Physical Rehabilitation

canine rehabilitation

Physical therapy is a known benefit in treating many orthopedic and neurologic conditions. In humans, it is considered a routine intervention before, after, or in lieu of surgery once a diagnosis is made.

Rehabilitation exercises improve joint mobility, and post-operative patients have an earlier return to function when rehabilitation is incorporated into their treatment regimen.

Rehabilitation exercises also may delay the progression of non-surgical diseases and maintain quality of life for affected patients.

With goals centered around service, teaching, and research, the physical rehabilitation services team takes a translational approach to discovering and leveraging the most effective rehabilitation techniques for our patients.

FAQs About Rehabilitation

What is physical rehabilitation?

Physical Rehabilitation is applying non-invasive techniques to patients with dysfunction, injury, pain, or physical abnormalities. Benefits of a rehabilitation program include improving joint mobility, weight loss, earlier return to function after surgery, slowing progression of non-surgical diseases and maintaining quality of life in the face of end-stage disease.

When is rehabilitation needed?

Physical rehabilitation can be used for a large variety of physically limiting conditions, both surgical and non-surgical.

  • Orthopedic Surgeries
  • Physical rehabilitation techniques and modalities can be used to help your patient recover faster, with reduced pain and improved mobility. Patients whose recovery is complicated by degenerative joint disease (DJD), arthritis, obesity, unable to tolerate NSAIDs, underlying neurological disease, or elderly are especially good candidates for post-operative rehabilitation. Published data shows superior recovery results when rehabilitation is done with a therapist versus at home, even when clients have been properly instructed.

  • Neurological Surgeries

    Patients are treated using various techniques and modalities to stimulate certain muscle groups, enhance positional awareness and balance, reduce pain, and increase strength. Quick application of physical therapy methods may improve pain control and could result in faster recovery times.

  • Non-Surgical Candidates

    Sometimes surgery is not an option for a patient due to contraindications or owner preference. Physical rehabilitation should be seriously considered in such cases.

What can I expect from rehabilitation?

Every patient is an individual and rehabilitation is case dependent. Each patient undergoes a full evaluation the first session. A rehabilitation protocol will be designed and clients will be provided with an online exercise program and tracking sheets. Recommendations of additional modalities will be provided. Progression through an exercise program will depend on future visits. Individual sessions or pre-paid package options are available for on-going care.

Services Offered

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)

Using a process called photobiomodulation, light energy is transferred to cellular energy, stimulating various biological responses. These include increased blood flow, reducing inflammation and pain, and cellular regeneration. Treatments can improve arthritis (acute/chronic), wound healing and surgical healing time, as well as healing some tendon/ligament injuries.

Therapeutic Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a deep tissue heating method that can be used to improve joint mobility, decrease pain due to chronic muscle tension, and encourage proper healing formation of tendon/ligament injuries. It is also useful in treating contractures and muscle tightness.


  • TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) reduces pain and swelling (edema) due to post-surgical conditions as well as chronic muscle tension and can increase joint mobility.
  • NMES (Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation) stimulates muscle contraction to reduce muscle wasting associated with disuse and paralysis. Increases sensory awareness and may improve joint mobility.

Extracorpeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT)

The use of high energy soundwaves in order to treat conditions such as osteoarthritis (OA), non-surgical tendon injuries (especially of the shoulder), and delayed bone healing.


Performed by a DVM certified in acupuncture. Used in pain management of acute and chronic conditions as well as for neural-modulation.

Assisi Loop

This is a pulsed electromagnetic field therapy and non-pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory device. It is FDA approved in people for treatment of post-operative pain and has been demonstrated to reduce pain in post-operative IVDD patients.

Thermotherapy/Cryotherapy and Massage

Warm packing and massage help increase blood flow, reduce muscle tension and pain, and improve joint mobility; often used in conjunction with e-stim for chronic pain conditions. Cryotherapy is used as a cool-down, pain relief modality to conclude rehabilitation visits and can be used to limit the distribution of inflammation associated with injury.

Dry and Underwater Treadmill

Treadmills are useful for gait training and strength training. The underwater treadmill is beneficial for patients with neurological and/or musculoskeletal conditions by reducing the amount of weight bearing, providing resistance, reducing stress load on joints and allowing more active range of motion. The underwater treadmill has thermotherapeutic benefits with temperatures maintained between 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fitness balls, balance boards, weave poles, and cavaletti rails

Various shapes and sizes of balancing equipment is used to enhance positional awareness, target certain muscles, and improve strength and balance. Other floor exercises and games can be added to encourage engagement of muscle groups.

Cart and Orthodic Fitting

Both options are available through the rehabilitation service. Carts and orthotics can be used when patients lack the ability to walk or move certain limbs appropriately or they can be utilized as temporary measures while patients are building strength and coordination through recovery.

Canine Assisted Mobility Devices


To schedule an appointment, contact our patient coordinator, Melanie Dobbins, by email or at 540-231-4137, or call the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at 540-231-4621.


  • Avril Arendse
    Diplomate ACVIM
    Clinical Assistant Professor
    Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • Virginia Kiefer Corrigan
    DVM, MPH
    Diplomate ABVP, CCRP, CHPV
    Assistant Professor
    Community Practice
  • Mark D. Freeman
    DVM, CVA
    Diplomate ABVP
    Clinical Assistant Professor
    Community Practice
  • Flori Bliss
    Neurology and Neurorehabilitation Technician
  • Heather Catanzaro
    Neurology and Neurorehabilitation Technician
  • Maureen Sroufe
    LVT, VTS (Neurology)
    Neurology and Neurorehabilitation Technician
  • Melanie Dobbins
    Patient Coordinator
    Cardiology and Neurology

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