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How to Help Your Pet Recover with Physical Therapy

If your pet is recovering from an injury or surgery or has a chronic health condition, they may benefit from pet rehabilitation and physical therapy. Today, our Central Illinois vets explain when rehabilitation may be useful and its benefits. We also list some specific treatment and therapy options.

Veterinary rehabilitation (also sometimes referred to as animal physical therapy) can be one tool to help both cats and dogs recover from injuries or surgical procedures, or to manage chronic health conditions. 

In the past, pet parents were given basic instructions about how to care for their pets after surgery. But we now know more can be done to help them recover, stay active, get appropriate exercise and maintain quality of life. 

When is pet rehabilitation useful?

Most often, feline and canine rehabilitation and physical therapy is recommended after surgical procedures and/or to treat musculoskeletal issues such as cruciate ligament injuries or osteoarthritis. Pets with weight management issues or neurological conditions can also benefit from certain therapies and exercises. 

How can my pet benefit from physical rehabilitation? 

With canine rehabilitation and physical therapy, we can help restore function to a diseased or injured pet by using a combination of treatments such as massage, electrical stimulation, heat treatment and acupuncture combined with exercise and hydrotherapy. 

A combined approach may help to relieve pain, improve muscle and joint health and assist in the rehabilitation of pets after injury, disease or surgery. In some cases, vets recommend physical therapy for dogs as an alternative to surgery, or as a way to stimulate elderly dogs' brains and offer them a renewed sense of purpose.

Physical rehabilitation exercises can also be a fun way to engage with your pet while improving their overall wellbeing. That said, you should always consult your veterinarian before introducing any new exercise program. 

Specifically, physical rehabilitation can improve balance, strength and mobility. They can also support cardiovascular fitness and give your pet the opportunity to get in some full-body exercises such as swimming or agility course training if they are ready.

How is pet rehabilitation performed?

Physical pet rehabilitation can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments, such as lifestyle tools (example: non-slip floor coverings, acupuncture, prescription pet medications and nutritional supplements). 

The goal is to restore a patient's strength, flexibility, comfort, endurance, mobility, awareness of body position and quality of life. Many of these exercises also help with reducing or preventing inflammation and managing pain.

During aquatic therapy, animals use a heated underwater treadmill system with hydro jets to improve range of motion, endurance and strength. 

Always consult your veterinarian and/or therapy team on which exercises and combinations are right for your pet. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have more questions about veterinary physical therapy? Contact our Central Illinois vet clinic today to book an appointment.

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