Canine Physical Therapy vs. Canine Chiropractic

Canine physical therapy is a practice that's gaining more popularity, along with canine chiropractic care. Many dogs have found much needed relief and rehabilitation from both practices if they suffer from pain or have undergone surgery. These services should only be done by those who are licensed to practice on animals.

Canine Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is perfect for dogs that suffer from neurological or orthopedic conditions and soft tissue disorders, including:

  • Diseases of the spine
  • Paralysis
  • Tumors in the brain or spine
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Joint abnormalities
  • Lack of flexibility

Dogs that walk abnormally or have poor posture can learn to walk or stand correctly with physical therapy services. These exercises can also help dogs that have chronic pain, injuries and arthritis.

Dogs that have undergone surgery and follow the procedure with physical therapy can speed up their recovery and healing. The benefit of physical therapy after a surgical procedure is that a dog may avoid complications from limb immobility or non-use. 

A variety of techniques are used by physical therapists to help improve a dog's quality of life. One technique is hydrotherapy, which is used after surgery as a weight loss tool, and to build strength. With hydrotherapy, a dog is placed in a small pool or tub that's filled with water. Dogs with arthritis and other joint problems benefit from this type of rehabilitation because they're able to stretch and move in a near weightless environment where they can exercise in a way that is low-impact and easy on the joints.

Physical therapy also employs the use of cold and hot therapies with dogs. Cold therapy reduces bruising and inflammation in a dog's muscles or joints. A dog would have cold packs applied to the part of his body that was exercised. Heat therapy helps relax a dog's muscles and is often used before stretching exercises. Muscle spasms and pain are controlled with heat as well.

Other techniques such as massage, electrotherapy and ultrasound therapies are used in physical therapy to help a dog heal.

Canine Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a drug-free alternative to helping a dog find relief from spine problems, joint pain and weakness, muscle spasms and other conditions. A canine chiropractor is considered an alternative care or complementary care veterinarian whose practice is considered controversial in some medical circles. Some veterinary chiropractors work with traditional vets to complement therapies a dog is doing.

A chiropractor will work with a dog's subluxations, or misalignments, to help the body heal itself. The practitioner can diagnose what may be ailing a dog through the use of x-rays, orthopedic assessments and neurological evaluations. A chiropractor will manipulate a dog's spine, provide different therapies for the soft tissues and joints, assign theraputic exercises and perform other complementary procedures.

Canine physical therapy and canine chiropractic care are both good complementary forms of care a dog can receive when recovering from an injury and a joint or muscle ailment. While chiropractic care is more focused on the manipulation of joints, physical therapy helps round out treatments used to aid a dog's mobility.