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Using Animal Rehabilitation to Treat Disc Disease in Dogs

A dog receiving physical therapy to treat disc disease, with a veterinarian and a rehabilitation specialist assisting.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common condition affecting dogs, particularly those with short legs and long bodies, such as Dachshunds and Corgis. It can cause significant pain and mobility issues, severely impacting the quality of life for affected dogs. This article will explore the use of animal rehabilitation to treat disc disease in dogs, providing valuable insights into the benefits of various therapies and how they can improve your dog’s condition.

Understanding Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

Intervertebral discs are small, spongy cushions located between the vertebrae in your dog’s spine. They play a crucial role in shock absorption and maintaining flexibility. Disc disease occurs when these discs begin to degenerate or rupture, causing pain and potentially compressing the spinal cord. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck or back
  • Reluctance to jump or climb stairs
  • Weakness or wobbliness in the legs
  • Partial or complete paralysis in severe cases

The Role of Animal Rehabilitation in Treating Disc Disease

Animal rehabilitation is a multidisciplinary approach that involves various therapies and techniques aimed at restoring function, managing pain, and improving the overall quality of life for your dog. The following therapies can be particularly beneficial for treating disc disease in dogs:

  1. Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy involves using manual techniques, such as joint mobilisation, massage, and stretching, to help maintain and improve your dog’s range of motion, muscle strength, and flexibility. It also aids in reducing pain and inflammation.
  2. Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy, including underwater treadmill therapy and swimming, is a low-impact exercise that utilises the buoyancy of water to reduce stress on your dog’s joints and muscles. This can be particularly beneficial for dogs suffering from disc disease, as it helps to maintain and improve mobility while minimising pain.
  3. Laser Therapy: Low-level laser therapy, also known as cold laser therapy, is a non-invasive treatment that uses specific wavelengths of light to stimulate healing and reduce inflammation. It has been found to be effective in managing pain and promoting tissue repair in dogs with disc disease.
  4. Electrical Stimulation: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) are two forms of electrical stimulation that can help to manage pain and improve muscle function in dogs with disc disease. TENS works by sending small electrical impulses through the skin to disrupt pain signals, while NMES helps to stimulate and strengthen weakened muscles.
  5. Acupuncture: Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on your dog’s body to stimulate the release of endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. This ancient technique can help to manage pain and improve overall well-being in dogs with disc disease.
  6. Home Exercise Programme: Your animal rehabilitation therapist can create a tailored home exercise programme for your dog, incorporating stretches and gentle exercises that can be performed at home. This helps to maintain and improve your dog’s mobility while managing pain and inflammation.

Finding the Right Animal Rehabilitation Centre for Your Dog

When seeking animal rehabilitation for your dog, it’s essential to find a qualified and experienced therapist who is familiar with the specific needs of dogs with disc disease. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations, and don’t hesitate to ask the rehabilitation centre about their qualifications, experience, and treatment protocols for dogs with IVDD.


Animal rehabilitation can play a significant role in managing intervertebral disc disease in dogs, offering various therapies and techniques to help improve mobility, manage pain, and enhance overall quality of life. By finding a qualified rehabilitation therapist and following a tailored treatment plan, you can help your dog regain their confidence and enjoy a happier, more comfortable life.

In addition to seeking professional help, be sure to provide a supportive home environment for your dog, with comfortable bedding, easy access to food and water, and measures to prevent slips and falls, such as non-slip mats or rugs. Keep in mind that it is crucial to work closely with your veterinarian and rehabilitation therapist to monitor your dog’s progress and make any necessary adjustments to their treatment plan.

By exploring the options available in animal rehabilitation and choosing the therapies that best suit your dog’s needs, you can help your beloved pet recover from disc disease more effectively. With patience, dedication, and a comprehensive approach to treatment, your dog can experience improved mobility, reduced pain, and a better quality of life.

Dr. Sara Lam

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