Physical therapy is widely accepted and practiced in human medicine. When a person is recovering from an injury or surgery, their physician will likely recommend physical therapy to help assist with their recuperation. Similarly, people who have functionally limiting conditions benefit from physical therapy. Pets often suffer from similar injuries or diseases and can benefit from veterinary rehabilitation.

Veterinary rehabilitation is a rapidly growing and advancing field, because pet owners often seek the same care for their pets that they themselves receive. Rehabilitation can dramatically enhance a pet’s quality of life by improving their mobility and function, and decreasing their pain. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nederland team recognizes veterinary rehabilitation’s importance for our patients’ healing, and we employ several research-backed modalities in our facility. Read our guide to learn what veterinary rehabilitation entails and how these services can benefit your furry pal.

What is veterinary rehabilitation?

Veterinary rehabilitation is similar to physical therapy for humans and consists of various therapy types (i.e., modalities). Each modality serves a different purpose designed to assist in a pet’s recovery after surgery or injury, or while coping with a disease affecting their mobility and function. After receiving specialized training, a veterinarian can provide a pet with rehabilitation therapy. A veterinarian who offers rehabilitative services may be a general practitioner or a board-certified surgeon who has a special interest in rehabilitation. Some veterinarians become board-certified rehabilitation specialists. Veterinary technicians, and chiropractors and physical therapists who provide treatment for humans can also pursue additional training and certifications to put their skills to work on various species.

What modalities are used in veterinary rehabilitation?

Veterinary rehabilitation administers various treatment modalities that work together to address specific needs, including pain, inflammation, mobility, and muscle or strength loss. Commonly veterinary rehabilitation modalities include the following:

  • Acupuncture — Thin needles inserted into specific body points stimulate the nervous system and circulation, and reduce pain.
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy — This therapy uses short and intense sound waves to stimulate tissue healing.
  • Hydrotherapy — Swim therapy and the underwater treadmill are used in hydrotherapy, which relies on water’s properties for resistance, warmth, and support during exercise.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen — A hyperbaric oxygen chamber administers oxygen at increased pressures to improve circulation and speed healing.
  • Treadmill — The land treadmill is helpful for encouraging limb use and building fitness.
  • Manual therapy — Manual therapy can take several forms, including joint mobilization, range of motion, and chiropractic spinal manipulation to reduce muscle tension, pain, and joint dysfunction. 
  • Electrical stimulation — Nerve and muscle electrical stimulation helps improve muscle tone, prevent muscle atrophy, and disrupt pain signals.
  • Prosthetics and devices — Some rehabilitation veterinarians help fit prosthetics, braces, wheelchairs, and other devices to assist a pet’s mobility and help train the pet and pet owner to use these devices.
  • Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) — A PEMF device can speed healing and reduce pain and inflammation. You can also use these devices safely at home.
  • Regenerative medicine — Stem cell and platelet-rich plasma therapies use a pet’s own healing properties that the practitioner injects into the affected body area. The procedure requires your pet to receive anesthesia. Only a specially trained veterinary professional can perform these therapies at an appropriately equipped facility.
  • Therapeutic exercise — Specific exercises are prescribed to improve strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination.
  • Laser therapy — A therapy laser uses certain light wavelengths that penetrate tissues and alter cell metabolism to reduce inflammation and speed healing.
  • Massage — Massage can release painful trigger points and improve circulation and mobility.
  • Ultrasound — Therapeutic ultrasound uses sound waves, which create heat and vibration to break down scar tissue, reduce pain, and increase muscle elasticity.
  • Hot and cold therapy — Cold therapy helps reduce swelling and inflammation, while hot therapy helps improve circulation and muscle relaxation.

Which conditions benefit most from veterinary rehabilitation?

Pets with various orthopedic or neurologic problems can benefit from veterinary rehabilitation therapies. Some of the most commonly treated issues include the following:

How is rehabilitation administered after my pet’s surgery?

Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nederland facility offers advanced orthopedic surgeries and several rehabilitation modalities to jumpstart your pet’s recovery. Immediately after your furry pal’s surgery, we administer cold therapy and laser therapy to reduce your pet’s inflammation and pain. Our team begins range-of-motion exercises while your pet is still in the hospital and prescribes additional exercises you can do with your four-legged friend at home. As your pet’s recovery progresses, we will prescribe increasingly advanced exercises. Our facility also offers in-house underwater treadmill therapy that will help build your furry pal’s muscle tone and strength.

Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nederland team in Southeast Texas is skilled in postoperative and rehabilitation care, and we can prescribe the most effective in-house treatment modality to suit your pet’s needs. If we believe your pet may benefit from a more extensive rehabilitation program, we will refer you to a nearby specialist facility to complement the care our team provides. To learn more about veterinary rehabilitation, orthopedic surgery, and other services that may be beneficial to your pet, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nederland team.