DIY Physical Therapy for Dogs: What Can You Do at Home?

The question: “Wow, can I really do physical therapy on my own dog?”

DIY Physical Therapy for Dogs: What Can You Do at Home?

The answer: “Yes, with some help from a sound professional resource, you can!”

DIY Physical Therapy for your Ailing or Injured Pet

Let’s put things in perspective and use some probable scenarios.

Your dog went outside to do his ‘business’ in the backyard just as the rain ended. He ran around happily, sliding and turning when suddenly you heard a yelp. Your dog came back into the house holding one of the hind limbs off the ground, walking on 3 legs.

Is physical therapy necessary?

You went to the veterinarian the next morning to find out your dog tore his cruciate ligament and needs surgery. The surgery was done 3 days later. After keeping your dog on activity restriction for 10 days, you returned to the veterinarian to have the stitches removed. The veterinarian advised you to have your dog start physical therapy and rehabilitation.

You’re not sure whether this is really necessary, but just for the heck of it, you go online to find a service. Well, there is one but its 50 miles away. Your dog weighs 80 pounds and is reluctant to get in the car. Oh well, maybe you’ll just go without and see how it goes.

Two weeks later your dog is still walking on three legs. This concerns you because you’ve heard that there is a 70% chance the other side will tear, especially if all of the weight continues to be borne on it. Now what?

Or there’s this scenario: your cat is 12 years old and has started to look disheveled, and is having trouble jumping onto her favorite window ledge.

You go to the veterinarian and they take x-rays. Your cat has arthritis in the hips, knees, and elbows. This prevents her from moving comfortably and causing self-grooming to be painful. The veterinarian recommends acupuncture and physical therapy.

You locate a service providing both but the hours are only in the daytime, and you work full-time and are free only in the evening. Besides, your spouse has recently been laid off, and the extra expense of acupuncture or physical therapy just isn’t in the budget right now.

Without a doubt, there is a great need for physical therapy and rehabilitation to help our pets.

Ten years ago, few knew these types of services were available for injured or disabled dogs, but now it is widely known.

I wrote my first book to help owners navigate the waters of therapeutic treatment and the processes involved so that the optimal health outcome might be achieved.

Several years later it became apparent that the demand for such service far exceeded the supply of qualified professionals.  Now what? Can I teach dog owners to be Physical Therapists? No, but I can guide them in the performance and use of basic techniques that will be helpful!

Let us back up for a minute and establish important groundwork.

Start by consulting your veterinarian.

Physical therapy is not a substitute for primary or specialty care provided by your veterinarian.

Have your vet determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.

The treatment plan often consists of:

  • medication
  • physical therapy
  • water therapy
  • the use of a splint, support or brace, etc.

Ideally, you should consult a qualified animal physical therapist or veterinary rehabilitation specialist for your dog’s care, at least for an initial consultation. But, quite often none exist within a reasonable distance.

What techniques can I use?

Now you need a few ‘Do It Yourself’ techniques to bridge the gap such as: how/when to apply heat and cold, a safe way to massage an aching dog body part, tips on building a ramp to help the dog in and out of the car, instructions on gentle stretches and strength exercises, and suggestions for using household items as dog exercise equipment.

Thus became the mission for my second, recently released book where I, as a licensed Physical Therapist working exclusively with animals, become the teacher for the dog owner.

Physical Therapy in Animals

I included descriptions, photos with directional arrows, and practical examples using stories from my actual patient caseload. Will it be the same as hiring a therapist to treat your dog, cat, bird, rabbit, or other pet? No, but it will greatly suffice, and your dog will enjoy and receive benefit from your efforts to learn and use these helpful hands-on techniques!

The book covers new developments in physical therapy for animals, physical therapies for different life stages, as well as individual techniques such as

  • the use of heat and cold
  • walking aids and wheeled carts
  • bathtub hydrotherapy
  • ramps
  • wound care
  • best practices after surgery
  • exercise methods
  • winter exercise
  • and more
  1. We had to help our Maltese with some PT after she had surgery for necrosis of the femoral head. It seemed to help her recovery.

  2. I would be scared to do it and am fortunate to have a friend not far from my house whose profession is a physical therapist for dogs so I would go to her, I just would feel safer that way.

  3. Marjorie Dawson

    I would no have had the confidence to try physical therapy without some kind of reassurance like this. Knowing it is OK and a real ‘thing’ I can do to help a pet is so important to know.

    Fantastic news and there are books to help show the way. How epic is this!

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