Physiotherapy for dogs

Posted: May 12th, 2017 | Featured, Lifestyle, Pets | No Comments

By Sari Reis

When I first started my pet sitting business, I had the opportunity and privilege of doing some volunteer work with Trish Penick, a physical therapist with special training to work with animals. Trish worked her magic in a heated pool and provided swimming, an underwater treadmill, as well as various other forms of hydrotherapy to her clients’ dogs.

Water exercise is one of the most useful physiotherapies for dogs. (

I observed as she worked with dogs that were paralyzed, injured, recovering from surgery, or hardly able to stand due to arthritis. Not only did Trish provide them with pain relief and freedom of movement but a new quality of life they would not have otherwise experienced. The dogs loved it. It was thrilling to watch and so gratifying to be a part of it.

Physiotherapy is an effective treatment which is safe and is side-effect free. It encourages natural healing by mobilizing the body’s own first aid kit.

Besides hydrotherapy, there are additional modalities which include: laser therapy, electrotherapy, cold therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, therapeutic exercises, acupuncture, and massage. Each one of these modalities can be used separately or in conjunction with one another to treat various ailments or to just keep your sport-loving dog in tiptop shape.

The most common uses of physiotherapy for animals are: recovery after surgery, orthopedic problems, sports medicine, injury recovery, genetic problems (such as hip dysplasia), or arthritis.

Not all canines are good candidates however. Contraindications include animals with cancer, open wounds, infections, pregnancy or simply a bad attitude toward therapy (such as aggression).

Besides easing pain, physiotherapy enhances healing by increasing blood supply to the muscles and joints ensuring optimal muscle function. It rehabilitates musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, and aids in prolonging the quality of life.

Dr. Alicia Karas, assistant professor of veterinary medicine at Tufts University, takes a holistic approach with older dogs. She looks beyond drugs to relieve pain and often recommends massage, therapeutic ultrasound and rehabilitation. She says about rehabilitation, “Three times a week the dog gets out and sees people who pet and love him.”

If you have a furry kid at home that is a possible candidate for physiotherapy, the first step is to contact your veterinarian and have the pet evaluated. If physiotherapy is the right route for you to go, find an excellent animal physical therapist that is specially trained in the different modalities to work with you and your dog. A good place to start is the California Association of Animal Therapists at

Remember, you will also be a vital part of your dog’s treatment and recovery and will participate in some home treatment as well. The benefits are immeasurable watching your dog heal and regain his happy self. For more information, contact Trish Penick at

—Sari Reis is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information, you can contact her at 760-644-0289 or

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