Blog — Animal Physiotherapy Services

  • Exciting new equipment!

    We’re very excited about the hyperbaric oxygen chamber that will be arriving soon. Hyperbaric therapy has been proven in people for many years and now our furry friends will get to benefit too. The brand we have chosen is particularly safe and people can sit in the chamber with their pet if they like.

    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (or HBOT as it’s called in the trade) was originally used for deep sea divers with the bends. These days, portable units are available. HBOT works by driving oxygen deeper into the tissues than normal room air does. A better oxygen supply improves healing from injuries and recovery from sport. There’s a lot of research showing that it’s beneficial for people with brain injuries, muscle tears and injuries to other regions of the body that normally don’t have much blood flow.

    Underwater TreadmillUnderwater treadmills the pinnacle of hydrotherapy for many years, but they have also been ludicrously expensive! We’re now anticipating the arrival of our very own underwater treadmill which has a number of world-leading features. Our treadmill will put safety first with top quality chlorination and filtration systems. The manufacturer, aquatread is even customising it for us to include attachment points for resistance band exercises.

    When it arrives, our underwater treadmill will have your pet’s safety and comfort as a first priority. There are two doors and two ramps to ensure your pet can walk forwards in and out. There are also emergency stop buttons should your pet have any difficulties during hydrotherapy.

    Contact us for more information.

  • New Workshops are Finally Here!

    They say good things come to those who wait and we very much appreciate your patience while we’ve been organising our new workshops! The best news is that we have so much more variety and new options now that we’re settled into our new home at Spring Forward Family Centre in Penrith, NSW. Upcoming workshops include:

    Sports Massage for Elite Canine Athletes

    Whether your dog is a racing greyhound or a flyball fruitloop, this 4-hour workshop will give you the hands-on skills to be able to determine which of your dog’s muscles are happy and which are cranky, and what to do about it. You’ll learn massage for before that all-important race or competition, and massage to help recovery afterwards. Even better, you’ll learn how to apply these skills to all of your other dogs – think of the money you’ll save when you can identify little niggles before they become major disasters! The relief of knowing what to do to help your dog after that high-speed stack or when they wake up the next morning with muscles they never knew they had! This workshop includes the same information Dr Helen Nicholson teaches in the massage course she wrote for Yamazaki Gakuen University in Japan and you’ll get to take home an English translation of her best-selling textbook on the subject. We have plenty of trailer parking at the rear of our new home in the Spring Forward Family Centre and places are strictly limited to ensure plenty of individual attention for you and your dog. You can book your place at one of our upcoming dates.

    How to Check Your Canine Athlete Workshop

    This workshop obviously needs a better name, but we keep getting asked how people can tell if their dogs need taking to the vet or physio for sports injuries – how to tell if the dog has a small issue that they can seek help for before it becomes a big problem. So whatever the best name for this workshop is, rest assured that by attending, you’ll learn what we as physios look for when we’re checking a canine athlete, to ensure that they’re in the best possible shape to minimise their risk of injury and maximise their chances of winning. Like our sports massage course, this course is excellent value because you can attend it once with one of your dogs and then use the skills you learn in these 2 hours every week, year in, year out, with the rest of your dogs, too. Save money by learning what little niggles feel like, rather than having to wait until they’re full scale disasters and your dog’s performance has suffered. Small class sizes to ensure plenty of individual attention, this is a hands-on course, so make sure you bring your favourite canine athlete with you! Book now by emailing us or calling (02) 4722 0891.

    2016 Agility Nationals Lead-Up Conditioning Courses

    Yes! The Nationals will be here before we know it and if you want to be in it to win it, our conditioning courses provide the perfect lead-up to the big event! We’ve reworked our format so we now have smaller classes for more individualised attention. In each of the 8 weeks of the course, you and your dog will become experts at the warm up, strength, balance, stretch and cool down exercises we’ve found most effective over the years. Previous conditioning course participants have set personal bests and a large number have even won for the first time at Nationals! Courses start at Easter in order for your dogs to peak at just the right time – email us to book now to ensure you don’t miss your place!

    2016 Flyball Nationals Lead-Up Conditioning Courses

    2016 is going to be such a busy year for some of our favourite furry athletes, many of whom will back up from the Agility Nationals in May for the Flyball Nationals in September! The results of our previous conditioning courses have included that the dogs can run much more consistent times, and we also helped reduce the risk of injury by improving the symmetry of these high-speed athletes’ musculature and flexibility. In order to ensure our dogs are at peak condition for the Flyball Nationals, these courses need to start the week of July 18th and places will be strictly limited to ensure quality individualised attention. If you want your dog to have the edge at Nationals, why not arrange for your whole team to come? Contact us now to find out about our team discount prices!

  • Truffles Update – Walkin’ Wheels

    Here is another video of Truffles – a few months after starting to use her Walkin Wheels.

    Look at her go! That is one happy dog!!

