The underwater treadmill is one of the most valuable pieces of equipment in aquatic therapy. Hydrotherapy can result in significant gains in strength, range of motion, function, and overall cardiovascular fitness. We highly recommend that you please schedule your dog’s hydrotherapy sessions 2 or 3 times weekly for the next 4-8 weeks.


  • improve range of motion and:
  • Reduce lameness, inflammation, and swelling
  • Improve use of limb
  • Improve daily functions
  • Prevent further injuries


  • Facilitates the rate of recovery
  • Improves the quality of movement
  • Noninvasive


  • For initial swelling, the first 3-5 days the surgery limb should be iced 2-4 times daily. Lay your dog on their side with the surgery limb up. Place a rolled towel between the limbs so the surgery limb is kept parallel to the floor. Place a lightweight towel between the limb and the ice pack. Ice should be applied for 15-20 minutes.
  • Once you are done icing, gently massage from the toes up to the hip using a gentle circular motion with light pressure as directed. Do not massage directly over the surgical incision.  
  • Passive Range of Motion following massage is beneficial. PROM promotes healing, helps with recovery of soft tissue mobility, neuromuscular re-education and synovial movement. Gently grasp your dog’s paw and move the surgery limb in flowing, circular, forward to backward movements. Be sure to include a few stretches during the PROM exercises. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions 2-3 times daily. These exercises may be done lying or standing.
  • Gait training – your dog should remain quiet and confined to a small area or on a leash. Once the swelling has decreased your dog may go on slow leash walks. These should be done at a controlled and exaggerated slow pace. Please walk your dog twice daily for 5 minutes. If your dog is using the surgery limb, a flat surface is the safest, however if your dog is reluctant to use the surgery limb try walking on an uneven surface such as gravel or grass. Walks may be increased 5 minutes each week. Use positive praise when weight is put on the affected limb. You may ice the limb for 10-15 minutes following the walks.



Weeks 4 & 5:

  • Increase the slow leash walks to 20 to 30 minutes two or three times daily
  • Have your pet perform 10 repetitions of sit-stand exercises three times a day
  • Have your pet perform 10 to 15 repetitions of figure-of-eight walks two or three times a day, circling to the right and left
  • Have your pet sit against a wall for 10 to 15 repetitions two or three times a day, keeping the affected leg next to the wall
  • If available, swimming exercises for one to three minutes twice a day is helpful
  • Most pets will be putting some weight on the leg at this point in time on a slow walk but hold it up on a trot or run 

Weeks 6 – 8:

  • Schedule another recheck with your doctor six weeks after surgery to evaluate your pet’s progress
  • Take your pet on leash walks for 30 to 40 minutes once a day, slow enough to ensure that your pet is weight bearing on the affected limb
  • Take your pet on incline walks or hills or ramps for 5 to 10 minutes once or twice a day
  • Take your pet up a flight of stairs, if available, 5 to 10 times slowly twice a day
  • Continue swimming if possible
  • Most pets will be using the leg with a moderate limp at this point in time

Weeks 9 – 12:

  • At this point, your pet’s limping should be slowly getting less and less and activity should gradually return to full activity by the end of 12 weeks.
  • Take your pet on faster 30 to 40 minute walks once or twice a day
  • Take your pet for a run-straight only, no turns-for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day

Stage 3


Our goal is to improve:

  • Use of the surgery limb
  • Muscle mass and strength
  • Range of motion


  • Please increase your pet’s exercises to twice a day.
  • Continue with warm packs, massage and range of motion exercises.
  • Leash walks can be increased in time with some trotting allowed during the walks.
  • Having your pet do sit to stand exercise are very helpful to increase muscle mass. When you are on your walk, ask your pet to sit then ask for a stand. Repeat this 10-15 times during your walk. Having the affected limb against a wall helps during this exercise.
  • Walking your pet over small obstacles, like broomsticks, will encourage active range of motion. Line several up on the floor and walk your pet back and forth over them 4-5 times.
  • Walking your pet in deep sand or water can help to build muscle mass. 
  • Dancing exercise- stand your pet on your pet’s back legs and hold your pets front legs in your hands. Walk your pet backwards and forward 10-15 times. 
  • After exercise it is advisable to ice the limb for 10-15 minutes. If any lameness persists, please notify us. 


