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As veterinary medicine has started to expand, research has found that dogs can benefit from Physical therapy and rehabilitation just like people. Physical therapy can help your dog live a longer and more comfortable life!

 What is Dog Physical Therapy?

Veterinarians have adapted human physical therapy techniques to help dogs with their overall mobility in their joints and muscles. This helps dogs reduce pain and enhance their recovery from injury, disease, obesity, and surgery.

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Physical therapy is a tool rather than a cure, it is aimed at reducing pain and improving the dog’s overall quality of life. More and more veterinarians are seeing the positive effect that physical therapy has and they are offering it in more offices.

 What are the Physical Therapy Options?

Your dog’s physical therapy plan will vary by injury and how severe their condition is. Most animal physical therapist have a diagnosing Veterinarian at their practice.

Your veterinarian can determine exactly what is happening with the dog and the severity of the dog’s condition. Each dog has their own specialized patient plan. Some of the techniques used in dog physical therapy are:

  • Coordination Exercise: These are exercises based on improving a dog’s awareness of their surroundings. These exercises often include obstacles that focus on weaves and figure eights. This forces the dog to focus on the obstacles around them and where they are placing their feet. This type of exercise helps build coordination and strength by forcing the animal to shift their weight as they move from obstacle to obstacle. This type of therapy is very helpful for dogs suffering from neurological conditions and spinal cord injuries.
  • Hydrotherapy: This is a technique that uses water to improve muscle and joint function in dogs. This type of therapy will be done in a pool or an underwater treadmill. Swimming is a low impact technique that allows the dog to work multiple muscles at the same time. It does more than stretching, or walking would allow. This type of therapy is used to build muscles and create endurance. This works very well for dogs who are overweight, are recovering from surgery, or have joint pain, due to the fact that it does not place much stress on the limbs.
  • Passive Range of Motion: Passive range of motion is completed by stretching the joint to its limit. This type of therapy needs to be done very carefully and the physical therapist needs to be aware of the animal’s limits. The goal of passive range of motion is to encourage the dog to use their joints to their full capacity. This promotes the dog’s range of motion and decreases a dog’s overall pain.
  • Electrical Stimulation: This type of therapy is where electrical currents are used to stimulate muscles in hopes of combating pain and movement restrictions. A TENS unit can help relieve pain when used in conjunction with other physical therapy techniques.
  • Balance Exercise: Balance exercise is where a physical therapist will use equipment to help strengthen muscles that have been weakened over time by muscle atrophy. Therapists will use techniques such as balancing on physio-balls, wobble boards and balance boards. This type of exercise forces the dog to use all of their muscles, included the affected ones. This is particularly useful for animals healing from surgery or neurological conditions.
  • Massage: This is a common physical therapy technique used to relieve muscle tension and stimulate muscle development. This type of therapy helps speed up the recovery from injuries and surgery. Massage is proven to increase blood flow and relieve muscle spasming.
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Cathy D. Evans
Life-long fan of all dogs including Finnegan pictured here. He's a Chinook about a year old with the most wonderful personality. Please enjoy this dog website and its content. “Dogs don’t rationalize. They don’t hold anything against a person. They don’t see the outside of a human but the inside of a human.” —Cesar Millan (dog trainer)

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