September is Canine Rehabilitation Awareness Month

Canine Rehabilitation: A short background on the practice:

The benefits of rehabilitation therapy for dogs and other companion animals has been gaining wide acceptance in the veterinary community for many years. Although European veterinarians have claimed excellent results using rehabilitation for dogs and horses, and have been practicing this mode of therapy for more than sixteen years, rehabilitation therapy is relatively new in the United States.


Riley during her rehab exam with Dr. Mason
However, during the past four to five years, veterinarians in the USA have been seeing significant growth in the use of rehabilitation for dogs and other companion animals. Fortunately, this is making rehab more widely accessible for specially trained practicing veterinarians to be able to treat their patients.

What are the primary goals of Canine Rehabilitation?

Many veterinary practices are now broadening their scope of treatment by shifting their focus from simply offering curative or palliative care to their patients and are emphasizing preventative care. This is just one of the results of the expanding availability of canine rehabilitation therapy.

A few examples of using rehab in their practice are to facilitate weight loss for obese animals, pain reduction, encouraging positive behavior, increasing the speed of surgical healing and enhancing balance. The overall, primary goal of Canine Rehabilitation Therapy (and other companion animals) is offering them an improved quality of life by boosting the pets' overall health.

What are the requirements to practice Canine Rehabilitation?

In order to practice Canine Rehabilitation, general companion animal practitioners are required to have specialized training and receive certification. A Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) is a classification for veterinarians and physical therapists who offer this therapy. Canine Rehabilitation is an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) specialty through the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Raven receiving massage therapy from Christina

Are there requirements for dogs to undergo Canine Rehabilitation?

Dogs whose medical conditions are deemed appropriate for this treatment modality must first receive a diagnosis and a veterinarian's referral in order to undergo a course of rehabilitative therapy.

What techniques are utilized during Canine Rehabilitation therapy treatment?

After conferring with the referring veterinarian, the CCRT will formulate an individual therapy plan for the dog. This plan is designed considering the particular cause and severity of the dog's condition. Combinations of hydrotherapy, muscle building exercises, cryotherapy, electrical stimulation, coordination exercises and thermotherapy techniques may be used for dogs with orthopedic conditions. Dogs with neurological conditions may benefit from coordination and balancing exercises. Surgical repair and traumatic injuries often respond with massage, hydrotherapy, electrical stimulation, heat therapy and cryotherapy. To relieve muscle tension and to stimulate muscle development, massage therapy will be utilized, since it increases blood flow to the area and helps to alleviate muscle spasms. Massage helps to speed up recovery from injuries and surgery. It also helps to improve the comfort of all animals dealing with almost all medical conditions; much in the same way it does with humans.

Helping to make animals more comfortable during the application of other rehabilitation therapy techniques is thermotherapy. Heating deep muscles with cryotherapy can help reduce discomfort from muscle inflammation. Weak or atrophied muscles and limbs can be strengthened with balancing exercises used with equipment structured to strengthen atrophied or weak muscles and limbs. To help an animals’ awareness of their surroundings, coordination exercises may be utilized. Dogs suffering from neurological conditions and spinal cord injuries can benefit from these exercises.


Oscar with Dr. John before an underwater treadmill session
Walking up and down inclines are also effective rehab strengthening exercises. They increase hip joint flexion and increase range of motion in dogs with degenerative joint disease and hip dysplasia.

To improve muscle and joint function, hydrotherapy techniques are often employed. The use of water may include swimming and an underwater treadmill. Swimming allows animals to use several muscles at the same time while stretching more easily and with greater comfort than they would walk on land. Every Canine Rehabilitation technique is geared to promote pain management, healing and to foster physical and emotional improvement.

What are some of the medical conditions that are responsive to Canine Rehabilitation therapy?

Degenerative neurologic conditions, arthritis, abnormal gait, post-surgical orthopedic or neurological problems such as Cranial Cruciate Ligament Surgery, fracture repair, spinal injury, Patellar Luxation, sprains and strains and muscle injury. Rehabilitation therapy can facilitate function improvement, weight loss programs, and conformational abnormalities and generally heighten the quality of life for senior dogs.

Working wonders with her canine patients, our own Dr. Lisa Mason, a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist. FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital is very excited to have Dr. Mason as part of our integrative staff.

To help celebrate this month's Canine Rehabilitation Awareness, you can get $10 off an Initial Rehabilitation Consultation with Dr. Mason. Additionally, The Funky Mutt Market is offering a free Spa Package with a bath or grooming session. Visit us to share in this auspicious occasion!

By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, (Ret.)