K. Sasikala*, P. Dharani1, E. Venkatesakumar and S. Sivaraman**


Physical therapy or physiotherapy is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialty that remediates impairments and promotes mobility, function, and quality of life through examination, diagnosis, prognosis, and physical intervention (therapy using mechanical force and movements). Now-a-days physiotherapy for animals is started and running successfully for much rehabilitation process for the welfare of animals.

Goals of Physiotherapy

  • To relieve pain
  • Regain full function
  • Recovery of inflamed neurologic and musculo-skeletal tissues
  • Prevent disuse atrophy of affected musculature
  • To correct deformities
  • Overall well-being of the patient
  • Reduce swelling, inflammation, and muscle spasm
  • Promote healing and prevent secondary complications.

Principles of Treatment

  • Tissue fluid interchange
  • Blood circulation
  • Metabolic interchange



  • Post operative inflammation
  • Musculoskeletal trauma
  • Muscle spasm
  • Secondary inflammation after therapeutic exercise

Mechanism of Cold Therapy

How to Apply Cold Therapy

  • Applications of ice packs
  • Ice popsicles
  • Running cold water on the affected part
  • Cold water immersion

This procedure is carried out for 15–20 min and repeated after 4 hrs. Observe for frost bite.


  • Chronic inflammation
  • Used in case of frost bite
  • Not used in actively inflamed

Mechanism of Heat Therapy


  • Haemorrhage
  • Edema
  • Decreased sensation
  • Poor thermoregulation
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Pregnant uterus
  • Malignancies

Types of Thermotherapy

A. Radiant Heat

      They are:

  1. Infrared therapy
  2. Ultraviolet therapy 

Infrared Therapy

  • Sub acute and chronic traumatic and inflammatory conditions
  • Arthritis and neuralgia
  • Catarrhal conditions of the mucous membranes
  • Circulatory disturbance of the extremities
  1. Long Wave Infrared:
    • 1500 to 12,000 µ
    • Do not penetrate to deeper than 2mm
    • Strongly absorbed in upper layers of the skin
  2. Short Wave Infrared:
    • 770 – 1500 to 1800 µ
    • Penetrate to 5 to 10mm of skin tissues

Ultraviolet Therapy

  • Entire undraped body should be exposed.
  • Treatment room should be warm and well ventilated.
  • The genetalia should be covered by a cloth.
  • Distance of the Burner: 30 inches with a calculated exposed time
  • Duration of Exposure
  • Local: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Systemic: 15 minutes
  • 5 days usually 20 exposures-complete cure.

B. Conductive Heat

Superficial application that does not penetrate beneath the skin and so it helps in reducing swelling because of its higher osmotic property.

  • Hot water bottles
  • Hot moist pack
  • Hot water bath
  • Electrical Heating Pads
  • Electrical blankets
  • Paraffin Bath

C. Conversive Heat

It includes,

  1. Diathermy
  2. Ultrasound therapy

1. Diathermy

Diathermy is a method of heating the tissues in depth by passing modified high frequency electric current.

2. Ultrasound therapy

  • Beam of sound at a frequency of one million cycles per second (1 MHz)
  • Therapeutic frequencies- 1 MHz  -> 4 – 6 cm into the tissues
  • To promote deep tissue healing
  • To stimulate the resorption of calcium deposit splints


Buoyancy of Water: These can be used to relieve pressure on affected parts. If there is no muscle damage it can be used in the management of downer cow syndrome.

Whirlpool Hydrotherapy: It is essentially a water bath in which an extremity or the entire body is submerged in either warm or cold swirling water.

Irrigation: Irrigating the affected part with a stream of water through a hose pipe is a simple and cheap method.


            In electrotherapy, the rehabilitation of wound, fracture of bone can be put on by following procedure. In case of fore limb treatment, connect the positive electrode in the dorsal thoracic region and connect the negative electrode in the affected fore limb region.


Iontophoresis is a method of delivering medication through the skin by using a gentle electrical current. Sweat ducts, sebaceous glands, hair follicles and skin imperfections – achieve penetration. NSAIDs and Corticosteroids- musculoskeletal disorders

Indications: Ulcers, Neuralgia, Neuritis and Arthritis


It is use of ultrasound waves in the transport of medications through tissue membranes. The sound wave drives subcutaneously up to a depth of 6 cm.

Medications- NSAIDs and anaesthetics


  • Accomplished by extension and flexion of joints to its limit.
  • Increase animal’s range of motion, decreases joint pain.


  • Standing
  • Balancing
  • Sit-to-stand & stand-to-down
  • Co-ordination
  • Gait training

Balance Exercises

  • Use of equipment to strengthen weak muscles and build up limbs affected by atrophy.
  • Balancing on physio-balls, wobble boards and balance boards.
  • Recover from surgery, neurological disorders, and stroke.

Coordination Exercises

  • Improve an animal’s awareness of its surroundings.
  • Cavalettis, weaves, and figure eights.
  • Neurological conditions and spinal cord injuries.


  • Manipulation of soft tissues with hand and fingers
  • Indications: Subacute, Chronic inflammatory conditions can be combined with the use of linaments


  • Slight friction
  • Methodical pressure
  • Individual compression of Muscles
  • Percussion

Effects of Massage

  • Stretching and softening effect of fibrous tissue
  • Local hyperemic effect
  • Stimulation of Sensory nerve endings


Acupuncture may be defined as the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to cause a desired healing effect.

Effect of Acupuncture

  • Increase blood supply
  • Stimulates nerves
  • Relieve muscle spasm
  • Release of hormones

Acupuncture for Small Animals

  • Musculoskelatal problems-arthritis or vertebral disc pathology
  • Skin problems- lick granuloma
  • Respitory problems- feline asthma
  • Gastrointestinal problems- diarrhoea


            The healing is a natural process but it takes time and so this therapy is highly useful in the small animal practice. However, the chemotherapy is often practicing everywhere but physiotherapy is also peeping through the line of treatment in veterinary practice now-a-days.






*Corresponding Author: Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine, Veterinary College and Research Institute, Namakkal- 637 002, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Tamil Nadu, India, email: sasikalakaliapan@gmail.com

**Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine, 1Department of Veterinary Anatomy, Veterinary College and Research Institute, Namakkal- 637 002, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Tamil Nadu, India.

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