Those of us who have experienced an injury or surgery know just how beneficial physical therapy/ rehabilitation can be to recovery.   Rehabilitation exercises lessen pain, strengthen muscles, and speed up the recovery process, helping the body to get back into shape after a traumatic event or to rebuild muscle loss & strength from age or disease. 

Rehabilitation is increasingly prescribed for dogs/cats to address issues such as mobility, pain, and joint damage due to orthopedic surgery, musculoskeletal injury, arthritis, obesity, paralysis, neurological disease, and more. 

Common conditions that benefit from physical therapy may include:

  • Arthritis and degenerative joint disease
  • Postsurgical recovery of the knee, hip, back, or neck
  • Amputation recovery
  • Traumatic injuries, such as being hit by a car
  • Soft tissue injuries of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Rear limb weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Neurological disorders, such as degenerative myelopathy
  • Spinal disorders, such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
  • Nerve disorders, such as fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) and vestibular disease
  • Obesity

Physical therapy techniques: 

There are many different physical therapy techniques available for pets, including:

  • Underwater treadmill therapy: This low-impact treatment improves a dog’s strength, balance, and ability to bear weight on weak or injured limbs.
  • Swim therapy: This technique enables dogs to work large muscle groups while using the buoyancy of the water to reduce stress on their joints.
  • Range of motion: In this passive, therapeutic form of exercise, the physical therapist gently rotates the dog’s limbs to keep the muscles and joints flexible.
  • Massage: This form of therapy is widely used to increase a dog’s circulation, which in turn promotes healing and decreases pain.
  • Active exercises: Intended for the later stages of recovery, these exercises assist dogs in gaining strength, balance, and flexibility. Under the guidance of a physical therapist, dogs use balance boards, physio-balls, stairs, and weight bands to perform specific exercises on their own.

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