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Dog Physio vs Massage all you need to know

Veterinary massage and physiotherapy use a range of manual, exercise and electrotherapies to treat movement and musculoskeletal conditions of dogs. These can be pathological conditions such as back pain or knee pain or movement dysfunctions such as lameness or altered gait and activity.

Animal physiotherapy in West and South Yorkshire is what we live for at Fit-Pet Physio. Of course, we love all our virtual clients from all over the world but there’s nothing quite like seeing all your lovely pets in person.

Our veterinary massage and physiotherapy appointments are used by a whole host of different dogs and horses for many different reasons.

We see many pets who have had bad experiences in the past or who are not comfortable in clinical environments. I firmly believe that even in those pets who are happy to go into clinics as a therapist I can get a deeper and more lasting treatment in your pets natural environment.

As we all know our pets are happier if they can stay in their normal routines and with their family members.

So is it important to you that your veterinary physio is nearby?

Here at Fit-Pet Physio all of our sessions are performed in your own home or yard. This means that you don’t have to just choose the vet physio that is closest to you, you have a choice in which veterinary physiotherapist you use.


Massage is an effective tool for relieving muscle tension. Massage increases blood flow and lymphatic return, therefore it is effective in aiding warm up and cooling down. Massage is also a relaxing technique which is useful to use especially if the patient is stressed or nervous. Massage is comprised of many different techniques. Massage can be used alone or as part of a physiotherapy appointment.

If you book a massage appointment alone we will begin by seeing your dog/horse in motion and stood still to identify any potential problem areas to be targeted during treatment. The techniques used in treatment will be dependant on the individual. For example in a very nervous patient a slower and more superficial massage technique will be used than in a more confident patient.

​Massage techniques include:

  1. Effleurage= used as a warm up stroke or as an interim stroke between other technique

  2. Acupressure= a type of compression in which ki points are targeted

  3. Petrissage- kneading, wringing, skin rolling, plucking, passive movement, compression

  4. Tapotement- cupping and hacking

  5. Friction= a faster version of effleurage on a smaller surface area

  6. Passive touch

  7. Myofascial release

  8. Stress/trigger point= similar to acupressure but on points of stress/adhesions within muscles.

  9. Epiony thermal wand to improve circulation and reduce muscle tension

Massage can be given up to several times every week depending on the severity of treatment needed and is a good way of assessing and treating any minor muscle complaints which if left untreated could detrimentally impact performance

Veterinary Physiotherapy

The foundation of all veterinary physiotherapy work comes from a detailed understanding of canine and equine anatomy. This allows us, as therapists to specifically target issue areas that are leading to altered movement patterns and pain. In addition, body systems are linked meaning that an issue in one area of the body can lead to compensatory issues in another area, for example, hindlimb discomfort will lead to a reluctance to load the hindlimbs and therefore increasing the use of the forelimbs to compensate. Therefore as a vet physiotherapist, we aim at treating both the primary issue and all compensatory issues with the use of electrotherapies, massage and remedial exercises.

All veterinary physiotherapy appointments will begin with a history of the complaint being taken and an assessment of the animal both static and whilst moving in walk and trot to identify any specific areas to target during treatment.

Veterinary physiotherapy sessions will comprise of an assessment, treatment and a rehabilitation plan that can be continued at home before the next visit. Treatment can include the use of massage, electro-therapies and rehabilitation exercises as summarised below.

Electro-therapies include:

  1. TENs- used for pain relief

  2. NMES- to increase muscle mass and strength

  3. Pulse electromagnet- reduces pain, alters circulation, increases fracture healing, increase neurological healing

  4. Laser/phototherapy- for wound healing, reduction of pain and reducing healing time

  5. heat- to alter circulation and reduce pain and spasm including the use of the Epiony thermal wand

  6. cold- to alter circulation and reduce pain and spasm

  1. Stretches- increase muscle length and decrease pain

  2. Cavaletti- increase ROM, stride length and muscle mass

  3. Figure 8- increase ROM, lateral flexion and weight-bearing

  4. Circles- increase ROM, lateral flexion and weight-bearing

  5. Weight shifting- increase weight-bearing

  6. Weaving- increase lateral flexion

  7. Sit to stands- increase core strength and hindlimb muscle mass and ROM

  8. slow lead walking- increase hindlimb weight bearing

  1. stretches- increase muscle length and decrease pain

  2. cavaletti- increase ROM, stride length and muscle mass to find out more download our ultimate pole guide here

  3. circles- increase lateral flexion, ROM and muscle mass

  4. tail pulls- increase core strength, muscle mass and myofascial release

  5. ab lifts- increase core strength

  6. pelvic rounding- increase spinal flexibility

  7. lunging- increase lateral flexion, ROM and muscle mass

  8. long-reining- allows work in straight lines and out hacking

  9. wither rocks- increase forelimb muscle mass

  10. training aids- improve way of going and core strength

Find out more about equine core exercises here.

In our member's section (private to our clients), you can see videos of how these exercises are correctly performed. It is important to ensure that all exercises are suitable for your animal by consulting your vet and physiotherapist before starting any of these exercises. Additional information on both electrotherapies and remedial exercises can be found in the blog section.

We often use vet physiotherapy in competition animals to ensure they are in peak condition. If your new to competing or a seasoned competitor check out our Pre-competition checklists for dogs and horses to ensure you never miss a beat this competition season.

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