Dog Rehabilitation in Portland, Oregon

Think of all the things that physical therapy is used for in people — sprains, strains, arthritis, joint pain, recovery from surgery, back pain, urinary issues, and neurological recovery.  The same is true in animals. Sadly, in veterinary medicine we have spent too many years saying “Rest Rover for 6 weeks, only out to go to the bathroom and back.” Imagine if you had knee surgery and your doctor said, “stay in bed for 6 weeks, only get up to go to the bathroom.”  You would sue for malpractice!! Imagine how much the rest of your body would hurt! Imagine how atrophied your muscles would get! And yet that is still what many veterinary surgeons and veterinarians are saying. YIKES! (If your vet referred you here, give them a shout out for being on the forefront of veterinary medicine!)

Who are our dog rehabilitation patients?

  • Elderly pets — let’s feel GOOD as long as possible

Arthritic and stiff joints, pets with spondylosis, need help with balance, trust in their limbs, flexibility, strengthening to maintain and increase mobility.  Better mobility means more walks, more play and better quality of life.

Pet Rehabilitation Treatments:  Generally starting with a 6 week plan that can include exercises (in clinic and at home), underwater treadmill, laser therapy, manual therapies, massage and acupuncture.  Most of our elderly patients then do best with ongoing therapy at an interval that maintains the best function for them, usually every 2-4 weeks.  Every treatment record is sent to your vet so everyone on your pet’s team is informed.

  • Soft tissue injuries–lameness that won’t show up on xrays!

Very often limping is soft tissue related and treated with anti-inflammatories and rest.  But what if it doesn’t improve? Shoulder injury, “rotator cuff” injuries,  elbows, wrists, groin muscles, hamstrings, tendons, sprains, strains:  in our hands we can identify the muscles, tendons or ligaments involved and treat specifically those areas rather than just on overall anti-inflammatory.  Veterinarians are trained in anatomy and dysfunction rather than function. Rehabilitation veterinarians are trained in FUNCTION and how to return to function.

Rehabilitation Treatments:  Depending on the injury, these often start with twice weekly sessions with laser therapy, manual therapies, massage and therapeutic ultrasound to help reorganize the soft tissues affected.  Once the pain has improved, then we institute a customized plan of exercises (in clinic and at home), underwater treadmill, laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound and manual therapies to retrain the pet to trust the area and restrengthen.  It is important to follow through completely or these become chronic injuries that are harder to treat.  Every treatment record is sent to your vet so everyone on your pet’s team is informed.

  • Post operative orthopedic pets

Ruptured ACL (cruciate ligaments), TPLO, total hip replacements, fractures, achilles tendon surgery, FHO, OCD, arthrodesis, patellar luxation (MPL) — it’s alphabet soup!  If your pet has had surgery with an orthopedist, it is essential animal physical therapy is part of their recovery, just as it would be in a human.

Rehabilitation Treatment:  Generally we start these patients at 2 weeks after surgery (as soon as their stitches are out) with a custom plan of exercises (in clinic and at home), underwater treadmill, therapeutic laser, manual therapies, massage, therapeutic ultrasound and/or acupuncture. In general, 6-10 weeks of weekly therapy is “normal” though much depends on the extent of the injury and the condition of the dog prior to injury. Our goal is always to phase us out as soon as possible but our obligation to your pet is to return to full function.  We work closely with your surgeon to make sure that healing is appropriate and follow up is complete. Every rehabilitation treatment record is sent to your vet and surgeon so everyone on your pet’s team is informed.

  • Neurological patients (“back dogs”)

Surgical “back dogs” and FCE (fibrocartilaginous embolism)

Post operative intervertebral disc (IVDD) back or neck surgeries are quite variable in recovery time depending on the level of dysfunction present to start. Dogs that are able to walk after surgery usually need 6-10 weeks of therapies (when “homework” is done daily). Dogs that are unable to walk after surgery can require significantly longer and daily intensive homework. With proper supports, many of these dogs can return to full function.

Non-surgical “back dogs”

These dogs are more variable because often due to financial constraints, we don’t have a full diagnosis of how deeply affected the spinal cord is. However, with a combination of multiple modalities of dog rehabilitation physical therapy including work at home, many of these dogs return not only to function, but to better core strength and spinal support to help prevent another disk extrusion. In general, 6-12 weeks is needed.

Dog Rehabilitation Treatment:  We like to start these dogs as soon as they can safely ride in the car. If you have someone to hold the dog in the car while you drive that can be as early as 3 days post op, or immediately in non-surgical dogs. We strongly recommend a Help Em Up Harness for all our neurological patients (it will save YOUR back!) We always have these at the clinic and do not charge you for proper fitting when purchased from us. A custom plan of acupuncture, exercises (in clinic and at home), underwater treadmill, laser therapy, manual therapies, massage, and therapeutic ultrasound is started and adjusted as the pet’s needs change.

Neurological dogs to maintain function (Wobbler’s, Degenerative Myelopathy)

Unfortunately, these conditions are not ones that any amount of medication or surgery can cure. Goals for these dogs is to maintain as much function for as long as possible by maintaining good muscle strength and “reminding” the nerves of their job as they deteriorate. In addition, we can help with comfort equipment for maintaining quality of life for your dog like a Help Em Up Harnessmeasuring and fitting for carts, Toe Up boots, non-slip booties, and toe grips. We recommend weekly dog rehabilitation sessions, but tailor the program to the pet’s needs and your finances.

