Indications for physiotherapy and rehabilitation in cats include geriatric care, orthopedic and neurologic conditions, and pain management. Benefits include controlling postoperative inflammation, promoting wound healing and early weight bearing, restoring range of motion and muscle properties, improving cardiovascular fitness, and preventing hyperalgesia and chronic pain.
A variety of manual physiotherapy techniques can calm a cat during a session. Massage includes stroking, kneading, squeezing, wringing, skin rolling, frictions, hacking, shaking, and vibrating. Passive movements can help restore joint range and muscle length as well as stimulate mechanoreceptors and reinforce patterns of movement. Gait patterning, one form of passive movement, can be useful for neurologic patients. Stretches are passive movements that can help improve and/or restore full range to a joint or full length to a muscle. Neural mobilization, another manual technique, can help reduce spasm or improve mobility. Other physiotherapeutic techniques requiring specialized equipment include laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and heat and/or cold therapy via packs or compression sleeve. Therapeutic exercise should not be disregarded; many cats can be trained to accept land- and water-based exercise.
Training cats to accept physical rehabilitation can be accomplished by veterinary staff who are patient and use a quiet, calm environment free of dogs. Including cats in any physical rehabilitation program is important because therapeutic modalities have exploded in the veterinary community, perhaps from increased palliative and restorative care in human medicine or because owners seek improved pet quality of life. Both dogs and cats can benefit greatly from techniques outlined in this report, and many of the exercises and manipulations described can easily be taught to veterinary staff and incorporated into daily care. Cage-side massage and manipulations could not only improve a practice standard of care but also encourage healing by reducing stress, improving circulation, providing analgesia, and encouraging mobility.—Heather Troyer, DVM, DABVP, CVA
Feline physiotherapy and rehabilitation: 1. Principles and potential. Sharp B. J FELINE MED SURG 14:622-632, 2012.