Signs Your Dog Needs Canine Physical Therapy: A Comprehensive Guide - Salt Lake Animal Physical Therapy
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Signs Your Dog Needs Canine Physical Therapy: A Comprehensive Guide

As pet parents, we cherish our canine friends and do everything we can to ensure they get the best care possible. But just like humans, dogs experience various physical ailments and injuries too; not a pleasant site.

After all, our four-pawed bundles of joy and mischief cannot speak about their suffering in our language. So it all comes down to you to gauge their non-verbal communication and read signs of possible discomfort.
In this blog, we do just that – understand how you can read those signs and help your doggo, prevent lifelong suffering, or live a better life when facing such turmoil.

When to seek Canine Physical Therapy:

  1. Limping or Lameness: If you notice your dog limping or favoring one leg, it could be an indication of an injury, joint problem, or muscular imbalance that requires physical therapy intervention.
  2. Difficulty Rising or Sitting: If your dog struggles to stand up or sit down, especially after periods of rest, it might be experiencing joint stiffness or muscular weakness.
  3. Reluctance to Exercise: A sudden reluctance to engage in regular physical activities or play might be due to pain or discomfort.
  4. Stiffness and Decreased Range of Motion: If your dog seems stiff, has trouble moving certain body parts, or displays reduced flexibility, physical therapy can be beneficial.
  5. Noticeable Muscle Atrophy: Muscle wasting or atrophy may indicate nerve damage or disuse, and physical therapy can help in rebuilding muscle mass.
  6. Post-Surgical Recovery: After surgical procedures, physical therapy can accelerate healing, restore mobility, and prevent complications.
  7. Obesity or Weight Management Issues: Overweight dogs can benefit from physical therapy programs designed to promote weight loss and improve joint health.
  8. Age-Related Mobility Issues: Senior dogs often experience mobility issues, and physical therapy can help manage age-related conditions like osteoarthritis.
  9. Neurological Conditions: Canine physical therapy can be effective in managing neurological conditions such as intervertebral disc disease and degenerative myelopathy.
  10. Chronic Pain Conditions: Dogs with chronic pain conditions like hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia can find relief through physical therapy treatments.

Why Canine Physical Therapy?

Canine physical therapy is a non-invasive, drug-free treatment that aims to enhance a dog’s functional mobility, reduce pain, and promote healing after injuries or surgeries. It employs a variety of therapeutic techniques to address musculoskeletal and neurological conditions in dogs, enhancing their quality of life and overall comfort.

Benefits of Canine Physical Therapy:

Pain Management: Physical therapy techniques, such as instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization and hands on manual therapy techniques, can help alleviate pain and discomfort caused by conditions like arthritis and joint dysplasia.
Improved Mobility: Physical therapy aids in restoring joint function and muscle strength, allowing your dog to move more freely and comfortably.
Faster Recovery: After surgeries or injuries, physical therapy can expedite the recovery process, promoting tissue healing and reducing the risk of complications.
Enhanced Balance and Coordination: Through targeted exercises, canine physical therapy can improve your dog’s balance and coordination, reducing the likelihood of accidental falls and injuries.
Non-Invasive Approach: Canine physical therapy focuses on non-invasive methods, reducing the need for medications and invasive procedures.

Preventing the Need for Canine Physical Therapy:

While physical therapy can be incredibly beneficial for dogs, prevention is always better than cure. So here are some tips that may help you prevent the need for physical therapy altogether.

1) Regular Exercise: Give your dog regular, low-impact exercise to keep their muscles and joints healthy and maintain an appropriate weight.

2) Proper Nutrition: Feed your dog a balanced diet to support their overall health and prevent obesity, which can put extra strain on joints.

3) Joint Supplements: Consider adding joint supplements recommended by your veterinarian to your dog’s diet, especially for older or larger breeds prone to joint issues.

4) Safe Environment: Ensure your home and yard are safe and free from hazards to prevent accidental injuries.

5) Regular Vet Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to catch any potential health issues early on.


What you can take away from this blog is that, first, while your vet is very helpful they may not have all the answers to your dog’s ongoing pain and injuries. Medication is not always good for overall well-being, as it may lead to mental issues.

Second, if you combine your pet’s veterinary visits with Canine physical therapy, it can be a valuable tool that can greatly improve your dog’s quality of life, especially when facing physical challenges due to injury, surgery, or age-related conditions.
Third, by being attentive to signs that your dog may need physical therapy, you can take proactive measures to ensure their well-being and happiness.

And lastly, as a pet parent, it is up to you how much you are willing to give, to ensure your furry buddy lives a healthy life. Of course, you are already doing a great job! If you are looking for help online and reading or following blogs like these, your dog is fortunate to have you!

Remember, a happy and healthy dog makes for an even happier and more fulfilling human-dog relationship. So, if you notice any of the signs mentioned in this guide, don’t hesitate to consult with your veterinarian and your renowned animal physical therapist to explore the potential benefits of canine physical therapy for your furry companion. Their wagging tail will thank you for it!

Good luck!

Josh, animal physical therapist, Saltlake, Utah.