By Jill Firth PG Dip(AM) CertEd

Physiotherapy is commonly used to treat conditions of the musculoskeletal system and soft tissue injuries.

A wide variety of conditions can be treated such as injuries to or problems with muscles, tendons, joint capsules and ligaments.

Physiotherapy can have excellent results following orthopaedic surgery as part of the rehabilitation process.

A chartered animal physiotherapist will work alongside your veterinary surgeon to provide the best possible treatment for your animal.  (Note: It is illegal for a chartered physiotherapist to treat an animal without the veterinary surgeon’s consent).

A physiotherapist can use a variety of methods depending upon the diagnosis of the problem.

These methods include – massage, manipulation and electrotherapy (laser, ultrasound, magnetotherapy, neuromuscular stimulation etc.)

To have the best results physiotherapy treatment should begin in the early stages after injury, and your veterinary surgeon can usually refer you to a local physiotherapist.  As with all complementary therapies it should not be used as an alternative but as an essential extra to traditional veterinary medicine.

Massage and Manipulation

Massage, Myofascial Release, and Trigger Point therapy are used to relieve tension and improve muscle function.

A therapist will use a combination of soft tissue manipulation, stretching and corrective exercises, to relax muscles, decrease soreness, increase range of motion, ease stiffness and promote circulation and tissue drainage.

Massage techniques are used to relieve muscle tightness resulting from injury, surgery, poor conformation, or athletic performance.

Laser therapy

A Laser emits a special form of light, consisting of light waves of a single wavelength in which all the light waves reinforce one another.

The therapeutic veterinary laser generates light energy which is absorbed by the tissues and stimulates their metabolic processes, stimulating healing.  Laser treatment is painless and there is no increase in temperature in treated areas from the laser.

Acupuncture points can also be stimulated using a laser which can be particularly helpful in treating animals who are, or have become, “needle shy”.

Laser therapy is beneficial in improving wound healing, increasing blood flow, and stimulating the release of the body’s natural pain killing chemicals such as endorphins and enkephalins.


Therapeutic ultrasound is a deep tissue-heating agent, used to treat musculoskeletal injuries.

Ultrasound produces temperature changes as deep as one to five centimeters in underlying tissues, without excessive heating of the skin.  It is helpful in treating joint mobility  problems, soft tissue injuries, and chronic conditions.  Benefits include increased joint mobility, increased tendon stretching, softening of scar tissue, and relaxation of muscle spasms.

Ultrasound therapy is potentially dangerous as it heats up internal tissues and should, therefore, only be administered by a therapist or vet who is qualified in its use.

Pulsed Magnetic Field Therapy

Pulsed magnetic therapy is a method of applying a magnetic field to the cells of the body.  Cells have a natural electric current flowing through them, caused by electrically charged particles called ions.  Pulsed magnetic therapy sends a signal which influences the interaction of the ions.  These signals activate biological reactions within the cells that lead to the acceleration of the healing process.

Pulsed magnetic field therapy can be used for a variety of conditions including:-

  • Arthritis
  • Hip and elbow Dysplasia
  • Stiffness
  • Joint problems
  • Muscle pain or damage
  • Tendon and ligament injuries
  • Wounds that won’t heal.

Pulsed Magnetic Field Therapy can be applied by the use of a hand held unit, pads, wraps, jackets and rugs or even an indoor kennel type box.

Neuromuscular stimulation

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is the application of a low level electrical current which results in a muscle contraction.   This is achieved by placing electrodes at the beginning and end of the muscle, (the point of origin and point of insertion).

These muscle contractions are intended to mimic normal muscular activity and are used in strength training for animals that are non-weight bearing or have limited use of a muscle or muscle group.

Neuromuscular stimulation is used to prevent atrophy (muscle wastage) after surgery or injury, or to increase strength for muscles that have been chronically under used.

Particularly for canines, it is commonly used in paralysed/semi-paralysed dogs, or dogs after surgery before they are weight bearing, as well as during retraining a dog to walk.

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