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Keeping Your Pet Limber – Joint Therapy for Your Dog

Most everyone who’s owned a pet at one time in their life has had to experience the difficult fact of watching their beloved pet grow older. As your pet ages, his or her muscles and joints become less flexible causing stiffness and discomfort during movement. If your dog suffers from mobility issues, physical therapy can help your pet restore movement, reduce discomfort and help him adjust to his new physical condition. Dog physical therapists or physiotherapists can utilize the following 6 methods to treat your pet’s leg injury, disease or disability, even if your dog is an amputee.

Therapeutic Exercise
Designed specifically to strengthen and rehabilitate, increase range of motion and restore physical function to your dog’s injured area. Some exercises might include being led through a series of cones, stepping through objects, moving from sitting-to-standing repeatedly, and going up and down steps in order to regain control and balance. Therapists recommend short exercise periods separated by long rest periods. Exercise should be consistent and spaced out evenly throughout the day and week for maximum benefit.

Massaging and Manipulation
Used to decrease your dog’s stiffness and pain while increasing his mobility. If your dog has sustained an injury or requires surgery, massage and manipulation therapy can speed up healing time and result in a better recovery by encouraging blood flow and bringing nutrients to the injured area. For dogs that have decreased activity levels, massage can help keep muscles toned and slow atrophy and musculoskeletal degeneration.

Electrical Stimulation
When your dog is rendered inactive for longer periods of time because of illness or surgery, the application of low-level electrical currents can also slow muscle atrophy and accelerate healing.

Thermal Therapy
Cold compresses are applied to the dog’s injured area to help reduce swelling and inflammation. This is usually done within the first 24 to 36 hours of sustaining the injury. Hot compresses are applied to increase comfort, stimulate blood flow to the injured area and relax tense muscles.

Therapeutic Ultrasound
Ultrasonic waves are targeted at injured tissue. This application stimulates blood flow and can warm injured muscles more deeply than a superficial heat compress. When used in conjunction with massage and manipulation, therapeutic ultrasound can help reduce recovery time.

Aquatic Therapy
An underwater treadmill allows a dog with joint pain or leg weakness to exercise easily and safely. The warm water provides buoyancy and gentle resistance. It can also give a dog that is unsteady on his legs a feeling of stability. The benefits of water therapy include:increased strength, flexibility, endurance and confidence.

These dog physical therapy techniques should only be performed by a licensed and trained professional and under the supervision of your vet. If your veterinarian does not offer these services, he or she will be able to refer you.

For an informative short video demonstrating proper technique in giving your pet a relaxing and soothing joint and muscle massage, visit this link.

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