise it and respond appropriately with a visit to their healthcare team.
The incorporation of physiotherapy techniques into the day-to-day post-operative procedures for animals will improve outcomes in all surgical cases. This is especially true for orthopaedic and neurological cases; treatments applied according to the specific procedure and needs of each patient will reduce pain, lower the risk of complications, and facilitate a faster, fuller recovery.
Sporting and Competitive Animals
Physiotherapy is advantageous to sporting and competitive animals, providing support right through the competitive season and keeping them in tip-top condition. Physiotherapy enables the early detection of injuries, reduces the risk of injuries, and ensures a better return to sport and function post-injury, through tailored rehabilitation programs.
Clients often recognise the value of physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, and will request these services. Incorporating them directly into your practice means you keep these clients happy by recognising their needs and providing for them. A physiotherapist will also spend a larger portion of time with clients, improving client relationships and customer loyalty to the entire practice. No small consideration!
Simplicity and Efficiency
Having a physiotherapist as a part of your team means you don’t need to refer patients elsewhere for this service, and a referral from the physio back to the vet is a simple matter. Transitions are easy and convenient for all concerned.
The Multi-disciplinary Team
The value of a multi-disciplinary team cannot be overestimated. When members of a team, each with their own area of expertise and experience, work together with one goal, the knowledge of the entire team deepens and expands. A Jack of all trades is a master of none. When a team works together within a practice, diagnoses are more accurate, treatment plans are more complete, and results for the patient are more successful.
What could be more beneficial than a motivated, multidisciplinary team of complementary professionals working together under one roof? The presence of each enhances the work of the others.
Adding an additional service to the offerings of a veterinary practice means adding an additional source of revenue for the practice. This can only be beneficial in the long run!
In human practice, every hospital has a team of physiotherapists, and no orthopaedic surgery is performed without post-op rehabilitation. The discipline is not restricted to post-op recoveries in hospitals; it is used in the successful treatment of geriatric patients, chest conditions, ICU patients, sports injuries and a whole host of other conditions.
In the smaller and more intimate setting of a veterinary hospital, we stand to gain even more from our rehabilitation therapists, since teams are smaller, the work is more focussed and the relationships inevitably closer and more dynamic.
If you are a veterinarian, I’d love to hear from you. Do you employ the services of an inhouse physiotherapist? If so, how has this impacted your practice? And if you don’t have an inhouse physio, what is stopping you from taking one on?