Can Dogs Recover From Injuries Without Surgery Or Meds? - Salt Lake Animal Physical Therapy
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Can Dogs Recover From Injuries Without Surgery Or Meds?

Being a pet parent, it can be dreadful to even think about your beloved dog undergoing a knife, due to a debilitating disease or common injuries such as a fractured bone. So naturally, you are curious if there are any alternatives to surgery and medications. The answer to this is yes. How?… Let’s find out.

A dog may be prescribed surgery for various diseases, injuries, or hereditary ailments. Some of the most common ones include:

·      CCL or Cranial Cruciate ligament

·      Severe Arthritis in dogs

·      Disk Injuries or Accidents

·      IVDD or Intervertebral Disc Disease

·       Pulled muscles

All of the above vary in symptoms. Although some may be easily detected for their in-your-face, visibly pronounced symptoms, others go undetected for a long time and eventually cause complete immobility or even death.

So, yes, surgery may be necessary for some of the more critical diseases. But such instances too can do with physical therapy for post-surgery recovery or helping your pawed-friend bounce back from anxiety and mobility issues such as limping. It is a proven treatment that helps dogs gain movement but ensures complete rehabilitation and trauma recovery.

And for more common issues such as fractured bone, limping, or canine arthritis, physical therapy should be the go-to solution.

Here, we have addressed all the possible movement-related issues that dogs encounter, tell-tale signs, and which physical therapy exercise or approach can help tackle the problem.

Disclaimer – Do not straight-up play vet or therapist to your dog, and do not go YouTubing it. You’d still need to work with a local, experienced dog physical therapist who excels at canine rehabilitation.

Keeping that in mind, we will start by addressing more common issues and move up to more severe ones. So, here goes…

1. Pulled muscles

The motion of a dog is balanced and graceful, which makes it hard for us to notice any injury or not. But if your dog is turning away or retracting its paws when you touch a certain area, it might be of a strained muscle. It is a fairly common issue and can be attended to, at home. Nonetheless, consult a physical therapist before you do so. A retracting action can be an onset of a more severe problem.

A pulled muscle may cause:

● The pulled body area becomes unusually warm.

● Muscle Stiffness

● Swelling

● Your dog is avoiding physical contact or pain when touched.


Rest, Rest, and more Rest. Yes! The best way to heal a pulled muscle is to ensure your furry friend gets proper rest. I know what you must be saying in your head – “How do I make my furry wreck-ball sit still?” Resting a dog can be difficult. To be honest it is sometimes not enough. When rest is not enough and you have seen your Vet, then it is time to consult a Certified Canine Rehab Therapist.

Better still, here are some additional tips to help them recover fast, without any medical supplements.

●     Providing heat and cold treatment: Heat treatment helps a great deal with chronic injuries which are slow to cure. It will help to alleviate spasms and improve blood circulation. On the other hand, cold therapy requires placing an ice pack on the injured area to reduce swelling and pain.

●     Myotherapy: It is one of the most effective techniques in which specific points are pressed and massaged. It helps repair damaged tissues, improving blood circulation, and restoring motion.

●     Herbal remedy: Applying arnica tincture can stop the pain and prevent bruising

2. Limping

 Limping might be caused by a fracture to one or more bones in the leg or paw. It is not usually an emergency; still, it needs care and attention for proper treatment. You can identify lameness through the list of symptoms mentioned below.

● Holding up the limped leg

● Not weighting on the injured limb

● Dragging around

● Torn nails

● Cuts or scrapes in the paws

● High fever

● Trouble breathing

In some cases, rest may be all that is needed to cure. We always recommend consulting your Vet. You can also apply:

●     Heat or cold therapy: Apply a frozen bag or heat pack to relieve the pain. If it persists after 24 hours, it is advisable to visit the vet.

●     Restrict the movement: limping dogs must be allowed to rest from days to weeks. Consider having them stay in a crate.

But What about other chronic injuries such as ACL or IVDD? Can they also be treated without the need for surgeries or administering meds? And the answer is – YES! Let’s find out how.

Torn ACL or CCL

The Cranial Cruciate ligament connects the back of the femur with the front of the tibia in dogs.

How to identify it?

Here are the symptoms of a torn ACL:

● Stiffness in hind legs

● Swelling in knees

● Drawer sign (the tibia gets pulled the same way as a drawer does.)

● Lameness

● Difficulty while standing.

Now, about treating ACL without any surgery or medicine.

    Orthopedic braces: It is used to stabilize the knee joint and is a cost-effective solution. The braces limit the extension so that scar tissue can form a callus for healing. However, most often an expensive custom made brace is needed. This is often not the best option and not a good long term solution.

●     Strengthening the muscles around the joint: By strengthening the muscles around the joint will help to provide more stability for the joint and brace the joint. This can be a good option for less severe tears. Sometimes if it is a full tear, then surgery is the best option. Owners should consider the age and activity level of the dog as well. Seeing an orthopedic Vet or Canine Physical Therapist is always a good idea.

●     Improving ROM and Balance: Improving range of motion and balance can help in less severe ACL tears.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

This condition can be defined as slipped or bulging disc which occurs in your dog’s back or neck and can be recognized by:

● Holding the neck low

● Limping of front limbs

● Panting or shivering

● Unable to lift the head,

● Sensitivity to touch

● Hunched posture

Nonsurgical treatments involve:

●     Laser therapy: It improves neurologic function and modulates the formation of opioids in inflamed tissue.

●     Physical therapy: Rehabilitation works wonders for many dogs suffering from IVDD.

●     Strict crate rest and acupuncture: Your dog must be confined to a small room and given acupuncture treatment for at least four weeks to mend the damage.

And lastly…

Two things. First – more often than not, we sideline a limp or minor discomfort our furry friend shows, but when we do that, we unintentionally let life-threatening problems set their roots. Cliché but true, this adage – prevention is better than cure, is something we ought to abide by.

And the other thing, before you subscribe to surgery or prescribed meds, ensure you consult an expert animal physical therapist for a second opinion. You see not all dogs respond well to surgeries, and even if it resolves one problem, other problems may surface due to the stress and trauma post-procedure.