Rehabilitation: Renewal for Stiff and Achy Pets

Help For A Wide Range Of Conditions

When combined with appropriate medical treatment, including effective management of pain and inflammation, rehabilitation can help pets recover from injuries or surgery, such as a cruciate ligament or spinal repair. Pets with other conditions that aren’t amenable to surgery, including osteoarthritis and obesity, may also benefit from therapy. “Research shows that dogs lost more weight with diet and in-clinic exercise therapy than with diet and at-home exercise alone,” says Dr. Tomlinson. “Therapeutic exercise also helps to prevent loss of lean body mass, or muscle, in the face of calorie restriction.”


Rehabilitation specialists often practice sports medicine as well, which applies athletic conditioning to help maintain fitness or prevent injury in sporting or working dogs. And small animal rehabilitation isn’t just for canines. “We see cats mostly for spinal pain and stiffness, some for diseases of the nervous system and hip arthritis, and some for orthoses, or braces,” says Dr. Tomlinson.

Finding The Right Therapist

It may be tempting to assume that anyone, such as a technician trained in human massage or physical therapy, can provide rehabilitation for pets, but that’s not the case. “Not all people who advertise as animal rehabilitation therapists are adequately qualified,” warns Dr. Tomlinson. “The patient needs a veterinary diagnosis,” she adds, stressing the importance of working with veterinarians who have specific training.

That’s why you’ll want to first schedule a visit with your veterinarian: to make sure your pet gets a proper diagnosis and ultimately works with someone who will help you reach the goals you and your veterinary team set together to help alleviate your pet’s pain, restore function, and improve her quality of life.


Working with the right therapist certainly paid off for Rusty. “Two years on, she’s still getting on the couch and bed, loving walks, and having no pain issues,” says Dr. Tomlinson, who now sees Rusty only every 3 months.


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of HealthyPet magazine.


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