Can Pets Benefit from Physical Therapy?


My three-year-old Labrador just had knee surgery. Is there any sort of physical therapy I should be performing to help him recover?

Brooklyn, NY

Physical therapy and rehabilitation are emergent fields in veterinary medicine. Physical therapy has the potential to help cats and dogs suffering from neurological disorders, arthritis, trauma and surgery.

Basic companion animal physical therapy includes procedures such as passive range of motion exercises (in which limbs are gently moved through their normal ranges of motion) and warm or cold compresses.

Advanced physical therapy and rehabilitation may include walking on underwater treadmills (believe it or not, both dogs and cats can perform this activity), electrostimulation of muscles and training with balance boards.

Amanda, your best option is to talk to the veterinarian who performed your dog’s surgery. I am guessing that your dog underwent surgery to correct a cruciate ligament injury. There are several different surgeries available for this injury. In some cases, physical therapy is critical to recovery. In others, physical therapy may actually interfere with healing.

Your vet will know whether physical therapy is appropriate for your dog.

Image credit: Dr. Helmut Steger. Image license: CC

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