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What is Canine Physiotherapy and Who Can Benefit from It?

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

As dog owners, we want nothing but the best for our canine companions. Just like humans, dogs can also experience physical pain and injuries that require specialist care. When your dog is injured I’m sure the first port of call is always the vet (and rightfully so!) However, following this, where appropriate, a referral to a canine physiotherapist is another option worth considering. Physiotherapy is a term better known in the human healing world, however, it has excellent outcomes among veterinary patients too! In this blog post, Charlotte Davies, from Joint Dynamics Pedigree shares with us what canine physiotherapy is and discusses the various types of patients who can benefit from it.

Understanding Canine Physiotherapy

Veterinary physiotherapists work closely with your veterinarian to provide evidence-based, patient-centered care for your dog. It involves the use of various techniques to improve a dog's mobility, strength, and overall well-being. Their expertise is focused on biomechanics, movement analysis, pain management, and rehabilitation techniques.

Techniques can include:

  • Manual therapy - such as joint mobilisations and massage

  • Electrotherapy - such as laser and electrical stimulation

  • Hydrotherapy - such as underwater treadmill or pool sessions

  • Exercise therapy - such as rehabilitation and strengthening exercises

It's important to note that in both human and veterinary research, passive techniques (i.e. manual therapy or electrotherapy) are only deemed beneficial when used in conjunction with active techniques. Often, passive techniques may help the symptoms, but the active techniques are what really help the cause of the issue, and prevent recurrence. This highlights the importance of using an experienced, appropriately qualified therapist who uses evidence-based treatment. Physio is so much more than just a massage!

Who Can Benefit from Canine Physiotherapy?

The caseload predominantly consists of dogs with musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. These can include:

  • Ageing Dogs: As dogs age, they may develop conditions such as arthritis, generalised muscle loss or degenerative disc disease. Canine physiotherapy can help manage pain, improve joint mobility, and enhance muscle strength, allowing older dogs to enjoy a better quality of life right into their senior years.

  • Post-Surgical Patients: Dogs undergoing surgical procedures, such as orthopaedic or spinal surgeries, can massively benefit from post-op physiotherapy. It aims to promote faster healing, aid pain management, and restore normal movement patterns. *Note: Personally, I think the vast majority of orthopaedic or spinal surgery patients should be referred for physiotherapy post-op, just as humans are!

  • Working and Sporting Dogs: Dogs involved in activities such as agility, obedience, and working roles are particularly prone to injury. Agility activities in particular can cause huge amounts of repetitive stress through joints and soft tissues which can lead to pain, dysfunction and poor performance. With these types of patients, I find physio screening or maintenance sessions useful in picking up mild asymmetries that may develop into an injury if not treated.

  • Obese Dogs: Obesity can lead to various health issues in dogs, including joint problems and reduced mobility. Combined with a proper diet and exercise plan, physiotherapy can assist overweight dogs in shedding extra pounds which will be hugely beneficial on their pain levels and mobility!

Physiotherapy is a valuable allied healthcare profession in promoting the well-being of our beloved four-legged friends. Whether your dog is recovering from surgery, dealing with a chronic condition, or simply in need of some extra love and care as they age, a qualified animal physiotherapist can provide the necessary expertise and guidance. By incorporating physiotherapy into your dog's healthcare routine, you can help them lead a happier, healthier, and more active life.

Stay tuned for more blog posts where we discuss when to see a physio and what you can do as an owner to minimise the risk of injury for your dog!

Remember, please always consult with your veterinarian to determine if canine physiotherapy is appropriate for your dog's specific needs and feel free to reach out if you have any questions regarding your own pet!


Joint Dynamics is Hong Kong's leading physiotherapy and healthcare clinic, now offering canine and equine physiotherapy. Charlotte is an experienced, UK qualified human physiotherapist with a MSc in veterinary physiotherapy, and sees patients from the SPCA Wan Chai centre for 45-minute physiotherapy appointments or 30-minutes treadmill-only appointments. To book a consultation or appointment, email or follow on Instagram for more.

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