1. Opposing leg stand:

Gently lift the Left front and Right rear leg slightly off the ground and have him/her bear weight on the opposing limbs. Hold for a count of 5 secs. That is one rep. Give a short break then ask the same of him/her 4 more times. You can also try to gently sway them forward/backward to shift weight to the front and back.

2. Toe Tickles:

 With your pup sitting on your lap or laying on the floor in front of you, gently take a hold of his toes and lightly squeeze or tickle it. As he/she pulls it back don’t let go but gently hold causing resistance for him/her. Hold for a few seconds then release. Do this 5-10 times multiple times throughout the day. This will encourage the muscles in the upper limb to work and help to regain some muscle mass lost due to surgery or injury.

3. Weight shifts:

 Have your pup in a standing position to do these. Gently nudge the back end form side to side to cause them to shift their weight and try to balance themselves. Do this 5-10 times multiple times throughout the day.

4. Mock Caveletti work:

Roll a towel in the doorway that your pup uses frequently. Secure it so it can’t be moved when they come through the door. As they come over it they will have to lift and lower their legs and also stretch the body to walk over it. This will help with strengthening and building muscle. The roll should not be to high. They have to be able to get over it without to much effort but should create a bit of an obstacle to make them use extra effort to get over. 

5. Egg foam cushion walking:

Using this foam cushion material, walk your pup over it back and forth several times. The uneven surface creates a challenge for them to balance themselves and they will have to use every limb to accomplish balance. This will help to get them to use the surgery limb and it will help in strengthening the rear limbs. It is great for proprioception training also.

6. Sit to Stand Exercise:

You can do this exercises while walking or just on it’s own. While walking stop and ask your pup to sit, then ask them to stand slowly going forward with them. Do this 10 times twice daily. If you do it in the home it is good to put the surgery leg side along a wall in a hallway when having them do the sit to stand. This helps them stand and brace to help them fully use the limb without it sliding out to the side.

7. Cookie Bends: Shoulders

With your pet standing, take a treat and show them the treat but don’t let them get it. Take the treat and slowly move it toward the Left shoulder and hold for a count of 5 secs. Then bring the treat to the front again and give them a small taste of it. Next take the treat to the Right shoulder and hold as before, take back to the front and give a small piece. Do 5 repetitions on each side

8. Cookie Bends: Hips

Once your pet is more stable and flexible at the shoulder bends you can now take the stretch the hip. Follow the same protocol as the shoulder only this time take the treat to the hip and hold. Do both ways hold for count of 5 and do 5 repetitions. 

9. Cookie Bends: Hip/down to toes

As flexibility increases and becomes easier to do the stretches in 7 & 8 you may add going to the toes. As before use a treat and slowly take the hand back to the hip and gently lower it to the foot and hold for a count of 5 do 5 repetitions each side.

10. Lap Time: ( This is for small dogs) 

Sit on the floor as demonstrated and put your pet on your lap with their back against yours. Gently stretch the rear limb down to touch your legs and gently hold for 5 secs. Release and massage for a minute or so then do again. Do 5 repetitions on each side. If your pet is very “tight” just hold for a few minutes in a relaxed position and rock them to relax them, then start. 

11. Over the Ball:

Place your pet over the ball as demonstrated and gently “bounce” them to encourage weight bearing. Spend just a few minutes at a time with this exercise. You can also do weight shifts over the ball also. It will sometimes give them more confidence to try with the support they feel from the ball under them.

12. Around the Dog Leg Lifts:

Gently lift the Left front leg slightly off the ground and have your pet bear weight on the opposing limbs. Hold up each paw for a count of 5 secs. That is one rep. Give a short break then ask the same of them 4 more times. You can also try to gently sway them forward/backward to shift weight to the front and back.

– Dr. Ken Brown, DVM: Veterinarian and Clinic Owner

Animal Clinic of Billings and Animal Surgery Clinic

veterinarian Dr. Ken Brown

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Call the Animal Clinic of Billings and Animal Surgery Clinic to schedule your pet cat’s next wellness examination with one of our veterinarians today!




providing our region’s companion animals and their families what they need and deserve since 1981

1414 10th St. West, Billings MT 59102