    Truffles’ Mum reports:

    “Before them, we would go for maybe 10 minutes around the block and now we’re walking for 40-45 minutes sometimes in her wheels. She’s become the local celebrity at the park and the beach!”

  • Canine Conditioning Courses

    We received fantastic feedback on our canine conditioning courses last year, which we developed from our extensive canine physiotherapy experience and the work we’ve done as human physiotherapists working with elite athletes.

    Human athletes spend months preparing for big events and research is being constantly done to further improve their results – why not let your canine athlete profit from this knowledge, too?

    We’re very excited to have our next round of conditioning workshops close to fruition – in an exciting new venue and with brand new formats!

    To whet your appetite, here are some photos from previous courses:

    Here we’re challenging our friend’s core stability by making him balance with his front legs on a foam cushion while Naomi gently pulls him off-centre with therapy band. Mum is keeping his head up high with a yummy treat to help ensure his back is in the right position to switch his core muscles on properly.

    This picture shows one of our tinier friends, Maddie, working hard to build abs of steel! She’s demonstrating a ‘puppy sit-up’, which strengthens the abdominal oblique muscles just like oblique crunches do in people! If you look closely, you’ll see that Mum has increased the difficulty by holding Maddie’s lower arm off the ground – no cheating by pushing through her elbow for Maddie!

    High level athletes need to know exactly where each of their legs are at every moment – if they don’t, their injury risk is increased and their performance is likely to suffer. In this photo, you can see how our friend has to negotiate not only obstacles, but also on a variety of different surfaces and while turning direction! Of course, being a Border Collie, our friend can multitask and eat a treat at the same time!

    Count me in!

    Register your interest in our Canine Conditioning Courses today! To add your name to our waiting list, please fill in this form with your dog’s name, age and sport, and your contact details.

    When our dates and venue are finalised, you will be one of the first people to know!

      Your name (required):

      Your email (required):

      Phone (if you want us to call you):

      Age of your dog(s):


      Have you participated in our courses before and can’t wait for our 2015 courses to start? Please let everyone know how much you and your canine friend enjoyed them by leaving a comment below!

    • Professional Pet Photography

      You might have noticed we have some great professional photos on our website!

      We have been lucky enough to have the help of Sue Town, from Pinnicle Photography, and we thoroughly recommend her if you’d like professional photos taken of your own pets.

      Sue is an avid fan of dog sports, both competing with her beautiful Border Collies and taking photos at various agility, flyball, obedience, and dock diving events.

      Sue has participated in our canine conditioning courses and was kind enough to take some photos to show the kind of fun we get up to in our classes. Thanks, Sue!

    • We Help Pets Who Can’t Walk

      There are lots of reasons why your pet might not be able to walk independently.

      Just a few examples of dogs we’ve helped include those with spinal cord damage, tumours, severe arthritis and those who’ve had an amputation.

      We’ve also helped many other species with walking problems, including a deer, a lizard, some rabbits and a kangaroo!

      Obviously, the first step is to see your vet urgently in order to determine the cause of your pet’s problem. Once veterinary care is underway, we can progress to how physiotherapy can help pets who can’t walk.

      The first step for the physio is to assess your pet to determine their specific needs. And while it’s always our first preference to try to teach pets to walk by themselves again, sometimes this just isn’t possible – for example, when the spinal cord is simply too damaged. In these cases, if the pet and the family is coping, we can help with a wheelchair. The wheelchairs we keep in stock are fully adjustable in height, width and length and fit from small dogs like dachshunds to large dogs like ridgebacks – the deer we worked with even had her very own pink chariot!

      See a video of one of our clients trying out her wheels for the first time.

      And here is Truffles again, just a few weeks since she got her wheels.

      Please contact us if you think a wheelchair might help your pet!

      You can send us information about their veterinary diagnosis and a video of how they’re moving at the moment to help us help you. Your pet may soon be out and about in their very own set of wheels like our little friend in the video!

    • Return to Walking

      Everyone knows how much their favourite canine companion loves to go for a W-A-L-K and walking is essential for maintaining cardiovascular fitness.  However, walking also causes high levels of friction through the joints so in the early stages of rehabilitation, walking too far or too fast can do more harm than good.

      For this reason, we encourage everyone to return to walking very gradually.  Below we’ve outlined our own program that makes it easy and safe for you and your furry friend to build up to your normal walking distance.

      In the early days following surgery or an injury, dramatic changes are taking place in the affected muscles, bones and joints. During this time, all outdoor exercise should be done on leash.  Unrestrained exercise during this important healing period may affect the long term use of the leg so please, keep your best friend on a lead, even when going to the toilet. 

      Walking Program

      1. Walks can begin the day after your pet has been given the go-ahead by your physiotherapist or vet.
      2. Your first walk should be approximately 200m (or 5 houses in your average suburb).
      3. Walk slowly and always on-leashWalking slowly encourages stepping correctly and decreases the chance of your pet overdoing it.
      4. Increase the distance by 20m or 1 house each day.

