As dogs get older, their muscles, bones, and joints get pretty stiff and worn down, and in the worst cases, our doggos can lose their ability to walk altogether. Canine rehabilitation, or dog physical therapy, can help dogs reduce pain and regain mobility - learn our simple techniques to perform this physical therapy at home and get your pup back to its regular, active self.
Most dogs are bound to get hurt at least once in their life with all the high-impact activities they do. Usually, it's a minor injury, like a muscle strain or tear, but sometimes it can be a little more severe.
Whether your pup is dealing with a small injury, acute damage, or general stiffness and soreness from an aging body, dog rehabilitation through physical therapy can be incredibly beneficial.
You can consult and see a specialized dog physical therapist or perform simple physical therapy for dog hips, dog back pain, and other issues at home using a few simple techniques.
Read below to learn more about canine rehabilitation and discover the most straightforward techniques to rehab a dog that's lost mobility.
What is Canine Physical Therapy?
Canine rehabilitation is much the same as the therapy we use to rehabilitate our muscles, bones, and joints after an injury or chronic issues.
A canine physical therapist will manipulate a dog's muscles and joints in a professional setting to strengthen muscles and improve their ability to move painlessly.
Rehabilitation technicians commonly work on dogs with injuries in their legs, but physical therapy after back surgery is somethng we also see quite often.
For many injuries and issues, we don't need to bring our pups to a licensed professional - with the right knowledge and tools, we can perform dog therapy and massage at home.
You may want to purchase some dog physical therapy equipment, but it's by no means necessary to get started.
Reasons For Dog Physical Therapy
Let's run down the reasons why dog physical therapy can help get your pup back to fighting shape:
- It can increase joint and muscle mobility and range of motion, so the dog has a full range of movement in the joint
- It can reduce pain and inflammation, so injuries heal faster
- It improves strength, so they can become more active and strengthen the muscle further
Before You Start Dog Physiotherapy
We need to cover some things before you attempt to be your pup's personal physiotherapist at home.
Consult a Professional
Physiotherapy is beneficial when done correctly, but an inexperienced owner with incorrect techniques can make their dog's situation even worse.
Before you embark on a therapy program with your pup, consult a vet or dog physiotherapist about techniques and a safe course of action you can take.
A vet will help you pinpoint the problem areas that need addressing and build a realistic care plan.
Rehabbing your pup can be easily set back if your dog has overstressed the area. When your dog comes home from surgery, you should modify common areas of the home to make them more accessible to the pup.
Bring in lots of pillows for support and a doggie ramp to help your pup up the stairs or onto the couch or bed.
Dog Physical Therapy Exercises From Home
These are the most common simple and effective techniques you can use to rehab your pup at home.
Feel free to use treats as necessary to motivate your pup to follow your directions.
#1. Passive Range of Motion
You can start this gentle therapy as soon as your dog is out of the initial pain stages of an injury.
Have your dog gently lie down on one side, with the affected area easy to access. Gently hold the limb and begin to move it through its range of motion. Start with small movements, then make them bigger as the dog allows.
If this movement causes the dog pain, discontinue the therapy, and wait for the injury to heal before further action.
Sit-to-stands build up the hamstrings and quadriceps of a pup's hindquarters.
Your dog will need to begin sitting down with both hind legs directly underneath them to perform the move. Use a leash and sling around their hindquarters, if necessary.
To ensure they do this, sit the dog tightly between your legs or with their back against a wall.
Encourage the dog to stand up, then get them to sit back down. Repeat 10 times, twice a day.
#3. Weight Shifting
Weight shifting, or balance therapy, is best used when your dog regains its ability to stand. This therapy helps strengthen the limb while allowing the dog to understand that it is no longer painful.
Gently push your dog's hips slightly to one side; just an inch or two is more than enough. The dog will correct the push by shifting its weight. If they can't do this, try supporting part of their body weight in your hand and try again. Repeat five times through, twice a day.
#4. Back Extension
Back extension exercises will help to strengthen your pup's back after injury or surgery.
To perform a back extension, get your pup to stand with their front feet on a step or a raised surface.
Have them hold for 5-10 seconds while keeping their head and neck in a neutral position, then have them release and assist them in stepping down. Repeat several times daily.
#5. Stairs and Incline
Use a doggie ramp, a short flight of stairs, or another inclined surface to help build strength and muscle mass in your dog's hind legs while increasing the range of motion.
Hold your dog on a tight leash to control movement safely. Slowly lead your dog up the ramp and then back down.
Start small, walking up half the ramp or just 2-3 stairs before leading the dog back down. Gradually build strength and stamina to increase the distance the pup travels safely.
#6. Controlled Leash Walking
Place a chest harness and a lead on your pup for total control of their movements.
Walk with the dog, going as slowly as you need to avoid the dog favoring the injury. You want them to place all four feet on the ground for every step.
As your dog's strength begins to improve, increase the speed and add small intervals at a faster-paced jog to increase cardiovascular strength, which has likely suffered from the immobility of injury.
Final Notes: Helping Your Pup Through Physiotherapy
Performing physio exercises on your dog can be quite simple when you know what to do.
Along with your physiotherapy treatments, try heat and cold therapy, gentle massage, plenty of rest, and anti-inflammatory pain relievers to help your dog to heal faster and come back stronger.
After consulting your vet, get started on a rehab treatment plan today; good luck!