Veterinary Rehabilitation and Hydrotherapy

Cat Equus – Hind-limb lameness


Cat, an eight-year-old Irish draught cross thoroughbred mare, was referred for physiotherapy after developing low-grade right-hind-limb lameness with no known cause. A thorough veterinary assessment revealed that Cat showed reduced lameness when she underwent a nerve block to her right hind limb from the level of the hock. X-rays showed no evidence of bony pathology to her back but very mild degenerative changes to her hock (heel) joints on both sides. The veterinary treatment plan consisted of a course of anti-inflammatory medication and advised six weeks of veterinary rehabilitation to develop her muscle bulk and improve her spinal mobility further. Her prognosis was unknown at this stage.


On initial assessment, Cat had a significant amount of muscle wastage to her shoulders and gluteals (buttocks), with the right more affected than left. Her gait was abnormal, with reduced stability of the right hind limb and consistent toe-drag of this limb when being lunged. She showed significantly reduced thoracic-spine flexibility when moving and struggled to achieve a balanced canter. Cat showed significant pain reaction to palpation around her scapula (shoulder) muscles and epaxial (spinal) muscles both sides. She had severe stiffness to the thoracic and lumbar spine both into flexion and side flexion.


Cat was treated with a range of techniques over a course of four physiotherapy sessions to assist in her rehabilitation. These included manual therapy to reduce her muscular pain and tightness (soft-tissue massage and  trigger-point release techniques), which enabled Cat to allow her muscles to lengthen and reduce painful tightness in the tissue which had likely developed as a result of the lameness. Because Cat suffered with joint stiffness in her back, we mobilised the affected joints so that she had increased range of movement there. We also used electrotherapy to aid tissue healing and provide pain relief.

Cat was assessed to ensure her rehab exercise regime was effective. Her owner was shown a range of stretches and basic massage techniques to ensure that Cat progressed between sessions. This played a vital role in her recovery. Cat was also treated with kinesiotape to increase her activation of her abdominals and gluteals (stomach and buttock). This realised the full potential of each physiotherapy session and encouraged a more active gait pattern.


After four sessions Cat had made a remarkable recovery. She no longer showed any lameness and had made vast improvements to her muscle mass and spinal flexibility. Her gait showed dramatic changes, with no toe-drag evident and more impulsion in the canter. Since commencing her rehabilitation she has been able to compete in showjumping competitions successfully and has hunted over the latter part of the season. Following Cat’s rehabilitation she was given a vetting which she passed, and she no longer requires medication.

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