What is veterinary rehabilitation?

Veterinary rehabilitation is the animal version of physiotherapy. Just as you would go and see a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor for your own injuries, aches and pains, your family pets can have the same care too.


Common injuries and conditions cause problems to nerves, bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons and ligaments. This can result in a range of signs including pain, swelling, stiffness, lameness and weakness. Animals who are in pain also often become more anxious and reactive than they used to be. Veterinary rehabilitation is used in conjunction with other treatments (whether that is surgery or medications) to help relieve your pet’s pain and speed up their recovery. For ongoing conditions like osteoarthritis or nerve degeneration, we can not only help to reduce pain but we can help your pets to stay stronger for longer.

There are now many research studies that measure some of the benefits of rehab. Results include:

  • Less pain
  • Faster recovery from injuries
  • Better strength and endurance
  • Better mobility and flexibility
  • Better quality of movement
  • Help with the prevention of future injury

There are also positive psychological effects for both animals and owners – your pets love having one-to-one time with you during your home rehab sessions, and you also get to feel good knowing that you are helping your pets to feel better.

Conditions we can help with:

  • A huge range of musculoskeletal problems such as osteoarthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation (those kneecaps that pop in and out), back pain and any muscle/tendon/ligament strains and sprains
  • Recovery from musculoskeletal surgeries – one very common orthopaedic problem is the tearing of the cranial cruciate ligament in dogs (the equivalent of the ‘ACL’ in people). Dogs with this condition can lose a third of their muscle mass in the affected leg, and can take over a year to regain it – although some never completely do. The sooner rehab is started, the more we can help. We can also assist with recovery from surgery for the higher grades of patellar issues, broken bones, amputations (there is a lot of strain put on the rest of the body), OCD and disc surgeries.
  • Spine and nerve problems including management of acute or chronic disc disease, degenerative myelopathy, FCE, spinal injuries, and weak or paralysed limbs.


Other benefits:

Many owners feel a bit lost when dealing with injured or unwell dogs. You are often asked to crate rest your dog or restrict exercise, but this can come with challenges. For those who don’t cope well with confinement we can suggest several ways to help keep them occupied, and, as recovery progresses, help you to manage the transition from controlled exercise back to freedom.

So what do we actually do during rehab?

That depends on what we are helping to treat your pet for. We have lots of options, from therapeutic exercise programmes and hands-on therapies (including techniques from physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic) to therapeutic laser, acupuncture (both plain needles and electroacupuncture) and therapeutic ultrasound. We choose whatever tools we think will help your pet the best, and of course we also take into account what they do and don’t like! We can also help with suggestions to make things easier for you to manage at home, such as dealing with slippery floors and lifting pets in and out of vehicles.

What do the animals think?

Well, so far as we can tell, they mostly love it! Be prepared to be dragged into the rehab room by your excited dog! See the photos below of some of our recent patients having fun during their sessions. And while we mostly see dogs (are they the ones getting into the most trouble?!) we are happy to see any and all kinds of animals for rehab.

Who is working in the Rehab Room?

I’m Dr Debbie Prattley, and I’ve been enjoying coming down to Levin on Wednesdays since the end of last year and working with the great team here. I’ve loved meeting the fantastic and dedicated clients who have all been acing their homework and getting their pets back on track after surgeries and injuries.

I’m one of those serial learners – anything rehab-related gives me shiny object syndrome, I have to know it! I graduated from vet school at Massey last century(!) and have completed many postgraduate qualifications and courses (both in New Zealand and overseas) in rehabilitation, osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture and veterinary behaviour. The fantastic team of nurses, including Jacqui and Serena, also help out with rehab sessions during the week.

We look forward to seeing you in the Rehab Room!