Rehabilitative Therapy

Rehabilitation for companion animals is the new standard of care for treatment of many conditions that limit an animal’s mobility. Rehabilitation accelerates healing and helps maximize return to normal muscular or motor function.  Injury, surgery or immobilization can lead to rapid muscle loss and joint stiffening. Getting your dog (or cat!) moving freely and pain-free again can require dedicated effort. Following an evaluation, your dog’s individualized protocol is developed. Protocols may incorporate any of the following modalities depending on your pet’s condition and needs. Teaching you a home exercise program is an important aspect of therapy.  Our overall goal is always to decrease pain and increase mobility.

Manual Therapy

Purpose: Increase muscle length, flexibility, range of motion

Manual or manipulative therapy involves the therapist applying hands-on techniques to achieve beneficial movement of joints and muscles. Some techniques that we use are: massage, trigger point therapy, passive range of motion, stretching, and joint mobilization. Manual therapy works together with other approaches used in the rehab program to increase circulation, reduce pain and improve function. Changes in nerve input and transmission caused by the manual work are thought to underlie its effectiveness. Postoperative healing, aging or arthritic dogs, and orthopedic problems particularly benefit from this “bodywork”. Athletic dogs also need regular stretching to prevent performance-related injuries.

Therapeutic Exercise

Purpose: Strengthen specific muscle groups, regain use of a limb, increase range of motion

Exercise is the mainstay of rehabilitation for most conditions, and is also vital for conditioning  healthy pets. We develop an exercise program specific to each patient’s needs and goals. We’ll have your dog negotiating cavaletti rails, weaving around cones, and climbing stairs and ramps.  We develop essential core strength and balance via wobbly boards, physioballs and trick training. We use standard physical therapy equipment and also teach clients how to improvise at home. Each session, the exercise program is revisited and adjusted as needed.

Therapeutic Laser

Laser therapy applies focused light energy at the cellular level. Molecules within soft tissue cells absorb this energy and transform the electromagnetic energy to biochemical energy, and as a result cell metabolism is increased and tissue repair stimulated. Laser irradiation has been linked to changes in nerve conduction and blood flow, production of new blood vessels, and increased metabolism of pain-modifying molecules. We use therapeutic laser extensively to reduce pain and inflammation and speed healing of muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is especially useful for treating wounds, inflammation, arthritis, and acute tendon and muscle trauma. Laser therapy with our Cutting Edge Class IV



Therapeutic Ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to stimulate tissue beneath the skin’s surface. This is a method of deep heating which increases blood flow and reduces swelling and edema. Muscle spasms and scar tissue can be reduced. Muscles often relax and can be stretched further following ultrasound. Ultrasound is employed for soft tissue injury and for post surgical stiffness.



Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (E-stim)

This modality uses electrodes and a low electrical current to stimulate nerves at the nerve-muscle junction, causing the muscle to contract. It can be used to increase range of motion, stimulate atrophied muscles or relax muscle spasms. It is often used in paralyzed patients such as following IVDD surgery (Link:  IVDD)


Cryotherapy & Heat Therapy

Cold therapy is used to decrease inflammation and pain due to trauma or surgery. Cold reduces the delivery of pain messages to the brain. Heat therapy is used later in the healing process to increase blood flow and flexibility.  Heat is especially soothing to arthritic patients.


Water exercise, whether in the pool or treadmill, is an important component of rehabilitative therapy to facilitate movement and speed recovery. It is appropriate for many animals after surgery, injury or for those with arthritis. Some of the benefits of water work include:

Buoyancy: Exercising with less stress on joints decreases pain and facilitates effective exercise, especially for overweight animals or those with joint injury.

Resistance: Work against resistance develops muscle mass and strength. Animals may use an exaggerated gait in water, which aids in extending range of motion.

Pain relief: Warm water has a soothing, compressive action that improves circulation and lymphatic drainage. This reduces swelling,  improves joint health and increases mobility. Muscles relax, which is also soothing for dogs with arthritis, neuromuscular disorders and cancer.

Metabolism: Exercise in water burns 5 to 10 times as many calories as exercise on land, thus increasing cardiorespiratory endurance and aiding weight loss.

Core strength: Swimming challenges balance and coordination and strengthens abdominal and back muscles.

Neuromuscular re-education The viscosity of water stimulates and increases sensory awareness.  Many of our neurosurgery patients first regained movement of their hind legs while swimming in the pool or walking in the underwater treadmill.

Gait Retraining