Jumping Into Canine Rehab Therapy

It’s reasonable to expect that, just like an aging human, your dog will require some form of rehabilitation therapy as s/he ages. But canine rehab therapy goes beyond augmenting the aging process of your dog. Old or young, you can pretty much be guaranteed that throughout the lifetime of your dog, it is highly likely that you will rely on some form of rehab therapy. So let’s put on our swim goggles and get jumping into canine rehab therapy, what it is, how it works, and the questions you need to ask.

What Are The Signs My Dog Needs Canine Rehab Therapy?

Sometimes dogs walk a little stiff. Particularly after sitting on cement. Is that a sign that they may need this form of therapy?  Could be. Let’s look at some of the signs that your dog needs canine rehab therapy:

  • Difficulty rising in the morning or after a nap
  • Challenges, or lack of desire, going up or down stairs
  • Hesitating when going out for routine walks
  • Whimpering, yelping or growling when touched and even without touch
  • Reduced range of mobility
  • Hopping or skipping, or dragging a paw when walking
  • Repeated licking of one or more of their paws

All of these signs signal some sort of pain. It’s important to have your dog examined by his/her vet and to obtain a referral for canine rehab therapy if warranted. Most vets will perform a full exam, blood draw, and images. This helps them rule out more serious health concerns.

Pug dog receiving a massage


Canine Rehab Therapy – Why and What are the Benefits?

There are many reasons why a dog may need rehab therapy. From arthritis and degenerative joint disease, soft tissue injuries of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles, hip and elbow dysplasia, rear limb weakness, paralysis, neurological disorders, spinal disorders, nerve disorders, and surgeries. Also, if your dog participates in active sports like agility, dock diving, etc., s/he may also need canine rehab therapy to help keep everything in working order.

Canine rehab therapy plays an important role in increasing the quality of a dog’s life. It also has been shown to have great potential to expand a dog’s lifespan.  This is particularly true for preventative therapies, as well as for a dog with serious, neurological disorders like IVDD. Even in cases of paralysis, a dog’s function can improve with canine rehab therapy.

Benefits of Canine Rehab Therapy

Some of the significant benefits of rehab therapy for dogs include:

  • Recovery Time: It can reduce a dog’s recovery time associated with neurologic and orthopedic surgeries.
  • Age-Related Issues: It helps in managing, and in some cases halting, the aches and pains associated with age-related arthritis and spinal issues.
  • Chronic Disease: It slows down the progression of disease-related immobility. Canine rehab therapy can help keep a dog agile and mobile for as long as possible, resulting in a good quality of life.

In general, committing to a good canine rehab therapy program will lessen your dog’s pain, strengthens his or her muscles, increases the recovery process, and helps return your dog to good health after a traumatic event.

Types of Canine Rehab Therapy and Their Benefits

There are a lot of different types of canine rehab therapies, and those that have had successful clinical trials are the ones we highly recommend. These include:

Heat and Cold

Heat and Cold therapy help to reduce the aches and pains resulting from a muscle or joint strain when used 48 hours after an injury. It’s important to have a barrier, like a thin towel, between your dog’s skin and the heat or ice when performing this type of therapy. The cold portion of the treatment, typically ice, minimizes inflammation by decreasing blood flow. Heat, typically through a hot pad, increases blood flow and helps to relax the injured muscles. Start with the cold therapy, for 20-minute intervals, and then switch to the hot therapy, and repeat.

Underwater Treadmill

This type of canine rehab therapy is excellent for dogs with back, spine, and orthopedic injuries like an ACL tear. This is also good for overweight dogs as the water adds buoyancy and lightens the pressure on joins. Underwater treadmill therapy is conducted with a dog walking on a waterproof treadmill that is placed in a tank filled with warm water. The higher the water level, the less weight is applied on a dog’s body. This low-impact therapy also helps to increase a dog’s balance and muscle strength. Resourceful pet parents perform aqua therapy with their dog in a pool or lake – just don’t forget the doggy life preserver.

Therapeutic Ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound is conducted with the head of an ultrasound probe touching your dog’s with a special gel. The gel helps direct the ultrasound waves to stimulate your dog’s muscles. This type of therapy will help to minimize local swelling, chronic inflammation, and, help expedite the healing of bone fractures. Therapeutic ultrasound helps to stimulate blood flow and the major benefit comes to dogs with soft tissue injuries (tendonitis) and muscle spasms.

Cold Laser Therapy

Cold lasers therapy includes a handheld laser placed directly over the injury for several minutes. It works through sending non-thermal (not hot) photons of lights through your dog’s skin layers (dermis, epidermis, and subcutaneous tissue). The laser’s light can penetrate into the skin to help reduce inflammation and pain and to increase blood circulation. One caution, do not provide cold laser therapy on dogs that have cancer because it can increase tumor growth (source).


This type of canine therapy is much like that for humans. Massage manipulates the soft tissues of your dog’s body, relieves muscle tension, helps in the long-run to realigning your dog’s spine. Massage circulates fluids throughout the body, and this helps flush toxins. This results in reduced pain and stiffness, and enhanced flexibility. Also, massage helps to lower blood pressure and is great for older dogs, as well as a pup recovering from a soft tissue injury.

Can CBD Benefit Dogs in a Rehab Therapy Program?

Yes. What’s wonderful about CBD, besides its ability to help manage pain and inflammation, is that it won’t interfere with your rehabbing pup’s therapy. Actually, it may help! In the big scheme of life, inflammation is bad for your pup (and you). So, the more you can do to minimize this condition, the better of your dog will be.  

The analgesic (pain relieving) property of CBD is a great benefit for dog’s in canine rehab therapy. Additionally, CBD 30 minutes prior to a therapy appointment should help your anxious pup. An anxiety-free dog is exactly what you want t0 get the most out of a solid canine rehab therapy session!