Physical Rehabilitation for Dogs Part 1

Share Button

I recently had a minor sports related injury to my c-spine (i.e. neck) and have started a physical therapy program.  It is interesting to observe the therapists in action on all of the patients, and the range of modalities that are used to heal the injuries and prevent re occurrence.  Interestingly, many of the treatment protocols that are used on humans can also be used on injured dogs with great success.  Thus, today I begin a short series highlighting some of the available canine rehab techniques and their associated benefits.  This week, I will start with the thermal modalities, heat and cryotherapy (e.g. ice).


Thermal modalities are used by the applying heat or cold on the dog’s body to change the temperature of the target region.  Thermal techniques are generally used to reduce pain, increase mobility, and reduce swelling.


Heat Therapy for Canine Rehabilitation

Applying external heat to an injured body part can help to reduce pain, increase blood flow (to promote healing), and increase mobility.  Heat is used to increase the temperature of tissues 1-3 cm below the skin.  Benefits occur when the targeted tissue temperature is reduced by 1 degree C or more.


Heat therapy is typically administered using a moist heat pack or gel pack.  Another option is a moist, heated towel that can be wrapped snugly around the target area.  Caution must be used so that the skin surface is not overheated and burned.


Cryotherapy for Canine Rehabilitation

Cryotherapy is used to lower the temperature of the target area to reduce pain, reduce swelling, and reduce muscle spasms.  Cryotherapy can cool tissues as much as 4 cm below the surface.


Cryotherapy is most often administered using cold packs (either gel packs or ice packs) and ice massage.  I am a fan of ice massage as the moisture can penetrate into the tissues and facilitate the process.  As with heat, cryotherapy needs to be monitored as excess cold can burn the skin ad can result in nerve damage.


Hot and Cold Therapy

Often during rehab, both heat and ice are used as part of the healing process.  Typically, heat is used to warm the tissues before mobilizations, stretching, and exercises.  Once the rehab session is finished,  cold packs are applied minimize any pain and reduce inflammation that might have occurred during treatment.


Share Button


  1. we used a warm pillow with dried camomille flowers for easy’s ear once, it normally works great. but this time easy chewed on the pillow and we had a camomille snow storm on our bed… but it’s a good thing that we can help our furkids to feel better that way :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog FLU FURRYDAYMy Profile

  2. Heat and ice have certainly benefitted my injuries over the years, makes complete sense it would help out the fur-kids. If only I could get Sam to lay still long enough for it to help him. 😉

  3. I’ve been hearing of great success with laser therapy for healing. We don’t have one at our clinic yet but my friend does and she loves it.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Proud To Be An American {This Moment} See BeautifulMy Profile

  4. I had a German Shepherd that had a shoulder problem. He would run full speed and then stop quickly. It would cause his shoulder to hurt. The vet had us alternating the heating pad and ice It helped tremendously.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Pick Up the Dog Poop ~ No More ExcusesMy Profile

  5. Remembering when to use hot and when to use cold on areas is always the tough part for us, but you explain the reasoning so it makes sense.

  6. So good to know this to take care of our pups when they need a little extra love!!
    Julie recently posted…Easter Bunny and the Weekend!!My Profile

  7. I wet a washcloth and put it in the microwave to heat it. I wait about 30 seconds before I apply it to Cash’s strain (above the right paw area), and change it every few minutes as it gets cooler. I do it about 4 times and I think it has helped him, as well.

  8. So far, I’ve only had to use ice packs wrapped in a kitchen towel to cool Buzz off after some playtime during the warmer summer months. This boy will start panting like crazy after only 5 minutes of playing fetch during summer time.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Car Wash, PetCo, Parks, & Photo Sessions: Our Active Week in ReviewMy Profile

  9. My dog was having sever problems with his knees. He could hardly walk. Took him to a vet and she put him on medication which only kept him drugged. She said his fluid around the knees were gone. She suggested their vitamins that had glucosamine and chondroitin in it. Which would have been super if he would take then. Finally put him on peoples vitamins that is for this purpose plus fish oil vitamins. He did improve but was still having issues. I had an and was giving acupuncture which was a total miracle for me. I started searching for a veterinarian who gave this to dogs. Found one she is wonderful. My dog had one treatment and of course he still gets his vitamins everyday and the combination has been quite a life saver for him. It took months but he is coming along great. I also give him the vitamin turmeric curcumin for pain. I would rather help him naturally than with drugs that only keep him drugged.

Comments are now closed on this post.