Veterinary physical rehabilitation—similar to physical therapy for people—provides pain relief, mobility support, physical fitness, and strength building. Physical rehabilitation can be especially beneficial for postoperative healing from veterinary procedures such as orthopedic (e.g., elbow, hip, knee) and intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) surgeries. Learn how our Central Houston Animal Hospital team’s veterinary-supervised rehabilitation services can improve your pet’s health and wellbeing, and support their postoperative healing. 

What is physical rehabilitation for pets?

Veterinary physical rehabilitation is a common postoperative treatment, often used to help support pets who have weak or painful joints. Various veterinary physical rehabilitation options can help with your pet’s pain relief, muscle building, range of motion, mobility, and balance and coordination. Postsurgical rehabilitation helps reduce complications, prevent or minimize muscle atrophy (i.e., wasting), and spur your pet’s recovery. No matter the physical rehabilitation treatment your pet receives, the goal is to improve their quality of life.

What types of surgeries benefit from physical rehabilitation for pets?

After a variety of surgical procedures, physical rehabilitation can help ease your pet’s pain and stiffness while hastening their recovery. Some of these surgeries include:

  • Orthopedic surgeries — Such as cranial cruciate ligament injuries, elbow procedures, and  hip surgeries
  • Neurologic  surgeries — Including IVDD and tumor removal surgeries
  • Oncology surgeries — Including various cancer surgeries that can benefit from controlled physical activity
  • Soft tissue surgeries — Such as wound care, traumatic injuries, and mass removals involving underlying muscle tissue 

What physical therapy options are available for pets?

Our Central Houston Animal Hospital team’s veterinary-supervised rehabilitation services can improve your pet’s health and wellbeing, and support their postoperative healing. The physical rehabilitation services we offer include:

  • Hydrotherapy — When doing this therapy, a pet walks on an underwater treadmill, which allows active muscle contraction with minimal weight bearing on joints and bones. Depending on the water depth, 62% to 65% of a pet’s body weight is supported, easing joints’ strain.
  • Manual therapy — Through skilled hand movements, manual therapy techniques improve tissue extensibility, increase range of motion, induce relaxation, manipulate soft tissues and joints, modulate pain, and reduce soft tissue swelling. 
  • Therapeutic exercises — Our team is trained in multiple therapeutic exercise techniques that can help improve function. These therapeutics include range-of-motion and stretching exercises, massage, and joint mobilization. Your pet’s veterinary physical rehabilitation therapist chooses exercises to target the specific areas where your furry pal needs to build strength, which can increase the following:
    • Range of motion
    • Flexibility
    • Circulation
    • Spatial awareness
    • Strength
    • Balance
    • Mobility
  • Targeted pulsed electromagnetic field therapy — Targeted pulsed electromagnetic field  (tPEMF) therapy delivers a microcurrent to damaged tissue that is precisely tuned to trigger your pet’s natural anti-inflammatory process. The electromagnetic signal stimulates cellular repair by upregulating their body’s endogenous anti-inflammatory substances.
  • Cold laser therapy — Cold laser therapy uses specific light wavelengths to create therapeutic effects, including improved healing time, pain reduction, increased circulation, and decreased swelling. During each treatment, laser energy increases your pet’s circulation, drawing water, oxygen, and nutrients to the injured body area, which creates an optimal healing environment that reduces inflammation, swelling, muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. As your pet’s injured body area returns to normal, function is restored and pain is relieved. After your pet’s surgery, cold laser therapy can speed their recovery process, returning them to their normal routine more quickly than no therapy. 
  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation — During neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), acupuncture needles are attached to electrodes and placed at the beginning and end of a muscle to stimulate a muscle contraction via a low-level current. NMES can be used during your pet’s postoperative recovery period to prevent atrophy when weight bearing is restricted.
  • Transcutaneous electrical neuromuscular stimulation — Transcutaneous electrical neuromuscular stimulation (TENS) therapy stimulates muscle contraction via cutaneous electrodes. TENS can be utilized when NMES therapy is contraindicated, such as when a pet has dermatitis.

To reduce your pet’s complication risks, minimize muscle atrophy, and spur recovery, postsurgical physical rehabilitation therapy has become standard postoperative treatment. We are proud to offer a wide selection of rehabilitation options to benefit your pet, and our skilled specialists will tailor your pet’s physical therapy treatment plan to their individual needs. If you have questions about our rehabilitation services, or would like to schedule your pet’s wellness appointment, contact our Central Houston Animal Hospital team.