Page 5 - Chiron Calling Spring 2019
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Veterinary Physiotherapy and Canine Rehabilitation – from Dachshunds to Malinois
By Pte Andy Gardiner
and the training that MWDs are asked to
Physiotherapy is often used as means of helping people who have experienced various types of musculoskeletal injury or neurological disease. From football clubs to general hospitals, physiotherapists are frequently observed helping people get back to their feet so that they can return to their working and sporting activities both functionally fit and ultimately pain free. The value behind such therapy is now increasingly acknowledged by the veterinary profession so much so that several leading small animal referral centres have physiotherapy departments to help deliver rehabilitation to both dogs and cats that may have experienced anything from a traumatic orthopaedic injury to a chronic neurological disease.
I currently work at a referral centre called ‘Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists’ based in the south of England. Having focused the majority of my career within the NHS for 13 years, I decided to switch over to the veterinary sector in a full-time capacity after I had completed my post graduate diploma in veterinary physiotherapy at Hartpury college in Gloucestershire. My main reason for doing so was down to my passion for dogs, particularly gundog breeds (I have a working cocker spaniel and a Labrador) and I have always been fascinated by canine biomechanics and locomotion. It was during my studies that I applied to become a dog handler with 101sqn and once I had completed my initial phase 1 training I enquired as to whether some of my physiotherapy skills could be used to good effect within the population of dogs held by the army.
Since joining 101sqn in January 2018 I have been asked to deliver CPD talks that have highlighted the merits of canine rehabilitation to both regular and reserve veterinary officers, technicians and dog handlers and I also been involved in the assessment and treatment of several dogs within the regiment. Furthermore, I have also had the opportunity to be involved in the rehabilitation of two MWDs that were based at Poole as they were referred to SCVS in the first instance.
To date, being a reservist within the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment has been highly beneficial to my civilian career. Being able to appreciate the role
complete has certainly helped to improve my understanding of what physical stresses a canine athlete is subjected to as the fast and intensive activities that protection dogs complete undoubtedly places significant demands of their musculoskeletal systems. In the field of canine sports medicine, soft tissue injuries such as tendonitis and muscle strain are not uncommon and the treatment of these conditions is remarkably similar to that of a human athlete.
However, my civilian role means that I can also bring skills and knowledge they I have developed to hopefully good effect for the population of dogs employed by the military. The specialist team at SCVS includes several neurologists and orthopaedic surgeons that have considerable experience of treating dogs that have conditions such as lumbosacral
'Being a reservist within the 1st MilitaryWorking Dog Regiment has been highly beneficial to my civilian career'
disease, a pathology that is known to have a considerable impact on the health and well-being of working dogs such German Shepherds and Belgium Malinois. Being able to work alongside such specialists has undoubtedly developed my clinical practice and I feel the two roles suit each other very well.
As well as being good at handling and interacting with animals, I feel that effective communications skills and the ability to educate owners and handlers with respect to their animals overall musculoskeletal health are particularly important aspects of the job. After all, humans and dogs share a remarkably similar anatomical structure and helping owners to appreciate this helps to improve an animal’s rehabilitative outcome. Furthermore, gleaning an accurate history from an owner as to when a certain problem was thought to have started, what their pre and post injury activity levels are and what the home or
kennel environment is like (e.g. flooring) are just some of the questions that are important to understanding how an injury may have occurred and how it can be prevented in future!
Various physiotherapy techniques can be used for treating injuries in dogs depending on how severe and/or acute a problem is. Guided exercise programs that help to promote joint health and muscle strength often feature prominently with any rehab program and the use of balance cushions and cavaletti poles are just some of the simple pieces of equipment that can used to good effect with dogs. The use of electrotherapy is also found to be helpful in many instances with clinicians frequently using tools such as laser or ultrasound therapy to help improve the rate healing of some soft tissue injuries. Referring dogs to professionally recognised hydrotherapy centres, especially those that have access to underwater treadmills, is thought highly beneficial for dogs that have suffered hindlimb injuries that maybe being managed surgically or conservatively.
One aspect of animal therapy that is certainly generating an increased amount of attention in the world of canine sports medicine is the use of warm up routines in order to try and offset the risk of musculoskeletal injury in the first instance. Even the most amateur of all human athletes recognise the importance of carryout a basic warm-up routine as means of avoiding problems such as strains and sprains! Routines don’t have to unnecessarily complicated and exercises that incorporate short bursts of trotting, weaving and dynamic stretching can be easily facilitated in a 10-minute warm up period.
Overall, it has been privilege to have been asked to assess and treat some of dogs based 1st MWD Regt and I have been exceptionally well supported in this role by Major Claire Budge (MRCVS) who is particularly interested the conditioning of canine athletes as a form of injury prevention, by SSgt Tanya Davies who is also a veterinary physiotherapist that also leads the hospital services at the DATR, and by the senior staff of 101 MWD Sqn who have helped facilitate my overall input. I hope my skills can continue to be of service for the future.
     Administering electrotherapy in a civilian surgery
Andy Gardiner and Protection Dog Abo
Improving a labradors stability on a balance cushion

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