About Canine Physiotherapy

Animal physiotherapy involves the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal conditions.


Physiotherapy may be beneficial in the following situations:

  • Hip Dysplasia - both conservatively and following surgery
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Cranial Cruciate Disease- both conservatively and following surgery
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Neck or Back pain - secondary to degenerative disc disease, disc protrusion/ extrusion, or post-operatively following decompressive surgery
  • Muscular injuries – common in the agility dog
  • Ligamentous injuries
  • Stabilised fractures following trauma
  • Fibrocartilagenous Embolism
  • Spinal cord injury – Following cervical dislocations or fractures
  • Chronic Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy – treatment is often palliative in these cases but can help to improve your pet’s function, joint ranges of motion and overall comfort.


The majority of conditions benefit from prior veterinary diagnosis. If no diagnosis has been made, common complaints include:

  • Stiffness after rest
  • Difficulty with functional tasks – sit-stand, stairs
  • Scuffing of hindlimb toe nails
  • Change in spinal posture
  • Recent reluctance to perform certain tasks i.e. jumping in car
  • Drop in agility speed
  • Difficulty with particular agility efforts i.e. A-frame
  • Intermittent carrying of one hindlimb



A risk assessment will always be performed prior to assessing your dog.


History – discussion with owner of presenting problem, any aggravating factors, past medical history, current medications, current exercise routine and purpose (if working dog).

Observation – look at the dog’s conformation/posture in standing; observe muscle development and symmetry; observe the dog’s behaviour and willingness to perform tasks.

Gait – observe your dog moving on the lead in a straight line, over various surfaces, at varying speeds. Other tasks can also be observed such as jumping or going up stairs.

Palpation – feeling for areas of heat, swelling, tension/spasm, muscle wastage, increased sensitivity and pain; some specific joint integrity tests may also be performed; passive and active ranges of joint motion will also be assessed (this is often better carried out with your dog in side lying if possible); specific neurological tests may also be performed were indicated.



Dependant on assessment findings a physiotherapy treatment plan will then be devised with realistic goals indentified for your pet to achieve; this will enable measurement of effectiveness of physiotherapy as a treatment for your pet. Treatment will often involve a combination of:

  • Stretching exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Rehabilitation advice
  • Husbandry advice
  • Manual therapy i.e. joint mobilisations
  • Electrotherapy – biomagnetic therapy, laser therapy, muscle stimulation, TENs machine, acupressure or ultrasound therapy
  • Other therapies such as acupuncture, behavioural therapy and hydrotherapy may also be recommended to facilitate your pet’s rehabilitation