Benefits of Veterinary Rehabilitation

When you think of physical rehabilitation, you may equate it with something that’s only done after surgery or while recuperating from an injury. Although rehabilitation is certainly a key component in any healing process to help a patient make a full recovery, its benefits go far beyond that.

The goal of veterinary rehabilitation is to decrease pain, increase mobility, and restore your pet to their prior activity level. Benefits range from helping an older arthritic patient achieve a higher level of comfort and activity, to preventing injury from occurring in the first place with conditioning, exercise, and nutrition programs.

Rehabilitation programs start with a comprehensive exam not only of the problem area, but also other areas of the body that may be compensating for that injury. This will allow for a customized rehabilitation plan to be created to bring the entire body back to comfort and ease.


In post-surgical cases, rehabilitation starts once the procedure is completed, in fact, we start rehabilitation techniques such as ice and compression within the first hour after surgery. We will recommend basic rehabilitation techniques for you to do at home, starting the first few days after surgery. Then we typically recommend starting formal rehabilitation around 2 weeks after surgery. Care may include manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, and therapeutic modalities in addition to pain medication and nutritional supplements.

Post-surgical recovery moves through several phases of healing. While inflammation is normal, excessive amounts can impair healing, so it’s managed with both medication and rehabilitation, which may include cryotherapy, laser therapy, electronic stimulation, and manually moving the joint.

Once pain and swelling start to reduce, typically in about three days, it’s time to get the pet patient on their feet. This is phase two. Research indicates that early weight bearing on an otherwise stable surgical site leads to the best outcomes, so slow and controlled leash walking, sometimes in conjunction with other exercises can be helpful during this stage.

Phases three and four occur once the animal is bearing weight while walking and standing. Now it’s time to strengthen muscles, build endurance, and work on proprioception – or the ability for your pet to know where their body is in space. We often use the underwater treadmill to build strength and endurance, and balance exercises for proprioception. Finally, the last phase gradually reintroduces your pet to normal activities in a controlled setting. Activities such as ball chasing, running, and short recalls ensure the animal is ready to be ‘turned loose.’

For working dogs or athletes, there is an additional phase – usually lasting six to 12 months – to gradually bring the animal back to the same competitive level that they were before surgery.


This disease is estimated to effect about 25% of dogs. Arthritis in dogs is almost always due to an underlying joint disorder or trauma, such as hip or elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament tear, or fracture. These underlying conditions cause arthritis to develop. The best opportunity for treating arthritis comes with diagnosing the conditions that cause it, and these conditions are typically identified in young dogs.  Unfortunately, many dogs with arthritis are not diagnosed until after they are about 8 years of age, when severe symptoms set in. If we can identify dogs at risk of arthritis when they are young, we have a much better chance at decreasing the progression and severity of arthritic symptoms. Rehabilitation techniques can keep an arthritic dog or cat comfortable and quite happily active.

Weight loss

The single most important factor to maintaining health is to keep a healthy weight, and research shows that dogs are far more likely to lose weight in a formal rehabilitation program that includes personalized nutrition recommendations and underwater treadmill therapy.

Neurologic Conditions

Rehabilitation is extremely helpful for a wide variety of neurological conditions including intervertebral disc disease, degenerative myelopathy, disc herniation, spinal trauma, and many others. Both non-surgical cases and post-surgical patients greatly benefit from rehabilitation modalities to regain as much mobility and independence as possible.

Non-Surgical Orthopedic Cases

Some orthopedic conditions can be successfully treated non-surgically and some patients are simply not surgical candidates. Rehabilitation can be very helpful for these pets, providing a variety of options for healing including joint injections, braces, therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, and other modalities.

Sports Medicine

Sometimes prevention is the best cure. Our Canine Athlete Conditioning Program is designed to prevent injuries with personalized conditioning programs, and catch conditions quickly and early via regular screening exams. For those canine athletes or working dogs that are already injured, rehabilitation can return them to competition and work.

Our Rehabilitation Department

SOUND Veterinary Rehabilitation Center, partner clinic adjacent to Animal Surgical Center of Seattle, is the most advanced veterinary rehabilitation center in the Pacific Northwest and offers the complete package of care from diagnosis to long term management for rehabilitation, regenerative medicine, sports medicine, and pain management. The highly credentialed, experienced, and compassionate team at SOUND, is committed to helping your pet enjoy the best quality of life possible.

Veterinary Rehabilitation Pet Patients

Here are three unique pet patient stories that have recently completed rehabilitation therapy at SOUND.


Elmer is a 13-year-old Chiweenie that stole our hearts (twice). In March of 2018, Elmer had surgery with Dr. Thoesen here at Animal Surgical to repair a ruptured CCL on his right leg. Elmer started twice-weekly rehab sessions a few weeks after surgery and while he’s not a big fan of water, he loved his laser therapy and doing his gym exercises and always left with his tail wagging. At home, he was just as excited to practice his exercises – his brother even picked up a few of the exercises and practiced with him for moral support! When Elmer’s other CCL ruptured about a year later, he and his Mom both knew the routine – his post-op rehab sessions were scheduled before he even went in for surgery. As of June 2019, he is only four weeks post-op and is already fully using his surgical leg. Age is just a number when you’re a sassy, determined Chiweenie!


Chloe first came to SOUND in February of 2016. Her rear limbs were paralyzed, most likely due to a spinal disc injury that damaged the central nervous system. Chloe was an absolute trooper through an aggressive rehabilitation plan that included treatment sessions three times per week, and she blew us all away with her fast and full recovery. About a year later, though, Chloe suffered another disc injury that again left her paralyzed. Her pet parents were sure that Chloe had already used up her miracle on her first recovery and elected to forgo rehab and got her set up with a wheelchair. In true Chloe fashion, she became a master cart operator in no-time, and it became evident that she was going to have another chance. She knew the drill this time around and, although the goal was to strengthen and maintain her muscles to help optimize her wheelchair, her progress in the last few months has surprised us all. Chloe has now ditched the wheels and is back to hour-long walks on all 4 legs – a true miracle girl, we’re excited to see her graduating from rehab for a second time!


The Mighty Thor is as tough as he is handsome! He is a K-9 officer with the Kirkland PD and we first met him in November 2018. He had initially seen a surgeon in Kirkland who suspected he had a condition called fibrotic myopathy of the gracilis and semitendinosus muscles. This is a condition in which one or two of the thigh muscles turn to scar tissue and to date, there have been no treatments that are considered success in reversing the process. Thor had a musculoskeletal ultrasound performed at SOUND that confirmed the diagnosis. He was then treated with several sessions of platelet rich plasma (PRP) and extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) and enrolled in rehabilitation sessions. Thor’s recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. The scarring process is breaking down and Thor’s movement has improved significantly. In fact, he has improved so much that he graduated from rehab and is out catching the bad-guys!

Does Your Pet Need Rehabilitation Therapy?

To schedule an appointment, please call 206-773-2262 or email svrc@soundvetrehab.com. To learn more about our rehabilitation services, please call or visit soundvetrehab.com.

Posted June 14, 2019 by ASCS in ASOC News, Noteworthy with No Comments and tagged as ,

Return to Blog