Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic Port Elizabeth
Physical Rehabilitation for Pets

The goal of physical rehabilitation is to give your pet the best quality of life for the longest possible time. Physical rehabilitation helps speed up recovery from injury, surgery, or other physical problems. Physical rehabilitation restores the best possible function whether your pet is an athlete living life in the fast lane or enjoys a more laid back lifestyle. In providing physical rehabilitation we strive to ensure wellness and balance for pets. A well and balanced pet is a healthy and happy pet.

Benefits of Physical Rehabilitation

Improves your pet's quality of life
Speeds up recovery
Decreases pain, inflammation and swelling
Improves function, mobility and range of movement
Decreases muscle tension and spasms
Improves balance and co-ordination, for example after a spinal injury
Increases strength, endurance and performance
Improves flexibility, for example for stiff joints or a stiff back
Aids weight loss
Improves circulation
Allows your pet to retain their independence
Assists in reducing the need for pain medications
Prevents or lessens the chance of future problems

Conditions which can benefit from physical rehabilitation

Since physical rehabilitation improves strength and fitness, it is often used for animals that are in good health such as working dogs and canine athletes. Aside from such cases, the right kind of physical rehabilitation is beneficial for animals suffering from difficulties in any of the following areas:

Post-operative rehabilitation
• Fracture repairs
Cruciate ligament repairs
• Femoral head excisions
Patella Luxation

Neurological (surgical and non-surgical cases)
• Disc disease (read more about intervertebral disc disease)
• Fibrocartilaginous embolism
• Degenerative myelopathy

Orthopaedic conditions
• Hip and elbow dysplasia (read more about hip dysplasia)
• Cruciate ligament injuries
Osteoarthritis(OA)/Degenerative joint disease

Soft tissue injuries
Obesity and weight loss
Pain management

What rehab equipment is available?

Therapeutic ultrasound and neuromuscular electrical stimulation machines
Class IV Laser
TENS machine
Land treadmill
Full range of therapeutic exercise equipment including FitPAWS® rocker board, wobble boards, balance discs, gym balls, donuts and peanuts, weights, resistance bands, cavaletti rails, and cones for weaving exercises
Equipment for disabled and injured pets including harnesses, slings and, if necessary, we can source carts and other assistive devices for your pet
A range of high-quality sterile disposable acupuncture needles
Electroacupuncture machines

What treatments do we offer?

Whatever the reason an animal may need physical rehabilitation, the needs of each individual animal are evaluated and assessed before any treatment commences. After this initial evaluation and assessment a range of treatments and programmes may be prescribed, including:

Range of motion and stretching exercises
Cryotherapy and thermotherapy
Therapeutic ultrasound
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation
Laser therapy
Therapeutic exercises
Land treadmill
Home exercise plans
Weight loss programmes
Fitness and conditioning programmes
Hydrotherapy (referral only)
Massage (referral only)


The physical rehabilitation service is offered within the normal working hours of Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic. For clients of Southern Cross making an appointment is as simple as calling reception and asking to make a physical rehabilitation appointment. For your convenience after the initial evaluation, we offer a day service. This means that you can leave your pet with us for the day while he or she receives treatment. Your pet can then benefit from multiple sessions throughout the day.

If you are registered with another veterinary practice, but think that physical rehabilitation might be of benefit to your pet, please speak to your vet regarding referral. All treatment is by veterinary referral as the health of your pet is our top priority. Veterinary referral ensures that there is clear and complete communication between the professionals who care for your pet and makes sure that he or she is safe at all times. Throughout your petís treatment we will give your vet regular reports on his or her progress, and your vet will remain in charge of all other aspects of your petís care, such as the supply of any medications, vaccinations, supplements and diets. To make an appointment ask your vet to complete our veterinary referral form and then contact us to make a booking.

Packages of 6 and 10 rehab sessions are offered. The package session is at a discounted rate compared to individual sessions. Packages exclude laser treatment, acupuncture needles, medications, supplements and herbal/homeopathic treatments.

We offer specialised postoperative care for your pet during the day, giving you peace of mind while you are away from home. We help your pet to fully recover after surgery by providing:

• Climate controlled cages in a dedicated physical rehabilitation hospital area;
• Each cage has a custom made mattress to ensure your pet has all the comforts of home;
• Regular interaction and rehabilitation exercises individually designed to suit your pet's specific postoperative needs;
• Administration of medication;
• Monitoring of wounds and dressings.

We also have a range of collapsible cages available to hire so that, if necessary, you can keep your pet confined at home.

If you have any questions, feel free to give us a ring.

Range of Motion and Stretching Exercises

Range of motion refers to the extent of movement possible in the joints of an animal's body. In physical rehabilitation it is a term that describes both the current possibility of movement in any joint and the exercises used to promote greater and easier movement in these joints. Joints do not go through a full Range of Motion (ROM) when dogs and cats walk or run. So using ROM exercises is very important, not just in promoting restoration of function after surgery or in neurological cases, but also in addressing the issues that arise with the normal wear and tear of daily life. ROM exercises are often used together with stretching exercises, to improve the flexibility of joints and the ability of tissues, muscles, and tendons to stretch and extend, and as such are used in a wide range of cases.

