Before starting a regimen of physical therapy, your pet should be evaluated by a qualified veterinarian to review health history, assess overall physical health and determine what specific
problems your animal has before deciding on appropriate therapy. The exercises presented here are reminders for our clients who have already been shown through demonstration and hands on
training how to do them on their own animals. Without proper evaluation and instruction, one could potentially harm an animal using these techniques. Do not use these exercises if your animal
resists or shows signs of pain when you do them. If you have questions or problems regarding these procedures, please make an appointment with one of our doctors for further instruction or
Motioning of the Spine
This technique is used to diagnosis problem areas but is often therapeutic in and of itself as it can help loosen tight vertebral joints. You must always be very gentle when motioning. Less is always more with this technique because it allows the animal to relax and trust you as well as allowing you to sense more through your touch. It's the Zen part of touch and massage; heavy hands only get in the way of things. Using the very bottom bone of the thumb, one gently bounces a couple times on the tops of the vertebrae (their spinous processes). Usually one starts between the wings of the pelvis (the two big knobs either side of the pelvis), which is where the lumbar spine meets the sacrum which joins the pelvis to the spine. You must always support the animal from underneath either with your hand or they can lie on the floor. From the pelvis to the dip in the spine (T10-11), the motion is perpendicular to the spine. Forward of the dip, moving towards the head, the angle is more 45° toward the front feet. Motioning is usually followed by circular massage on either side of the spine trying to loosen tight, tense muscles. Don't motion the spine more than once or twice in a day but you can massage more often and longer if your animal appreciates it.
Usually this is paired with motioning of the spine but this technique helps side to side flexibility of the spine. While holding the individual vertebrae in a semi-stationary position, put your other hand around the pelvis and move in a side to side manner creating a hula effect on the lumbar and thoracic spine. Work your way up the spine moving your hands accordingly.
Extension of the Limbs
Often times our older patients will begin to have problems with how far they can extend their hips or shoulders. Stretching these joints can be helpful for active dogs as well. To stretch the hip, cup the front part of the knee with your palm and gently push it back which will straighten the whole leg. You can massage the thigh muscles at the same time if they seem tight or sensitive. To stretch the shoulder, you cup the elbow and advance it forward slowly straightening the whole front leg. Massaging the deltoids (the muscles behind the humerus) can also help loosen the shoulder up while stretching. Obviously these exercises will stretch and extend all the other leg joints as well.
Stretching the Lumbar Spine