- Patient assessments
- In-house therapy
- Out-patient therapy
- Custom weight loss and fitness programs
- Acute and chronic pain management
- Individualized home exercise programs
- Specific therapies
Each patient receives a thorough physical examination and rehabilitation assessment prior to planning a customized rehabilitation plan. The initial assessment may include measurements of joint range of motion, muscle mass, body condition scoring and lameness scoring. Pain assessments are also made on every animal. The initial evaluation may include consults with other specialists in the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital for other health issues if they may impact the rehabilitation program.
New clients can expect to have an in-depth discussion of pertinent medical and surgical history, to give the rehabilitation team a complete understanding of the patient’s health status. After completing the initial assessment, we will discuss our goals for the patient and the proposed rehabilitation plan. Our rehabilitation plans incorporate a holistic approach. We consider all the potential health issues and routinely discuss topics such as pain management and optimal diet.
We also provide phone consultations with veterinarians for patients that they are treating and patients they wish to refer.
Dogs and cats undergoing neurologic or orthopedic surgery at VMTH typically begin receiving some basic rehabilitative therapies as soon as they leave the operating room. Patients who remain in the hospital after surgery will receive therapy, based on the recommendation of the clinician caring for the patient.
Therapy on an out-patient basis is indicated for many surgical patients after they have been discharged from the hospital. Out-patient therapy may also be indicated for patients who have not had surgery. This may be the situation if the patient has a condition for which surgery is not indicated. In some cases, surgery may be indicated but is declined for medical or financial reasons.
Out-patient therapy is often two or three times weekly, with the patient being dropped off and picked up at the client’s convenience. If ti is more convenient, patients may be boarded in order to receive rehabilitation therapy.
Custom Weight Loss and Fitness Programs
The key to any weight loss program is a combination of diet and exercise. VSMR offers dietary consultation and can provide guidelines for exercises to be done at home. The home exercise program may be done alone, or to complement exercises performed at our facility.
Healthy dogs can also benefit from a regular exercise program. Regular work-outs in the aquatic treadmill provide great exercise for dogs that need to stay fit or for canine athletes who need to stay in top condition for their sport or work activities.
Acute and Chronic Pain Management
Many therapies use during physical rehabilitation can help to manage pain. Some examples include hot packs, cold packs, therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, laser therapy, and in some cases, exercise. In addition, medications are often needed to manage pain, and we provide recommendations for prescription medications and dietary supplements.
Individualized Home Exercise Program
Every patient who receives rehabilitation at Texas A&M will receive an individualized home exercise program at the time of discharge. The home exercise program will include specific, detailed instructions to help you and your pet achieve your rehabilitation goals.
- Therapeutic Exercises
- Aquatic Treadmill (“Underwater treadmill”)
- Thermal Agents
- Therapeutic Ultrasound
- Electrical Stimulation
- Manual therapy
- Custom orthotics and prosthetics
Therapeutic exercises is a key component of most rehabilitation programs. Therapeutic exercises may include simple weight-shifting activities or working on a therapy ball to improve strength and balance. Strength and joint motion may also be improved by many activities, some of which include walking over cavaletti rails, walking around weave poles, and crawling through tunnels. We also use a treadmill that was designed specifically for dogs. Animals with weakness or coordination problems may be assisted by use of a mobile hoist or slings.
Aquatic Treadmill (Underwater Treadmill)
The aquatic treadmill provides a type of therapeutic exercise that is particularly helpful to enable injured or weak animals to exercise. Aquatic therapy provides buoyancy, so your pet does not have to support its full body weight. Water provides resistance to every movement, which helps strengthen and build muscle. In addition, the pressure and warmth of the water can assist in pain relief. Our treadmill also has water jets, which can be used to increase resistance during exercise or for a spa effect to relax when the treadmill belt is not moving. The aquatic treadmill can be used for cardiopulmonary conditioning, which can be very beneficial for improving performance in working dogs or for helping obese animals to exercise and lose weight.
Thermal agents (heat or cold) can be applied directly to a part of the body. Both cryotherapy (cooling) and superficial heat help with pain control. Cryotherapy is used after acute injuries or surgery to decrease pain and to help reduce inflammation and swelling. If a patient has severe tissue injury, a circulating cold-compression unit may be used. This has a sleeve which is wrapped around the affected area to compress it while ice water is circulated within the sleeve.
Therapeutic ultrasound provides deep tissue heating to relieve pain and assist with stretching of injured muscles. Therapeutic ultrasound may also be used to decrease inflammation in tendons or reduce scar tissue formation.
Electrical stimulation is used in basically two different ways.
1) Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is a type of electrical stimulation that is used to prevent muscle atrophy, increase strength in a specific muscle group, or reeducate muscle function in paralyzed animals. A low level electrical current is applied to muscle tissue using electrode patches on this skin, which results in a muscle contraction.
2) Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a type of electrical stimulation used to reduce pain in an area.
Laser light is promoted as a therapy to reduce pain and enhance wound healing. It is a fast, painless treatment. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is also called ‘cold’ laser, and typically delivered by Class IIIb lasers. Some therapists prefer higher power lasers (e.g. ‘Class IV lasers’), because the treatment time is shorter.
Acupuncture may be included in the therapeutic program to help control pain. Acupuncture is considered to be an ‘alternate therapy’ by the state of Texas, but may be performed with client consent. Acupuncture has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of some types of pain in people, and we use a science-based approach to acupuncture treatments. We often use electroacupuncture, which is similar to TENS (see Electrical Stimulation). We also use dry needling to treat trigger points and other localized pain.
Manual therapy involves various techniques in which therapists use their hands to affect the muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues. Much of the manual therapy that we perform includes passive range of motion, stretching, joint compressions, massage, and myofascial release.
Custom Orthotics and Prosthetics
An orthotic is a device that provides support to a body part, while a prosthetic is a device that replaces a body part. Orthotics may be used on a temporary basis to protect an area that is recovering from an injury or surgery. Orthotics may also be used in cases where there is permanent dysfunction. We can create custom splints and low temperature thermoplastic splints. For more complex problems, we can order and help fit commercially made orthotics and prosthetics.
Some dogs who have a neurologic condition or severe musculoskeletal problems may need a cart to give them independent mobility. We measure the patient prior to ordering a cart and will help adjust the cart for best fit and function. We can also evaluated and fit a cart that has already been purchased.