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Published: Dec 30, 2012

Whether your dog is recovering from an injury or operation, or is getting on in years and facing arthritis, hip dysplasia or another age-related condition, he might be having some problems with mobility. Although this kind of pain in dogs can be treated with medication, veterinarians are also turning to a more holistic healing method: physical therapy.

By strengthening key muscle groups or training the dog's body to use some muscles rather than others, physical therapy for canines can go a long way in ensuring your dog makes a full recovery after an injury or surgery and lives a long, happy life despite a joint condition. So what types of physical therapy are available for your canine companion?

Water therapy
Many dogs love to swim by nature, but this activity is also a great form of therapy for dogs after operations or injuries, and can help with weight reduction in dogs. Because swimming is a non-impact sport, it's a great way for older dogs who have joint pain to get exercise. Although going for a swim has plenty of benefits in and of itself, physical therapists or veterinarians might use underwater treadmills, endless pools and other tools to carry out specific treatment plans for dogs.

Massage therapy
In this type of therapy, a veterinarian or certified therapist uses manual deep-tissue techniques that increase circulation in the muscles, which results in less tension and spasming. This can translate to increased range of motion, enhanced muscle tone and muscle healing for the dog. These massage techniques may also decrease pain and swelling by promoting circulation. Dogs who suffer from arthritis, joint problems, over-extended ligaments or have had surgery may benefit from massage therapy, and you might be able to learn some techniques to try on your own at home.

Laser therapy
Laser therapy has been proven effective in both laboratory and clinical settings, and can help with a wide range of issues and ailments. It can boost collagen production in the skin, speeding up wound healing, and increases blood flow. It is also effective in re-establishing the lymphatic system after trauma, which can reduce swelling. This type of therapy can also lessen pain, since the lasers stimulate the release of the body's pain-killing chemicals.

If you have noticed that your dog is having trouble walking, playing, getting up or lying down, talk to your veterinarian about whether physical therapy could be beneficial.