Helping heal animals in the Algarve

By Sophie McCarrick [email protected]

Physiotherapy has been an essential and successful form of treatment for centuries but its use on animals in the Algarve is still rare as many Algarvean veterinary clinics remain sceptical about the effectiveness of the treatment.

With hopes of introducing the Algarve to this globally used practice, Animal Physiotherapist Irmela Kuhn, from the German Akademie für Tierheilkinde (Healing of Animals Academy) opened her own at-home animal physiotherapy centre two years ago.  

After working in veterinary clinics for many years, specialising in orthopedics and dealing with general animal health and injury conditions, Irmela developed an interest in animal physiotherapy.

“I have always had an interest in healing therapies and massage treatments, and due to my work with animals my dream of connecting the two and being able to help animals in their healing processes has come true,” she said.

Animal physiotherapy is the scientific process of restoring and maintaining optimal function by influencing nerves, muscles and joints, without using any operational methods.

Healing takes place with the physical touch of a therapist using their hands, hot and cold sources and muscle stimulators to rebuild muscles, relieve muscle spasms and increase circulation.

When successful, says Irmela, it gives back the quality of life to an animal, making them more active, happier and free of pain killing medication.

Health issues treatable include arthrosis / arthritis, spondylosis, post-operative rehabilitation, mobility problems, joint diseases, hip dysplasia, tendon injuries and wound healing.

In a past case, Irmela dealt with a seven-year old Labrador that had both of the back leg femur bone heads removed, creating a very painful situation when the animal came to walk, and extreme discomfort when sitting still.

“In the beginning I did treatments twice a week which progressed to once a week treatments, and in the end the animal became fully active again. The suffering was healed and the animal and their owner were able to continue living their life together,” said Irmela.

“In many cases animals need to start from scratch and learn to walk all over again.”

A wide selection of animals are suitable candidates for physiotherapy but Irmela’s main clients are dogs and horses.

In order for treatments to be 100% successful the participation and attention of three parties is necessary – the therapist, the animal and the pet owner.

“It is sad to see, but sometimes animals are not given the attention required in their home environment. During the healing process, restrictions and rules must be kept to in order to ensure full recovery.”

For animals in severe pain, or in unmovable conditions, Irmela is also able to make home visits to assist them.