Physical Therapy (PT)

Back to Medical Resource Library

Filed Under: Neurology

Physical Therapy Guidelines

Physical Therapy will help shorten your Pet's recovery period, make him/her more comfortable, and decrease scar tissue formation.  After disc herniation or spinal surgery, your Pet may have difficulty walking or be recumbent.  Physical therapy can hasten recovery and improve muscle strength.  Several physical therapy techniques are used specifically for Pets that have had spinal surgery, or have spinal problems.

Passive Exercise involves flexing and extending the limbs through normal, pain-free reange of motion.  This is done 5-10 times on each limb, 3 times a day.  This exercise is to begin a few days after surgery or trauma.  Passive exercise improve blood flow and sensation to the limbs and prevents muscle wasting.

Active Exercise involves voluntary movement of the limbs by the animal, usually by walking.  Initially your Pet will probably need support and assistance to walk.  You can provide this by holding the base of the tail and encouraging you dog to walk forward.  A towel can be used as a sling under the abdomen in front of the rear legs.  There are also commercially available slings (Walkabout or Help Em Up Harness).  During active exercise, your Pet should be encourages and praised.  If he/she seems to tire, or become depressed, the therapy may be ineffective.

***If you Pet has had surgery, please do not start active exercise until directed by your Pet's Neurosurgeon or Primary Veterinarian.

Massage therapy can increase blood flow and reduce muscle tension.  In most cases, it is also good for your Pet's mental attitude.  Begin by gently, but firmly, stroking the limb with a uniform pressure, from the edge to the center.  Continue this for about 3-5 minutes.  Next, the skin and muscle can be rolled and compressed between your fingers.  Use firm pressure, but not enough to cause pain.  This is referred to as kneading.  Friction is also useful, and involves using your flattened hand to move the skin rapidly in a circular motion 3-4 times.  This is performed repeatedly over the whole limb, doing small areas at a time.  Again, pressure should be moderate, but not painful.  Massage sessions should last about 15 minutes and should be done 2-3 times a day.

Hydrotherapy is an excellent form of physical therapy.  Swimming your Pet in a full bathtub or a small pool is ideal.  Many animals will use their limbs voluntarily in the water.  The water provides resistance to movement; it is a good way to prevent muscle wasting.  Whirlpool baths combine heat, water, and massage therapy in one session and can be very beneficial to your Pet.  Hydrotherapy should not begin until about 1 week after surgery (after your Pet's incision has healed).  Sessions should be 1-2 times per day for 5-30 minutes each time.

***If your Pet has had surgery, we recommend waiting to begin hydrotherapy until the skin staples or sutures have been removed.

If you have any questions about PT, please call us at 972.820.7099.