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Physio for dogs after surgery? Yes or No?

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Did you know that surgery is just the start of your dog’s road to recovery?

Surgery recommended by your vet is a brilliant first step and gives your dog a springboard onto the path forward but just like a gymnast using a springboard to get onto the beam that’s just the start of their routine and surgery is just the start of your dog’s rehab journey so what comes next?

As with everything that depends on your dog, the reason for their surgery, how they are recovering and your vet’s advice.

So let’s take a look at some common scenarios:

If your dog has had a routine or preventative surgery such as a dental or spay/neuter then their recovery is usually pretty quick after surgery (1-6 weeks) in this time you might need to alter how much your dog does your vet will be able to advise you on this.

But if your dog has had spinal surgery for IVDD, cruciate surgery or surgery on their hips or patellas they’re going to need extra help.

This is where I come in as a vet physio. So how can I help?

After a musculoskeletal surgery, your dog will need a period of rest where they don’t get to go on their normal walks or get to play as they normally would. This leads to your pets getting stiff and losing some of their muscle.

This means that when they get back to building up to their normal activity they are more at risk of injuries and pain. So how can we fix this?

Physio helps your dog gradually build up their strength without risking injury or overuse and also helps to control any pain or muscle tension associated with the period of rest they have had.

But what do we tackle first?

Step 1 : Improving healing of the surgical site and reducing pain this can be done through electrotherapies such as TENS, PEMF and laser or through medications prescribed by your vet

Step 2 : Improving ROM this can be done in 2 ways either actively or passively. Active ROM relays on your dog moving themselves and is usually used when your dog is no longer resting but passively allows us to move our dog’s joints keeping them supple and healthy even when they can’t move them themselves because of rest.

Step 3 : Reducing muscle tension can be done at any time and is something that you will need to keep on top of usually for the rest of your dog’s life (and that isn’t just for dogs who have had surgery either!)

Step 4 : Building muscle strength and mass this is where we start introducing some easy exercises to help our dogs gradually improve their muscle mass and strength before they return to their normal activity

Step 5 : Getting back to normal activity

Got more questions about a specific condition and what you, your vet and your vet physio can do? Check out our ortho and neuro guides here:

And if you want more info specifically for your dog drop me an email at

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