Why every Veterinary Practice should have a Physiotherapist

by | Sep 12, 2019 | General Veterinary Rehabilitation

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:

Pain Control

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.

Degenerative Conditions

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.

Post-operative Recovery

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.

Client Service

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.

Increased Revenue

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?

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41 Comments

  1. I agree that Veterinary Physiotherapists would be a valuable addition to any veterinary practice and I hope to see more join in the future!

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    • Thank you Katherine

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  2. So true. It isn’t a good vet if they don’t have access to after care rehab

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    • I find most often there is a lack of knowledge of its availability and value, even among good vets

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  3. I am a rehab vet with a certified rehab tech. The next person I am hiring is a physio! Their skill set is amazing and I can’t wait to learn from him/her.

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    • That is really great to hear Amber!! Good luck on your journey of gaining more and more knowledge, and finding that physio! #vetrehabbers #neverstoplearning!

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  4. Absolutely! as a vet physio myself I’d love to see more practices value physiotherapy… ?

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    • It is always great to hear your own thoughts seconded Karen, that is exactly how I feel!

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  5. Excelent

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    • Thanks!

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  6. Great article! Having an inhouse physio definitely creates more revenue for the practice as patients don’t just go home after a surgery or diagnosis but come back for physiotherapy. Creating an automatic and instant post-surgery referral within the practice would also be likely to improve surgery outcomes and client satisfaction. Just a thought…

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    • You are absolutely right! I will have to add that in.

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  7. So true. Would make a difference in so many post-op and geriatric cases

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    • Hi Tory, absolutely, if we start thinking about how many lives will be changed through implementing this change, it is very exciting!

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    • Physiotherapists can also help to bridge the gap between the vet and the client.

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  8. I think they would be a great addition and asset to a Rehabilitation department.

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    • Hi Lauren, I think a Physiotherapist is an essential component of a rehabilitation department.

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  9. As a client is would be great to be referred ‘instantly ‘ rather than waiting. I’d love to see a network of complementary therapists at the surgery I use, I keep sowing the seed! The only downside I can anticipate for some animals the vet surgery is not conducive to relaxation and there are not enough fear free vets (or vets with enough time) treating in their home environment can be beneficial. Perhaps there is a happy medium where both options are offered?

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    • Hi Emma, thank you for sowing the seed, because ultimately the change will come because clients ask for it! You are very right, a veterinary practice can be a stressful place for pets, and is certainly not always the best environment for rehabilitation. There are practices that have managed to find a way to practically incorporate the space and atmosphere necessary. There most definitely is a happy medium, and each practice and team will need to look at the best set up for themselves and their clients. Thank you so much for that feedback from a client perspective – at the end of the day, your opinion is the one we need and want before any big decisions are made!!

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  10. Excellent information

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    • Thanks Marie!

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  11. As a Veterinary Physiotherapist working within a veterinary practice I am lucky enough to be able to witness first hand the benefit to patients of the practice. The only feedback we get is positive both from clients and those working within the practice.

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    • Thank you so much for your feedback Sarah, we definitely need more of you!!! Would you share with us what your set-up is like? We have had an owner perspective mentioning that it could be harder for the dogs to relax in a veterinary practice, esp a busy one where fear free techniques are not practiced. How do you overcome that hurdle?

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  12. Physiotherapist are so important

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    • Thank you Ruth

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    • 🙂

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    • Thanks Anna!

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  13. Great article. I think having a physio in house allows clients to see what rehab is and what it can do for other client’s pets. Should their own pets require rehab one day, they would be more likely to agree to it or maybe even ask more about it.

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    • a very good point!

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  14. I am studying Vet Physio at University currently. In my 3rd year and on placement in a physio centre attached to a vet surgery. I love it, you see cases straight from the hospital and clients aren’t waiting ages for appointments. When I graduate I am going to try to work within a vet practice doing Physiotherapy.

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    • Thats really awesome Hannah, I am glad you enjoy the postoperative work, and the close relationships that get formed with the veterinary staff. It is so incredibly valuable if there can be someone hands-on from day 1 with post-op cases. Good luck with your studies, and with your future hospital work!!

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  15. Physiotherapists are a necessity for any practice that performs orthopedic surgeries or has neurologists on staff! Great article

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    • Thank you for that Raymond!!

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  16. Whole heartedly agree and I am still continuing to try to convince veterinary surgeons of this – I will be showing them this post to help my cause! Thank you!

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    • Thank you Vick! That has put the biggest smile on my face!!

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  17. Great article and very informative. As with all the above comments, I agree that more vet offices should try to include physiotherapy and hydrotherapy or at least have immediate access to these modalities to make it easier on the owner to connect with them. Understanding the benefits of these practices benefits the vet team/office, the therapists, the owner, and especially the animal.

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    • so so true Tina! And at the end of the day, its all about the animals!

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  18. This was a very informing article.

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    • Thanks Jenn!

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