Physiotherapy for dogs

  • Dog
  • Anatomy
  • Analgesia
  • Physiotherapy
  • Orthopaedics
  • Diagnostic imaging

Physiotherapy aims to restore musculoskeletal function and alleviate pain in cats. It helps in arthritis, neurological issues, post-op recovery, and weight management.

What is physiotherapy for dogs?

Physiotherapy has been used in medicine for a very long time. Physiotherapy for animals has become established in recent years as a recognised form of treatment. Physiotherapy for dogs in particular is becoming steadily more important in Germany too.

Physiotherapy deals with the musculoskeletal system of humans and animals, that is, with bones, joints, muscles and tissues. The aim is to restore their function and prevent further damage (e.g., due to deformities of the joints, incorrect loading due to faulty posture etc.).

In a living organism, all systems influence one another and can therefore not be considered in isolation. Physiotherapy thus influences other bodily functions such as the circulation, nervous system or lymphatic system.

Alleviation or indeed abolition of pain is the most important goal of physiotherapy for dogs and cats, as quality of life is markedly improved by this. With physiotherapy it is possible to relieve pain and improve mobility, coordination, endurance and performance when these are impaired by disease, strengthen muscles and achieve an improved gait. An improvement can often be achieved in neurological diseases also. It is thus possible for dogs and cats to attain more quality of life with physiotherapy.

When is physiotherapy for dogs useful/necessary

Physiotherapy for arthritis in dogs

Existing osteoarthritis (e.g., in the hip or elbow) cannot be cured. However, the degenerative and remodelling processes in the joint can be halted or slowed by physiotherapy in dogs and cats. Your pet’s general condition can also improve.

Incorrect loading in these diseases can lead to muscle tension or atrophy. Tense muscles cause pain for our pets too. It is therefore important to relieve pain by restoring a dog’s normal basic muscle tone through physiotherapy. By contrast, when muscles are wasted, it is important to build them up again as they give the body the necessary stability and are essential for coordinated movements.

Neurological diseases

In neurological diseases, such as disc prolapse (dachshund paralysis, cauda equina compression syndrome, wobbler syndrome) or spondylosis or spondyloarthritis, physiotherapy is particularly useful for dogs as these diseases can cause nerve deficits (e.g., coordination problems) and even paralysis. This can be counteracted by targeted treatment, e.g., with nerve stimulation and relearning physiological movement patterns.

Treatments before and after bone and joint operations

It makes sense to use physiotherapy even before operations as the animal is better supported when the muscles have been built up and strengthened, even though some of the muscles will probably waste a bit again after the operation due to relieving posture.

Naturally, physiotherapy for animals is particularly important for rehabilitation after an operation so that no subsequent damage occurs (such as scar adhesion, muscle shortening and similar problems). After bone and joint operations, the affected limbs often have to be immobilised for a long period. As the muscles cannot be used during this time, they atrophy greatly within a very short time. Due to the absence of joint movement, ligaments and tendons are no longer stretched and they become shorter. Muscles and ligaments then no longer function fully. For this reason, it is important to mobilise joints with an impaired range of motion following immobilisation and to strengthen muscle by targeted physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy for elderly dogs

Physiotherapy treatments are very good for elderly animals. Naturally, your dog will not become a young dog again but he or she will become much more mobile and mentally stimulated, thereby obtaining more quality of life.

Weight reduction

Physiotherapy for dogs can also be used to assist weight reduction. Weight plays an important part in pain symptoms. Every excess gram is an additional burden for your pet.

The joints of overweight animals are exposed constantly to high loads. Even in the absence of a genetic predisposition in the musculoskeletal system, this leads to pressure areas, bone deformation and osteoarthritis at an early stage.

If hip or elbow dysplasia or other bone deformity is also present, there is a danger that the affected joints will cause problems even at a young age. These painful arthritic bone conditions can be delayed and even prevented in some cases if body weight is reduced, on the one hand, and also if the level of fitness, i.e., the animal’s muscle mass, is improved.

Physiotherapy in animals with scars

Scar tissue is inelastic and contracts during wound healing. Very extensive scars and scars that involve joints can lead to painful restrictions of movement due to the lack of elasticity. The tissue becomes elastic again through targeted scar massage.

Physiotherapy for dogs – other treatment possibilities

Please contact us regarding our range of therapy. This is only a summary of all the possible treatments in veterinary physiotherapy.

Manual techniques

  • Therapeutic massage
    Massages in animals are performed without oils and with specially adapted massage techniques. Therapeutic massages relax muscles, relieve pain and improve your pet’s general condition.
  • Passive exercise
    In this, the therapist moves the animal’s limbs and joints. Muscle activity is not required of the dog. This form of treatment is used for mobilisation of stiffened joints and stretching of contracted soft tissues.
  • Isometric tensing exercises
    This is a kind of strength training for building up muscle and thus for better stability of the limbs. Your pet tenses his muscles without stressing the joints.

Therapy using machines

  • TENS therapy (electrotherapy)
    TENS, which is short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a form of electrical treatment that stimulates your pet’s muscles using electrodes. It is among the safest and most comfortable forms of pain therapy with an outstanding effect.
  • Underwater treadmill
    Walking on the underwater treadmill relieves the joints, alleviates pain and often allows the animal to move at all. In the case of lameness, after disc prolapse or in osteoarthritis the muscles can be built up again.


  • Heat therapy
    Hot packs, hot water bottles, warm baths and red light radiation are helpful for muscle tension, non-inflammatory degenerative diseases (wear and tear diseases) of the musculoskeletal system (e.g., osteoarthritis) and for chronic pain.
  • Cold therapy
    Cold leads to muscle tension and produces nerve stimulation. This kind of physiotherapy restores dogs & cats with neurological diseases to health.

Lymphatic drainage

Lymphatic drainage is used for diseases associated with indurated scars and oedema. These can be diseases of the musculoskeletal system but also oedema arising due to paralysis or diminished activity, after operations or injuries. Lymphatic drainage counteracts pain in the region of the spine by improving lymph drainage and thus reducing the pressure on the surrounding tissue.

How often should my dog have physiotherapy?

A certain number of sessions is often specified, which are scheduled weekly or every few weeks. This depends on your pet’s disease and the type of physiotherapy. We will be able to give you a more precise answer when we have been able to get a personal impression of your pet and its health.

What does physiotherapy for dogs cost?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. What physiotherapy for a dog will cost depends on the reason for the treatment and on the number of treatment sessions needed. The best thing is to discuss the question of price personally or by phone.

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