What is canine rehabilitation?

Canine rehabilitation is an emerging field that recognizes that companion animals (dogs, cats and horses), just like people, can benefit from targeted exercise programs and other therapeutic modalities that decrease pain, improve fitness, and restore function. It is based on the same principles as physiotherapy for humans, which are to restore, maintain, and maximize strength, function, movement, and overall well being. There is a heavy emphasis on examination, evaluation, diagnosis, and physical interventions as well as regular communication with pet owners. Additionally, there is a lot of value placed in the human -animal bond as pet owners are very much involved in day to day home exercises and therapies. Often, these turn out to be a lot of fun for owner and pets alike.

Canine rehabilitation includes two main branches:

  1. Physical rehabilitation: This is the branch that addresses issues that have already occurred, such as acute or chronic injuries or other ongoing physical limitations.
  2. Fitness and wellness: This branch strives to be proactive by preventing injuries before they happen, as well as to enhance the performance of an otherwise healthy dog (e.g. agility athletes looking to run faster courses).


What does canine rehabilitation include?

Approaches to canine rehabilitation include a tailored at-home exercise program, therapeutic modalities, client education, the use of specific equipment (e.g. unstable surfaces), and use of alternative therapies (e.g. massage). Together, these help alleviate a dog’s pain, restore their function, and improve their physical abilities and overall quality of life.

How do I know if my dog would benefit from canine rehabilitation?

Your dog would benefit from canine rehabilitation if your dog...

  • has had an accident, trauma, or an injury that is limiting movement or causing pain
  • has had recent surgery
  • is not functioning or performing to the best of their abilities
  • performs in competitive activities that requires strength and endurance
  • has developed a behavioral problem for no apparent reason, which could be a result of poor health or pain
  • has a sore back when you pet or brush it
  • has developed weakness anywhere
  • is getting older and has any degenerative changes, such as arthritis or diminished mobility that may interfere with normal activities of daily living

Can my dog still benefit from canine rehabilitation if they are not injured?

Canine rehabilitation isn’t always about managing injuries. It also includes a proactive approach to fitness and wellness, intended to prevent injury and improve functioning through exercise, stretching, and other therapies. Think about it like going to the gym- we go to improve our fitness and reduce the likelihood of injuries. The same is possible for our dogs.

Can companion dogs benefit from canine rehabilitation?

Absolutely! Your dog doesn’t need to be competing or training in any sports to benefit from canine rehabilitation. There are a lot of demands we put on our dogs each day- like the twisting and turning from playing fetch at the park or the need to stabilize on our slippery kitchen floor. All dogs can benefit from decreased pain and improved fitness.

Meet Your Rehab Team

Eileen Gillen, DVM headshot Eileen Gillen, DVM