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The benefits of physio and hydrotherapy for an arthritic cat

Amy Holloway

You might think that swimming or anything to do with water, just isn’t for your typical cat. So it might surprise you to learn that some of our regular swimmers at our fitness & rehab centre are indeed of the feline variety! Learn all about brave Liberty, who has taken the hydrotherapy treadmill and pool all in her stride, from her lovely owner, Judith:


Liberty’s story, by Judith Fish.

Background

“Liberty, aka ‘The Swimming Cat’, is our 14-year-old black cat. Last year, we noticed that she was developing mobility issues, including an inability to move quickly up and down the stairs and an unwillingness to jump onto furniture and cat equipment; Liberty was pulling herself up rather than jumping. She was also having difficulty grooming herself and needed to have her coat brushed much more often than before. Liberty had previously been an exceptionally active indoor / outdoor cat and her lack of mobility also saw her become withdrawn and less willing to interact with the rest of the household. Although there were no outward signs of illness, it became apparent that her quality of life was somehow reduced.

Liberty the cat was struggling to jump up onto furniture

Liberty was examined by our vet, who identified sensitivity, obvious discomfort and limited mobility in her hip region. A subsequent x-ray examination confirmed the presence of significant arthritis in her hips, with severe degeneration of the ball and socket. Due to the severity of the condition and degeneration of muscle to the affected area, surgical intervention was initially thought to be the likely outcome. However, this would obviously be a drastic course of action, not least due to Liberty’s age.

Proposed Treatment

With Liberty’s quality of life at the forefront of both ours and our vet’s minds, an alternative approach to surgery to try and re-build muscle mass and increase mobility was proposed.

We are very fortunate in that our veterinary practice had recently opened a fitness and rehabilitation facility not too far away from our home, and it was decided that we would try physiotherapy in an attempt to alleviate Liberty’s pain and improve muscle mass.

Treatment

Liberty began with an intensive course of laser treatment with Laura, after which we saw immediate and clear results in terms of improvement to her mobility. She was coping well with her trips to the rehab centre, so we agreed that she could try the hydro-treadmill. Naturally, the only downside to this was the lack of affiliation between cats and water!

Liberty was referred to us with hip arthritis and muscle wastage in her hind legs. She comes weekly for laser therapy followed by a water treadmill session. She has taken to it with so much confidence and now shouts if the water is not put in the treadmill fast enough. We are so happy to hear that since coming for hydrotherapy, Libby has been told by her vet that she is currently no longer a candidate for surgery!! Liberty will soon be progressing to the big pool to build more muscle! Well done Libby, you're an absolute pleasure ⭐

Posted by Clent Hills Pet Fitness & Rehabilitation Centre on Saturday, 5 January 2019

Liberty was initially very surprised – and rather unhappy – at getting wet, but she adjusted remarkably quickly, and it soon became apparent that she was actually quite content to walk in the hydro-treadmill and seemed to enjoy the sensation of the water, which allowed her to walk more freely. We continued taking Liberty for weekly laser and hydro sessions, during which time we saw a dramatic improvement in her mobility and confidence.

Given how well she was doing in the treadmill, it was proposed that she should make the transition to the hydrotherapy pool. Although the hydrotherapy pool is much larger in size and depth than the hydro-treadmill, Liberty took to the exercise like a ‘cat to water’, making a quick transition from treadmill to full-on swimming! We never thought that we would see one of our cats in a swimming pool, but it just goes to show that you can teach an old cat new tricks…

First pool session for Liberty .. next stop the Olympic team!

Posted by Clent Hills Pet Fitness & Rehabilitation Centre on Saturday, 12 January 2019

We believe that Liberty’s relationship with Harriet has been key to the successful transition from the treadmill to the pool. Liberty is confident and comfortable in the water with Harriet, and the calm, relaxed environment of the facility is also hugely beneficial.

Impact, Benefits and Ongoing Treatment

In the space of a few months, Liberty’s movement and social interaction have increased beyond all recognition. The increased mobility in her rear legs has allowed her to become a fully involved family member once again, her level of self-confidence has improved dramatically, and she now spends her days interacting with her twin sister and playing in a manner more typical of a much younger cat.

Liberty the cat is now enjoying herself more thanks to her ongoing hydrotherapy and laser treatment

Our vet is delighted with Liberty’s progress and has decided that surgery is not going to be necessary, at least not in the near future. Liberty now has fortnightly trips to the rehab centre, with laser therapy and alternating treadmill and swimming sessions, to maintain her strength.

In addition to the benefits of physiotherapy, Liberty seems to have gained significantly from the increased socialisation and interaction with the entire physiotherapy team, as well as with the various dogs she gets to meet at the rehab facility. She is also a much more relaxed traveller, having got used to her regular trips in the car. We cannot thank Harriet, Laura and the rest of the team enough for what they have achieved for our beloved pet.”


If your cat or dog is having mobility issues, make an appointment with your Vet and talk to them about referring your pet for treatment at our Fitness & Rehab Centre. If you would like more information about our team or the work they do with pets, please do get in touch

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