Physical Rehabilitation for Pets

By Dr Toni Yang, CVA

You may have heard of friends and family going to physical therapy (PT) after undergoing some sort of orthopedic/neurologic surgery or suffering from a non-surgical injury. Or perhaps you have experienced this for yourself. Did you know that similar programs exist for your pet?

Animal rehabilitation is a relatively new specialty in the veterinary world. The human equivalent, physical therapy, has been around since the early 1900s circa World War I. Canine rehabilitation in the United States began in the mid-1980s and has been gaining significant momentum ever since.

Over the past few decades numerous studies have shown that, just like with humans, pets that undergo physical rehabilitation during their recovery period see a much better return to normal function and mobility. The goals of rehabilitation are to restore, maintain, and promote optimal function, fitness, wellness, and overall quality of life.

What modalities are applied in animal rehabilitation?

Your rehab veterinarian may utilize techniques such as therapeutic laser, underwater treadmill, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), various exercise equipment (peanuts, physiodiscs), massage therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), joint injections, hyperbaric oxygen, and acupuncture. Most often, a combination of modalities along with appropriate nutrition and supplements help achieve the best results possible for your pet.

Would your pet benefit from rehabilitation?

Almost all animals can benefit from a tailored rehab program, but pets with the following conditions may see significant improvements: post-orthopedic or post-neurologic surgery, arthritis, soft tissue injuries, non-operable conditions that affect mobility and function, pain secondary to joint/bone/muscle/nerve disease, obesity.

So whether your pet just had knee surgery, strained a muscle from playing too hard, suffers from neck/back pain, or just seems to be having a harder time getting up and around, ask your veterinarian if rehabilitation would be a good option for your furry family member!