      STOP the walking program and consult your vet or physiotherapist if:

      • your pet becomes more lame during the walk;
      • you notice they are more lame, stiff or reluctant to move following walking that day; or
      • they are more lame, stiff or reluctant to move the day following walking.

      Ongoing Rehabilitation

      After 8 weeks of this walking program, you and your dog will be walking just under 1km, but should not be walking any further.  This is an excellent point to have your physiotherapist reassess your pet so that we can provide your pet with an individual physiotherapy program to enhance your pet’s recovery.

      Who are we?

      Dr Helen Nicholson has both Masters and PhD degrees in animal physiotherapy. She is passionate about bringing the benefits of physiotherapy that are felt by humans across the world to our furry friends and helping their families to discover how fun physio can be!

      Our experienced team has many techniques available to show you, either in one of our Sydney centres or via telerehab with Skype.

    • Animal Hydrotherapy

      With Australia’s great climate and numerous sources of water – from bathtubs to backyard pools and dams and creeks to rivers and beaches – hydrotherapy has become very popular. This article has been prepared so that you and your furry friend can benefit from our expertise to maximise their rehabilitation. For best results, hydrotherapy should be undertaken at least 3 times a week, with a land-based program supporting the work done in water.

      Safety First!

      1) Does your pet like water? If your pet shivers in dread at bathtime, introducing water exercises at a time when they are injured, stressed or disabled may end in injury and disaster.  If this sounds like your pet, please discuss your case with one of our physiotherapists before going ahead.

      2) Hygiene. Your pet should NOT undertake hydrotherapy in shared water if:

      – it has been less than 3 weeks since they had surgery
      – they have an open wound anywhere on their body
      – they are incontinent of urine or faeces

      3) Does your pet need assistance in the water? Many pets can’t manage water exercises by themselves at first.  With smaller dogs, owners might be able to squeeze into the kiddie pool or bath to support them but this isn’t safe with bigger dogs (or for your back!).  Instead we may be able to use floats and life jackets to make their hydrotherapy safer and more comfortable.  Please always discuss your individual situation with us if your pet isn’t walking by themselves.

      STOP your hydrotherapy program immediately and seek veterinary attention if your pet: deteriorates, is more fatigued than normal, becomes lame or appears in any kind of pain.

      Principles of Hydrotherapy

      Hydrotherapy is NOT swimming!

      When most people think of hydrotherapy, they think of swimming.  However, there’s a lot more science to it than that – that’s why it’s called hydrotherapy!  In fact, early in rehab we often actively avoid swimming as it puts joints through a large range of motion without activating the muscles that stabilise and protect them.  In a debilitated dog, this may actually cause further pain and compensatory muscle spasm.

      Instead, hydrotherapy is most beneficial when static or dynamic exercises are undertaken with the feet in contact with the ground.  Wading is the easiest way for most dogs to start; it allows your dog to practice the movements for their favourite activity (a W-A-L-K!) and start strengthening the appropriate muscles straight away.  Below we’ve outlined a wading program so you can get the best results from hydrotherapy for your best friend.  Your rehabilitation program will be even more effective if this is supplemented with individual water and land based exercises prescribed by one of our physiotherapists.

      Wading Program

      • Day 1 – wade for 1 minute; get out of the water and rest or walk slowly for 1 minute on land, watching carefully for any signs of deterioration (increased lameness, stiffness, dragging on the lead). If there are no signs of deterioration, perform a second repetition of 1 minute wading, before getting back out of the water and resting for 1 minute on land again, watching carefully for any increased lameness, pain, etc. Only if there are no signs of deterioration, a third repetition of 1 minute wading may be performed.
      • Day 2 – provided no signs of deterioration were noticed on the evening of Day 1, and the dog did not wake any worse than normal on the morning of Day 2, repeat the Day 1 program of 3 repetitions of 1 minute wades with 1 minute land-walks between to check for signs of deterioration. Continue to check for signs of deterioration throughout the rest of the day.
      • Day 3 – again provided there are no signs of deterioration, either in the evening of Day 2 or the morning of Day 3, repeat the Day 1 program of 3 repetitions of 1 minute wades with 1 minute land-walks between, observing closely for any signs of increased lameness, stiffness, pain, or dragging on the lead.
      • Day 4 – from Day 4 onwards, increase wading by one repetition of 1 minute wading per session, always land-walking 1 minute between wades, to check for signs of deterioration. When your dog can do 10 minutes of wading, we recommend adding more complex exercises, if they haven’t already been introduced – just ask one of our physios for advice.

      Who are we?

      Our team leader is Dr Helen Nicholson. Helen has both Masters and PhD degrees in animal physiotherapy and has taught and used dog pools and underwater treadmills in the UK, Japan, Austria and Australia.

      Helen is passionate about bringing the benefits of physiotherapy that are felt by humans across the world to our furry friends and helping their family to discover how fun physio can be! Our experienced team have many techniques available to show you, either in one of our Sydney centres or via telerehab with Skype.