Physical Therapy for dogs: Understanding its various modalities - Salt Lake Animal Physical Therapy
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Physical Therapy for dogs: Understanding its various modalities

Physical therapy or rehabilitation for dogs works the same way physical therapy works for humans. Physical therapy for canines employs various therapeutic techniques that facilitate healing in dogs, helping them recover from diseases affecting their joints and muscles.

Physical therapy aims to reduce the pain stemming from joint and muscle problems and increase mobility in dogs, thereby improving their overall well-being, coping, and quality of life. In the case of injuries or diseases, physical therapy is prescribed following surgery to promote healing and restore the proper functioning of the body. Though, it is not limited to only post-surgery assistance. In many cases, physical therapy
is used instead of surgery for treating mild injuries or the early stages of diseases such as arthritis, intervertebral disc disease, and CCL. It is also beneficial for older dogs or dogs who are overweight and have reduced activity.

How can my dog benefit from Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy provides several benefits. It can help dogs who have undergone surgery, who are recovering from an injury or are suffering from any muscle and bone disease in the following ways –

  • It helps reduce one of the most critical of all problems, which is inflammation. As in humans, chronic inflammation in dogs can cause various serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • It reduces pain in limbs, the spine or any part that has suffered an injury.
  • It helps obese or overweight patients to shed unhealthy fat.
  • It helps in restoring regular bodily function and increasing mobility.
  • It helps to gain muscle strength and restore muscle mass.
  • It improves coordination in the body and helps to gain balance.
  • The therapy improves the overall health of dogs and allows them to cope better with their health conditions so that they can lead a comfortable and quality lifestyle. 

Modalities used in Canine Physical Therapy

Now that you know how effective physical therapy can be for your furry friend, let’s look at some of the modalities it uses to help dogs –

  1. Electrical stimulation – is a commonly used modality in physical therapy that uses low-level currents to promote healing. It is effective for various purposes such as improving muscle tone and increasing muscle strength, accelerating function, increasing range of motion, enhancing wound healing, correcting structure abnormalities, healing muscle spasms, muscle reeducation, and controlling pain. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) targets muscles and helps in muscle regeneration and enhances the movement of joints, whereas, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) targets sensory nerves and helps reduce pain.
  2. Laser Therapy – Therapeutic lasers that use deep-penetrating light are employed in physical therapy for various problems such as neurologic conditions, muscle, tendon and ligament ruptures, arthritis, and pain. Laser therapy is a non-invasive treatment that helps accelerate joint healing, control acute and chronic pain, and promote the regeneration of muscles.
  3. Massage – Massaging is another modality that can be very helpful for canine friends. It employs the power of touch to heal the body.
    It helps alleviate pain, reduce swelling, increase blood circulation, maintain muscle tone, soothe and relax the body, and reduce stress and anxiety. Massage is also beneficial in cases of reduced mobility. Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization is also a great tool that is often underutilized.
  4. Joint Mobilization – This modality involves mobilizing and manipulating joints and their associated soft tissues. It requires using skilled hand movements that are either oscillatory or sustained stretch to treat the dogs. It can help by improving tissue extensibility, relieving pain, reducing swelling and inflammation, relaxing the stiff muscles and joints, increasing blood flow and lymphatic flow, maintaining cartilage, and enhancing joint lubrication.
  5. Acupuncture and dry needling – This technique uses needles to promote healing in dogs. Acupuncture helps correct any energy imbalance in the body and aims to improve overall well-being. Needling increases blood flow and oxygenation of tissues, and it also helps alleviate pain and relax the body.
  6. Cryotherapy – Also known as cold therapy, this modality uses chilled agents such as frozen peas to constrict the patients’ blood vessels. Cryotherapy is an effective treatment as it prevents and reduces inflammation and swelling and helps reduce pain. It provides relief by constricting blood vessels and helping the body to relax.
  7. Thermotherapy – Also known as warm therapy, thermotherapy
    works on the opposite principle of Cryotherapy. It uses warm and moist heat to penetrate the tissues and enhance healing. Thermotherapy helps increase blood circulation and the ability to stretch, alleviating pain and relaxing the muscles. It also helps speed up the healing process. 

These are only a few of the treatment options available. Therapeutic exercise to increase strength, balance and coordination is very effective as well. Range of motion activities and much more are also highly useful.

Canine physical therapy is very effective in treating a variety of problems. It is an excellent alternative to surgery and medications that may cause unnecessary pain, anxiety and side effects. If your dog suffers from muscle and bone disorders or has incurred an injury, or if it just needs soothing treatment to improve its quality of life, physical therapy can be helpful.