Written by FOTP Team
Canine Rehabilitation Therapy is a blanket term for all the different forms of therapy that can be part of a rehab plan. Typically drawn up after your dog has been diagnosed with an injury or chronic illness, canine rehabilitation therapy is a fairly recent development – and will be unique to your dog.
Canine rehabilitation therapy is often recommended for dogs who have chronic inflammatory disease or injuries (including spinal, tendon and ligament injuries). It can also help dogs suffering from arthritis, IVDD, nerve disorders and hip dysplasia.
So what does rehabilitation therapy involve? Your vet will make a treatment plan, which could include some of these options:
The treadmill opens at one end to permit the dog in, and is then filled with water to partially cover the dog. (The lower the level, the more weight the dog will carry.) It’s great for building strength and resilience because the water level and treadmill speed can be adapted as the dog gets stronger. A treadmill is commonly used to rehabilitate dogs after operations or injuries.
Pools, meanwhile, are often used for playing and general swimming, typically for pain relief and gentle exercise. The hydrotherapist might get into the pool with the dog to support their body, or use a floatation device to allow the dog to float in the water without any effort. Warm water is well known as a natural source of pain relief (which is why humans use birthing pools). It dilates the blood vessels and improves the flow of blood and oxygen around the body. It’s great for mental wellbeing, too.
Investigate hydrotherapy if your dog has suffered from:
It works by delivering light at a specific frequency, known to act on cells and kick-start the healing process. Although your dog may be equipped with a comedy pair of goggles for the treatment, don’t worry; the laser itself isn’t invasive. It’s a beam of light delivered through a glass-tipped wand and feels like a massage during treatment.
Although the science has not been fully investigated, it is thought that the laser increases blood flow and aids collagen formation to improve the natural healing process. So laser therapy can be suitable for treating dogs with injuries or wounds, arthritis, IVDD, and any kind of inflammation – including post-operative and milder things like ear infections.
Low-level laser therapy is available at lots of veterinary surgeries and it’s quick (taking minutes to deliver) and relatively affordable.
Acupuncture is an ancient form of therapy involving very fine needles which are placed at strategic points on the body. Like laser therapy, acupuncture is believed to promote the natural healing process. So it is sometimes recommended as part of a programme for recovery or rehabilitation.
Veterinary acupuncture can be suitable for dogs with injuries as well as ongoing conditions like arthritis, hip dysplasia, and even anxiety. It is also thought to be beneficial in treating skin allergies, because it can improve circulation and speed up topical healing.
Sounds kind of Clockwork Orange, but Electric Stimulation Therapy is believed to be safe and effective for dogs. It can stimulate muscles, helping to restore them for better movement and less inflammation. EST is sometimes recommended after a dog has suffered a sporting injury but can also be used to support post-operative recovery.
If your dog attends a session of electric (or neuromuscular) stimulation therapy, the practitioner will apply gel to the target area and then apply an electrical current using a hand-held device. It’s like a TENS machine and the current will be small; it’s just enough to make the muscle contract, which stimulates healing and increases strength. Afterwards, rest is really important.
Did you know that ultrasound is used to provide therapy for humans and dogs? It’s not just an imaging technique to reveal the internal organs. The tiny sound-waves emitted by an ultrasound device travel through the body. They heat and promote healing in soft tissue, reducing pain at the same time.
Ultrasound is sometimes recommended as part of a treatment plan for dogs who have wounds, persistent scar tissue, or joint stiffness. It can’t be used for dogs with bone plates or tumours but is non-invasive and doesn’t cause any discomfort.
Physical rehabilitation usually involves guided movement and exercise. Your dog might rebuild their strength using a treadmill, have massage to release tension, or attend a therapy session with a canine physiotherapist. Sometimes “passive” techniques are used, where the therapist will gently move your dog’s limbs to increase their range of movement.
Our top pick for dogs whose range of movement has been limited? It has to be Move. It’s a blend of natural but clinically-proven ingredients to support healthy cartilage, joints and muscles. Dogs like the taste (it’s meaty) and their owners have reported back with glowing reviews!