Veterinary Animal Physiotherapy

What is Animal Physiotherapy?

Animal Physiotherapy is the art of using different therapeutic modalities in combination with massage, stretching and therapeutic exercise in order to help the body regain function and mobility. In physiotherapy, not just the site of injury is treated but also the secondary compensatory changes that occur in the animals body. For example, an animal that presents knee arthritis may not only be painful in its knee, but would usually have secondary back pain and tension in its forelimb and neck muscles. It may also have weaker thigh muscles because it would not be using its affected leg as much. These secondary changes would limit its overall mobility and comfort. Therefore in physiotherapy the animal is treated as a whole. Human physiotherapy of course differs slightly from veterinary physiotherapy as animals are quadrupeds (they walk on four legs), they take off with the hind legs and land with their front legs.

Benefits of Physiotherapy

  • ​Safe and effective method to reduce and manage pain and inflammation
  • Reduces the reliance on medication to enable mobility
  • Increases speed of recovery in post-surgical patients
  • Maintains preservation of muscle, joint and nerve condition in older and post-surgical patients during period of recovery
  • Positive psychological effects thereby improving and prolonging quality of life

Goals of therapy

  • Alleviation of pain. A class IV therapeutic laser machine and acupuncture is often used to achieve this. Controlling pain is important in ensuring quality of life.
  • Reducing stiffness by thermotherapy, massage and joint mobilization techniques.
  • Maintaining good joint health by encouraging motion through range of motion exercises.
  • Preserving muscle strength and function through stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Weight loss by increasing body metabolism through exercise.
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness.

When should physiotherapy be applied?

  • Post surgical recovery: Orthopedic, Neurological
  • Musculoskeletal injuries: sprains, strains, muscle weakness, tendonitis
  • Spinal disc disease and/or back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Wound healing
  • Weight loss and conditioning

For more information in regards to how physiotherapy can benefit your animals specific condition visit The Physiotherapy Candidate page.

How many sessions are needed?

The number of sessions required is dependent on the type of injury sustained by the animal and their individual rate of recovery. Of course, a more acute type injury in a younger dog will tend to heal faster than a chronic arthritic older dog.

During early stages of recovery, two to three sessions a week are generally required which then reduces as the animal heals. Certain conditions will require the patient to have an ongoing maintenance type therapy.


Posted by Dr. Priya Streram from ARK Veterinary Rehabilitation – Melbourne

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