Physical Rehabilitation for Dogs Part 1
I recently had a minor sports related injury to my c-spine (i.e. neck) and have started a physical therapy program. It is interesting to observe the therapists in action on all of the patients, and the range of modalities that are used to heal the injuries and prevent re occurrence. Interestingly, many of the treatment protocols that are used on humans can also be used on injured dogs with great success. Thus, today I begin a short series highlighting some of the available canine rehab techniques and their associated benefits. This week, I will start with the thermal modalities, heat and cryotherapy (e.g. ice).
Thermal modalities are used by the applying heat or cold on the dog’s body to change the temperature of the target region. Thermal techniques are generally used to reduce pain, increase mobility, and reduce swelling.
Heat Therapy for Canine Rehabilitation
Applying external heat to an injured body part can help to reduce pain, increase blood flow (to promote healing), and increase mobility. Heat is used to increase the temperature of tissues 1-3 cm below the skin. Benefits occur when the targeted tissue temperature is reduced by 1 degree C or more.
Heat therapy is typically administered using a moist heat pack or gel pack. Another option is a moist, heated towel that can be wrapped snugly around the target area. Caution must be used so that the skin surface is not overheated and burned.
Cryotherapy for Canine Rehabilitation
Cryotherapy is used to lower the temperature of the target area to reduce pain, reduce swelling, and reduce muscle spasms. Cryotherapy can cool tissues as much as 4 cm below the surface.
Cryotherapy is most often administered using cold packs (either gel packs or ice packs) and ice massage. I am a fan of ice massage as the moisture can penetrate into the tissues and facilitate the process. As with heat, cryotherapy needs to be monitored as excess cold can burn the skin ad can result in nerve damage.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Often during rehab, both heat and ice are used as part of the healing process. Typically, heat is used to warm the tissues before mobilizations, stretching, and exercises. Once the rehab session is finished, cold packs are applied minimize any pain and reduce inflammation that might have occurred during treatment.