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The Benefits of Physical Rehabilitation for Dogs

The Benefits of Physical Rehabilitation for Dogs

Physical rehabilitation for dogs is similar to physiotherapy for humans, aiming to reduce pain and improve strength, flexibility, endurance, and overall function. Here, our Vienna vets discuss the benefits of physical rehabilitation for dogs.

Physical Rehabilitation for Dogs

Canine physical rehabilitation is similar to human physiotherapy and uses many of the same techniques to improve an animal's physical well-being. However, the term "physical therapy" is typically reserved for licensed therapists who work exclusively with people, so we use the term "physical rehabilitation" when referring to animal treatment. This post will explore the various techniques and methods used in veterinary physical rehabilitation for dogs.

How Your Dog Can Benefit From Physical Rehabilitation

Physical rehabilitation can improve the function of injured or diseased pets using various treatments, including massage, heat therapy, electrical stimulation, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and exercise. This combination can relieve pain, improve joint and muscle health, and aid in the recovery of pets after injury, illness, or surgery.

In some cases, veterinarians may recommend physical rehabilitation as an alternative to surgery or to stimulate elderly dogs' brains and give them a renewed sense of purpose. In this post, we'll delve into the benefits of physical rehabilitation for dogs and the various treatments involved.

How do you do physical rehabilitation for dogs?

To start your dog's physical rehabilitation journey, visit your veterinarian or locate a certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner in your area. Your pet rehab specialist will assess your dog's condition and develop a personalized treatment plan to address their specific needs.

Along with treatments provided at the rehab facility, you will also receive at-home exercises to continue your pet's progress between appointments.

Pet exercises developed to improve balance, strength, endurance, and flexibility can benefit even healthy dogs. Many senior dogs enjoy the mental challenge of performing age-appropriate rehab exercises. 

Types of Physical Rehabilitation for Dogs

The type of physical rehab recommended for your dog will be based on several factors, including your dog's age, overall condition, and weight, as well as the type of injury or condition being treated. Below are a few possible methods that could be used when dogs attend a physical rehab appointment.

  • Cold laser therapy. These treatments are used to help stimulate cell regeneration, improve circulation and reduce inflammation and pain. Cold laser treatments are often used to help pets suffering from arthritis, tendon injuries, and more.
  • Therapeutic exercises. If therapeutic exercise is recommended for your pup, a qualified canine rehabilitation professional or veterinary technician will create a customized movement or exercise plan for your dog. Therapeutic exercise is often a great rehab option for dogs with injuries, arthritis, and other mobility restrictions or that are recovering from surgery. 
  • Underwater treadmill. Working out on an underwater treadmill can help to reduce discomfort and build a range of motion in dogs recovering from surgery. This method of physical rehab for dogs can also be used to help reduce weight and improve strength, range of motion, and overall fitness level. Your pet will move on the treadmill with the added benefits water offers.
  • Swimming. Many dogs enjoy swimming, making this form of physical rehabilitation a fun way for your dog to lose weight, build muscle mass, and improve agility.
  • Acupuncture. Acupuncture for pets is a form of alternative medicine intended to help treat and manage the symptoms of several illnesses and disorders. It is performed by inserting extremely thin needles into specific points in the body where the pet's blood vessels and nerves convene. Endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, are released, helping relieve acute and chronic pain and discomfort.

At-Home Physical Rehabilitation Exercises for Dogs

These exercises can be a fun way to engage with your pet while improving their overall well-being, however, it's important to consult your veterinarian before trying any of these exercises with your pet.

Improve Balance

Plank: This exercise is a basic stand, which can be surprisingly difficult for many dogs. If your dog 'fidgets' when standing this is an excellent exercise to help improve their balance. Simply have your dog stand still, aiming for 10 seconds without movement and head up.

Core balancing: Place your dog on wobble boards, a small physio ball, or cushions and encourage your pet to keep their balance. You can gently tickle your dog's tummy to help your pet engage their core muscles and make the exercise fun for you and your dog.

Improve Strength

Sit to Stand: Begin the exercise by backing your dog’s hind end into a corner. Using a treat as encouragement, ask your pet to stand, then slowly return to sitting.  This exercise can be repeated 10 times, twice per day provided your dog is not experiencing any pain.

Back Extension: Have your dog stand with their front feet on a raised surface, step, or platform that’s about the height of your dog's ankle. Please keep your pet's head and neck neutral and in a straight line with their back. Encourage your pet to hold the position for 5-10 seconds, then help them to step back down safely.

Improve Mobility

Dancing: Hold your pet's front paws or legs just above the elbow and bring your dog up into a standing dance position. Sway from side to side, and then progress by step dancing forward, backward, and sideways.

Cookie Stretch: Have your dog stand comfortably then, using a treat lure your dog's nose toward their shoulder, then toward their hip, then between their front legs. Do both sides. Try to prevent your pet from stepping out of place. The goal is to have your dogs stand still and stretch.

Improve Cardiovascular Fitness

Controlled Leash Walking: Use a chest harness and a regular collar and leash to walk your dog at a controlled pace. If your dog is pain-free and strong enough, you can insert brief intervals of jogging or faster-paced walking to help improve your dog's fitness.

Full-Body Exercise

If your dog is ready for full-body exercises, consider swimming or agility course training using hurdles, weave poles, and Cavaletti rails. Many dogs enjoy these activities for the physical benefits and the increased time they spend with their people.

When You Will See Results

Every dog is unique, with different health challenges and abilities, which is why only your vet or Canine Physical Rehabilitation professional will be able to give you an idea of when you could start to see an improvement in your dog's condition.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Think your dog could benefit from physical rehabilitation therapy? Contact our Vienna vets to book an appointment.

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Hope Advanced Veterinary Center is always accepting new patients! Our board-certified vets and specialists are passionate about restoring good health to Vienna's pets.

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