A brief overview of rehabilitation modalities

Kirsten Oliver, VN, DipAVN (Surgical), CVT, CCRP, CVPP, VTS (Physical Rehabilitation), describes the modalities of basic therapeutic rehabilitation and shares common conditions that can be treated by rehabilitation.

According to Kirsten Oliver, VN, DipAVN (Surgical), CVT, CCRP, CVPP, VTS (Physical Rehabilitation), physical rehabilitation involves returning or attempting to return a post-surgical animal to its pre-surgical state. At the Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference® 2021, Oliver provided an overview of basic therapeutic rehabilitation modalities and described conditions that can be treated using rehabilitation.

Basic therapeutic rehabilitation modalities

Oliver explained that whether it is a sport dog, a working dog, a pet, or just a “couch potato”, manual therapy is most often used in rehabilitation, although there are also a plethora of other modalities.

“Hands are basically some of the greatest mods we have. We do a lot of practical medicine, [and] we use low level therapeutic laser, underwater treadmill or aquatic therapy. We have therapeutic ultrasound, which is a little different from your traditional diagnostic ultrasound, which helps to deeply heat soft tissue. It’s very good on muscles and tendons, ”she said.

Oliver also detailed other modalities, including neuromuscular electrical stimulation, which helps re-educate muscle groups; low PCO electric shock wave, which does not need to be calmed down like traditional shock wave; acupuncture; postmagnetic field therapy; and a wide range of nutraceuticals, pharmaceutical logic and thermal therapies, both hot and cold.

Common conditions

There is an array of conditions that rehabilitation specialists can treat, Oliver said. They can treat virtually any orthopedic problem or anything that involves soft tissue injury (eg, muscle tension, tendonitis, osteoarthritis). They can also help pets lose weight.

“We have a very successful weight management program where we can discuss with… our clients the best way to lose weight for their dog. [and] put them into a conditioning program where we can start to reintroduce the idea of ​​activity through low-level, low-impact exercise, ”she said.

Rehabilitation can also help cancer patients move around when they are undergoing various types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy or after an amputation. Oliver also noted that rehabilitation is beneficial for patients with neurological disorders.

“There are so many things we can deal with: post-surgery, pre-surgery, weight loss, neurological disorders — we work a lot with our referring neurologists. Whether it is a case of postoperative neurology or a long-term degenerative disease. We can formulate a program to work in the clinic or outside the clinic, ”she said.

Integrate rehabilitation into clients’ homes

Since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country, many customers have requested rehabilitation specialists to come to their homes to help their pets. Along with these unprecedented times playing a role in this field, pets are sometimes in a condition where it is difficult for pet parents to transport them to the clinic. “A lot of people don’t want or can’t bring their pets, so we’re happy to work with them to provide the kind of rehabilitation their pet needs at home,” Oliver said.

Take away food

Manual therapy is the key to rehabilitation, although a range of modalities are currently available to treat pets. Common conditions that can be treated with rehabilitation include orthopedic problems, weight management, cancer conditions and beyond. As in other areas of veterinary medicine, some rehabilitation professionals provide in-home services to provide animals and their owners with greater comfort and convenience.


Working dog practitioner program. University of Pennsylvania. Accessed October 29, 2021. https://www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-laboratories/center/penn-vet-working-dog-center/learn-about-working-dogs/practitioner-certification

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