Cold Therapy (Cryotherapy)

Athletes all over the world swear by the ice bath and so it's no surprise that cold therapy is one of the treatments used in the physical rehabilitation of animals. Cold therapy decreases inflammation and reduces pain, and is used to assist in recovery from acute muscle, tendon, or ligament injuries, address issues arising from conditions such as arthritis and tendonitis, and is vital in supporting return to best possible function in post-surgical cases.

Heat Therapy (Thermotherapy)

The therapeutic benefits of heat can be harnessed in many different ways as part of physical rehabilitation. Heat therapy can be used to relax muscles and promote pain relief, but its benefits go much further. As heat increases blood flow, its application in physical rehabilitation facilitates tissue healing as it results in more proteins, nutrients, and oxygen reaching the injured area. Heat therapy is used to help chronic problems, such as osteoarthritis, to decrease pain, and to reduce muscle tightness.

Therapeutic Ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound uses sound waves to heat muscle groups, improves extensibility of connective tissue, reduce tension, muscle spasm and pain. This treatment also helps increase circulation, whilst decreasing scar tissue and inflammation, all of which promote improved wound healing. Therapeutic ultrasound can also be beneficial in treating conditions such as tendonitis, fractures, and joint contracture.

Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation

Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation is used to enhance muscle performance by increasing muscle strength and muscle endurance, and through the re-education of muscles. Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation is beneficial in addressing:

Post-operative recovery
Tendon and muscle strains
Muscle atrophy due to disuse or poor use
Neurological disease
Muscle spasms
Soft tissue swelling
Joint swelling
Improper timing of muscle contractions

Therapeutic Exercises

Therapeutic exercises are used to improve:

Muscle strength
Joint stability
Range of motion
Aerobic fitness

These are all key aspects of physical rehabilitation, playing an important role in treating obesity, restoring function, and reducing pain. This non-invasive form of treatment also helps to prevent further injury and is something both you and your pet can do together.

Some of the conditions for which therapeutic exercise is beneficial include:

Post-surgery or injury recovery
Hip or elbow dysplasia
Muscle atrophy, weakness or imbalance
Intervertebral disc disease
Fibrocartilaginous embolism

Fitness and Conditioning

Whether your pet is preparing for an endurance marathon, aiming to win best in show in the conformation ring, or just in need of losing some weight, physical rehabilitation can assist you in getting your pet into tip top condition.


Far more than just swimming, hydrotherapy seeks to harness the therapeutic benefits of water to promote physical wellbeing and relieve discomfort. A qualified and trained therapist may use a pool or an underwater treadmill to make the best use of the qualities of water which include buoyancy, resistance, and hydrostatic pressure. Making use of these properties hydrotherapy is particularly beneficial for cats and dogs with poor balance and weight bearing issues. The buoyancy of the water removes these problems and so the animal is able to move and make use of his muscles and joints in a way that would not be possible on land. At the same time the hydrostatic pressure promotes circulation and pain relief, whilst the resistance of moving through the water helps to aid muscle strengthening.

Hydrotherapy can be used for all sorts of conditions. The types of conditions which benefit from hydrotherapy include:

Orthopaedic: Osteoarthritis (OA), Fractures, Hip dysplasia, Elbow dysplasia,
Spinal/Neurological: Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), Brachial plexus avulsion
Soft Tissue Injuries: Cruciate ligament rupture/injury, Achilles tendon injury
Degenerative and medical conditions: Osteoarthritis (OA)/Degenerative joint disease, Degenerative myelopathy
Conditions related to age: Juvenile osteoporosis (brittle bone), Panosteitis, Chronic osteoarthritis, Weight gain, Weight loss, Reduced mobility

Hydrotherapy can also be beneficial in building cardiovascular fitness in working and sporting dogs without any pre-existing conditions. In all cases treatment should only commence once veterinary permission has been granted. This service is available on a referral basis only.  


We all know how good it feels when we've had a nice relaxing massage, but as part of physical rehabilitation massage has a lot more to offer than relaxation. In this context massage is used to contribute to the function and wellbeing of the whole body by enhancing circulation, stimulating drainage, releasing problems relating to the muscles, and of course, relaxation. Therapeutic massage helps to reduce recuperation time by improving oxygenation of tissues and aids recovery from soft tissue injuries. This service is available on a referral basis only.

Veterinary referral form for physical rehabilitation for your pet                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

New client registration form for physical rehabilitation

Measuring Quality of Life

back to Services
back to Pet Info
back to Home
Fractured leg in a dog
Athletic dog
Hip dysplasia
Cat with a injured leg
FitPAWS peanut
FitPAWS donut
Treadmill for dogs
Cavaletti rails
Hydrotherapy for dogs
Call Now