Physical therapy for dogs? Absolutely. Studies have shown that dogs can benefit just as much as humans from low impact, specialized physical therapy. Whether they are recovering from surgery or even trying to avoid surgery, physical therapy might be the ticket to a stronger, healthier pup. 


Different Types of Physical Therapy for Dogs

There are many different types of physical therapy (PT) available for dogs. Each one has its own unique uses, and they may be used separately or together to treat a wide range of conditions. Here are some of the types of physical therapy available at East Valley Animal Hospital.

1. Passive Range of Motion (PROM) 

The physical therapist will gently move the dog’s joints within a natural range of motion to stretch the muscles and build strength. This method is typically used alongside cold or heat therapy to allow for a better stretch. 

2. Obstacle Training 

Using props, think ramps, balance balls, and steps, the therapist will help your dog learn paw placement and balance. 

3. Water Treadmills 

This specialized treadmill sits at the bottom of an enclosed area filled with water. It allows for gentle exercise while the water helps support the dog’s weight. 

4. Electric Stimulation Therapy 

The therapist uses a small, measured, focused electric shock to help strengthen the muscles and improve blood flow. 

5. Cold Laser Therapy

Working on a cellular level, cold laser therapy helps promote healing and relieve pain from inflammation and poor circulation. 

6. Therapeutic Ultrasound 

Different from a visual ultrasound, therapeutic ultrasound uses ultrasonic waves to heat and stretch stiff muscles, tendons, and ligaments, providing pain relief. 


When Is Physical Therapy for Dogs Necessary?

There are many reasons that a vet might suggest physical therapy for your dog. The most common would be for recovery after surgery, but sometimes physical therapy can help an injured dog avoid surgery altogether. With proper guidance from your vet, physical therapy is a safe and effective way to get your dog feeling better faster. 

Here are some of the conditions that physical therapy for dogs can treat:

Hip Dysplasia

Typically found in large breeds of dogs, hip dysplasia is a painful condition that causes the leg bone to grind along the pelvic bone in the hip joint. It is important to recognize the signs, because if caught early, physical therapy and supplements could keep your pet from needing surgery. If surgery is needed, PT can help facilitate faster recovery. 

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease (CCL)

This disease weakens the cranial cruciate ligament in the knee until it eventually tears, causing the dog to lose the use of that leg. Surgery is the most common treatment for CCL, although the type of treatment depends on the stage of the disease. Physical therapy can be used after surgery to help relieve pain and build strength back into the recovering leg.

Slipped Discs 

When the cushioning between the vertebrae bursts or swells, it pushes on the nerves. This can cause severe pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis. Learning your dog’s pain signals can help you identify whether they might be suffering from a slipped disc. If the damage is severe enough, surgery may be needed. However, some rest and physical therapy might be enough to mitigate the pain while they heal. 

Degenerative Myelopathy 

Most often found in older dogs, degenerative myelopathy is a painless disease that degrades the spinal column and makes your dog slowly lose the ability to walk. While there is no way to cure this degenerative disease, physical therapy can improve the quality of your pet’s life by building up their other muscles, or help them make strides when using a harness and cart. 


Physical Therapy for Dogs in Gilbert, Arizona

East Valley Animal Hospital has one of the most updated physical therapy facilities in the greater Phoenix area. We have a spacious physical therapy area, and can accommodate all six of the most common types of physical therapy methods, from cold laser therapy to water treadmills. Schedule an appointment today to learn more about how physical therapy can help your dog live a happy and healthy life.



Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (8/13/22). Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash.