Rehab therapy for dogs

Karli with Riley Rehah

Here at Franklin Vets, we are very excited to be able to offer rehab therapy (physiotherapy) for dogs with injuries, arthritis, and those recovering from surgery. Any animal that needs pain relief for ongoing conditions or trauma can benefit from rehab.

To help with pain relief and recovery, rehab uses a combination of hands-on therapy (massage, trigger point release etc.), stretching, modalities (such as ice, heat packs, and laser), and exercises – both in clinic and at home.

The goals of therapy involve alleviating pain and inflammation, gaining and maintaining strength and mobility, and helping dogs return to full function.  Each treatment plan is tailored to each pet by a fully qualified Veterinary Rehabilitation Practitioner – Karli Houston, and the nurses at Papakura that have been trained to help with the exercise programs.

An initial assessment involves:

  • A full clinical exam to detail what the problems are and where areas of weakness may lay
  • Treatment – massage, stretching, joint mobilizations, laser etc.
  • Building a plan – demonstrating which exercises/stretches to work on at home to build strength.

Case Study:

Riley is a lovely, goofy Labrador retriever cross and unfortunately wasn’t built very well - He was born with bilateral elbow and hip dysplasia. His very diligent owners took him to the specialist early on to try and limit the damage from his elbows. He had surgery on both to remove a fragmented coronoid process in early 2016, attended his first rehab visit a few months later, and continued seeing Karli every other week.

In 2019 he saw another specialist and had a TPLO done for a torn cruciate ligament before having total hip replacement surgery later that year. While recovering from surgery his femur fractured and he ended up having the head of his femur removed. Our rehab practitioner Karli has been seeing him fortnightly for rehab since 2016. He is on a joint-specific diet and regular joint injections. Riley’s gait may be a little funny, and it can sometimes look like the wheels are falling off but with regular maintenance and laser therapy he is as happy as a clam!

Riley is very excited when it is his turn to come into the consult room for treatment. He loves his massage, stretching, and laser therapy, but his favourite part is the exercises when he gets to have treats. Rehab for Riley involves releasing areas of tension along his upper back, biceps, and quads, stretching out the soft tissues that tighten due to compensation, applying a laser to arthritic joints, and working to maintain his limited range of motion.

Rehab isn’t just for dogs - I have treated cats and even a lamb! If you think your dog is slowing down, stiffening up or has had a recent injury or trauma. Please call the Papakura or Karaka clinic and book them in.

Dr Karli Houston

Feedback from Sharna Edwards, Riley's mum.

“Riley started his physio journey early on his life and it is probably the main reason he can still walk! At just 6 months old, he had elbow surgery to remove bone fragments in his elbows. As part of his rehab, we were referred to Karli and her amazing physio-healing powers and have been seeing her ever since, now 8 (years).  

He has been through a number of major surgeries including his cruciate and a hip replacement which failed leading to the implant being removed. This has essentially left him with no hip joint. He has chronic arthritis in most of his joints and has significant hip dysplasia. He has baffled most of the specialists and vets he has seen as to how he can still walk and lead a relatively normal life. We still go for two walks a day and he loves swimming at the beach. 

We believe this is due to his ongoing care and rehab with physio as well as through pain management medication (previcox). Riley visits Karli approximately every fortnight where she massages, manipulates, and uses laser therapy on him. Karli finishes off the session with a few exercises to help with his strength and mobility. We see a massive improvement in his movement after he’s had a physio session, he is generally happier in himself and limps less. He definitely starts showing signs of tightness or being sore when he’s due for a physio session. Riley loves going to his sessions with Karli and is the happiest dog to continuously keep going to the vet, despite his number of major surgeries. Karli also cares about Riley like one of her own dogs and is an amazing vet. She found a lump on his ear which turned out to be cancerous resulting in another surgery to remove the lump. 

We really weren't quite sure what to expect after his first surgery and starting physio but it is absolutely the best thing we could have done for Riley. Without hesitation we would recommend Karli and physiotherapy to anyone whose animal is elderly, has joint issues, is in pain or is about to go through surgery and requires rehab. It will be the kindest thing anyone can do to make their animal more comfortable and improve its quality of life.” 

Rehab with Karli


Franklin Vets

Franklin Vets - excellence in veterinary care for dairy, farming, lifestyle, equine and household pets. BESTPRACTICE ACCREDITED NZ.