If you’ve had surgery or suffered from a serious orthopedic injury, you’ve likely had physical therapy to speed your recovery. Your four-legged friend can also enjoy physical rehabilitation’s benefits, even if they have not undergone surgery, nor experienced a musculoskeletal injury. Read our Central Houston Animal Hospital team’s guide to learn about the physical rehabilitation therapies that are available to pets, and whether your furry pal would make an ideal candidate. 

How does physical rehabilitation benefit pets?

Whether your pet needs to shed a few pounds or regain strength and mobility after a cruciate ligament repair, physical rehabilitation provides the perfect strategy for achieving those goals. Despite the many physical rehabilitation therapies available, each accomplishes similar results. Physical rehabilitation can provide pets with several benefits, including:

  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased range of motion
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Return to normal movement
  • Regained muscle mass
  • Increased muscle strength, stamina, and flexibility
  • Overweight or obese pets’ weight loss 

Pets who experience these benefits may enjoy an overall improved quality of life. In addition, physical rehabilitation may be the treatment that keeps your four-legged friend happy, comfortable, and mobile. 

Which pets can benefit from physical rehabilitation?

All pets can benefit from physical rehabilitation, whether as a means of exercising or for recovering from surgery. However, as physical rehabilitation may be key to their treatment plan, pets with chronic inflammatory issues and those recovering from an injury or surgery receive the most benefit. Physical rehabilitation can help improve the following health conditions: 

  • Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Torn tendons or ligaments 
  • Muscle sprains and strains
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Musculoskeletal surgery recovery
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Spinal injury
  • Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
  • Nerve disorders
  • Obesity

Physical rehabilitation’s goal is to help pets recover more quickly from surgeries, injuries, and chronic inflammatory conditions so they can return to their normal lives as soon as possible. A shortened recovery period also reduces inactivity’s complications such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and bed sores. Physical rehabilitation is also a crucial therapy for pets with liver or kidney disease who are unable to safely take pain-relieving medications. 

What physical rehabilitation therapies are available to pets?

Various physical rehabilitation therapies can be used independently or together to achieve maximum results. Some of the most common pet physical rehabilitation therapies include:

  • Hydrotherapy — Through buoyancy and water resistance, an underwater treadmill workout can help alleviate a pet’s pain while helping them achieve greater mobility, increased muscle mass, and weight loss. Hydrotherapy is an overweight, arthritic pet’s ideal exercise because, as water boosts up the animal, their sore joints’ pressure is relieved, and this physical rehabilitation therapy also provides resistance, creating a strenuous workout.
  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) — This therapy delivers an electrical current that causes muscle contractions, increasing blood circulation, improving joint mobility, and preventing muscle loss. NMES is particularly helpful for pets who have—for a certain period—been unable to use specific muscles, such as those which have been immobilized by a cast.
  • Laser therapy — A low-level laser is different from a surgical cutting laser. Using lightwaves, laser therapy reduces a pet’s pain and inflammation, and enhances wound healing. Laser therapy is beneficial for pets who have had surgery, suffered a traumatic injury, or have a chronic condition such as osteoarthritis.
  • Massage — Massage therapy manipulates soft tissues to improve range of motion, relax muscles, improve circulation, and reduce pain and inflammation. 
  • Passive range-of-motion exercises — Passive range-of-motion exercises are therapeutic exercises that require no effort from your pet. These exercises maintain recovering pets’ joint flexibility and muscle mass, and are especially helpful for pets who have limited mobility.
  • Therapeutic ultrasound — Therapeutic ultrasound uses sound waves of varying intensities and frequencies to deliver improved healing after injury or surgery. As the sound waves vibrate within injured tissues, blood flow increases, swelling decreases, and scar tissue resolves.
  • Therapeutic exercises — Therapeutic exercises can be incorporated into every pet’s rehabilitation plan, and are prescribed based on their specific condition. A wide range of muscle group-targeting exercises can help build your pet’s strength, improve their balance, increase their flexibility, and promote a quicker return to normal.

Does your pet suffer from a chronic inflammatory condition, such as osteoarthritis, or, have they recently had surgery for ligament repair or to improve joint function? Schedule an appointment with our Central Houston Animal Hospital team, so we can determine whether your furry pal is a good physical rehabilitation candidate.