  • Vestibular conditions:

  • Conditioning and weight loss:

Rehabilitation therapy for conditioning is entirely dependent upon the dog’s age and competition level. We will work out a regular program for home and for in-clinic work to continue long term for optimal conditioning of your dog.

Weight loss can be amazing when combining proper diet and exercise, just like in people!  The more muscle groups we are encouraging your dog to use, the more calories are burned.  Arthritic animals (CATS TOO), elderly pets, or pets in other conditions like heart disease, are very challenging for a pet owner to exercise safely especially when he is overweight.

Rehabilitation Treatment:  A proper diet consultation is the first place to start.  Our staff has resources for homemade diets, special training in commercial diets, and is able to help you find the right balance of treats for your pet while still managing weight.  That is the first step in weight loss. An exercise program includes the underwater treadmill (yes, CATS too) and exercises both at the clinic and at home for optimal movement and weight loss, while managing your pet’s other conditions.

  • Other conditions: Kidney, liver, cancer, immune disorders

Beyond pet rehabilitation we work closely with Standard Process, a company devoted to supporting underlying structures of the body through nutritional supplements.  Acupuncture has a long history of improvement for multiple conditions both internal and external. And any treatment that moves blood and removes toxins can be good for any of these conditions. Movement improves blood flow, so physical therapy has a role in internal conditions as well.

Rehabilitation Treatment:  Varies by condition.

What happens at a pet rehabilitation appointment?

Prior to your appointment:

  •  Fill out your new client information form.
  • Make sure your pet has urinated and defecated so he’s comfortable.
  •  Please have your primary vet and surgeon (if applicable) email medical history relating to this injury/condition to (503) 914 0343 or .
  • Bring any discharge instructions from your surgeon.
  • Bring your pet’s favorite snack or toy (whatever motivates her) for rewards.
  • Be on time — pet rehabilitation appointments are jam packed with activity!
  • Our staff reviews ALL your records, and creates a tentative plan. This requires about an hour per pet (see cancellation policy).

Your first pet rehabilitation appointment:

  • First and foremost we want everyone who walks through our doors to be comfortable.  We start by allowing your pet (yes, cats too) to explore the room on their own while we talk. Our nurses will get a photo for our record, and start with some treats to help her feel more comfortable. Please let us know if your pet has food sensitivities.
  • We will review your pet’s lifestyle, injury, surgery or athletic event with you.
  • We will review the records with you, touching on any questions the doctor developed in the chart review.
  • We do a thorough physical exam, neurological exam and orthopedic exam asking your pet for every ache, pain, or tight spot so we address not only their primary issue, but all the things the body is doing to compensate.
  •  We discuss your pet rehabilitation goals and together set short and long term goals and create a plan based on goals, finances, available time, lifestyle and your ability to do exercises at home. Your feedback is essential to finding the best exercises and outcomes for your pet.
  • We attempt to get in a partial treatment on the first visit.  This truly depends on your pet’s issues, how much history is involved and what troubles you are seeing at home.  It is an important foundation to have that first meeting be as thorough as possible.
  • We send you a report of everything we talk about in the first session (generally 2-3 pages worth) within a few days of your appointment.  That same report, plus doctor notes, goes to your vet and your surgeon.

Follow up appointments:

  • Discuss progress and adjust rehabilitation goals as appropriate
  • Evaluate how “homework” is going so we can make adjustments
  • Continue pet physical therapy modalities that are working well
  • Add exercises as your pet progresses
  • Change up rehab exercises so your buddy isn’t getting bored
  • A full report of exercises and goals will go to your veterinarian

A full list of pet rehabilitation exercises, how to do them, how many and how often will be sent by email through our exercise portal.  The app can be downloaded from the app store


This beautiful, happy girl is Suki. She is the perfect example of the success of integrative therapy. She developed osteosarcoma of the bone of the right front leg which was diagnosed by her regular veterinarian who referred her to Dr. Freeman at Veterinary Cancer and Surgery Center. They amputated her leg, did chemotherapy and used a new vaccine for this tumor. She came to us for therapy post amputation and to help balance her body. She’s back to being her happy self and is almost 1 year from diagnosis!


This is Zak. He came to us for strengthening in his hind limbs. He has a condition called laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy syndrome or LPPNS. He comes every other week for the underwater treadmill, acupuncture, exercises and laser. At 12 years old he ruptured his cruciate ligament and had a TPLO. Because he was in such great shape his recovery from TPLO surgery was fast and seamless.


This is Murray. He came to Healing Arts after he had slipped disc in his neck causing radiating pain down his right front leg. He visited with us weekly for 6 weeks with diligent dog rehabilitation work from his mom at home. He had laser therapy, underwater treadmill, and therapeutic exercises. Look at him at his most recent visit!

About Healing Arts Animal Care

Healing Arts Animal Care in Beaverton, Oregon provides veterinary acupuncture, pet rehabilitation therapy, physical therapy and athletic conditioning and Animal Massage Therapy for the dogs and cats of the Portland, Oregon Metro Area including Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, and Tualatin. We strive to create a team among you, your pet, your veterinarian and ourselves to create a whole package of care for your pet including wheelchairs for dogs. Pets come through our door knowing that we’re going to have fun here and this isn’t “another trip to the vet.” Through manual therapies, acupuncture, laser, ultrasound, underwater treadmill and creating a tailored individual home exercises, we strive to bring your injured pet back to speed, keep your elderly pet as an active member of the family, return your obese pet back to a functional friend and keep your athletic pet at the peak of his performance.