Anatomy Series, 3: Common Illnesses And Diseases In Dogs

There are many illnesses and diseases that can happen in the course of your dog's life. Some breeds are more genetically predisposed than others. Symptoms can vary between each of the conditions so it is really important to make sure you make note of any changes in behaviour, posture or movement and let you vet and therapist know.

We have put together some of the common issues we see and how therapy can help. Maybe you have heard of them or have had a dog with it we would love to hear about your experiences.


Is a serious issue currently with almost 50% of dogs being overweight or obese. Just like humans, carrying excess weight can lead to diabetes, cancer, respiratory illness and heart disease. If you are unsure if your dog is overweight one easy way you can check is by running your hand over their ribs. You should be able to feel them but not see them. Although physical therapy will not help your dog loose weight, we can ease the pain or discomfort that is caused on the joints and the strain on the surrounding structures. We can also help you with diet plans and exercise tips to get your dog back to a healthier weight

Hip/ elbow dysplasia

Dysplasia is abnormal development of a joint (hip or elbow) resulting in the bones essentially not 'fitting' together properly and commonly leads to osteoarthritis. Physical therapy can be a non-surgical option depending on the individual and degree of dysplasia. Therapy is also let for post-operative rehabilitation.

Luxating patella

When the knee cap isn't able to follow it's normal movement (disclocates) into its groove when the knee is bent. The dog is unable to straighten the limb again resulting in a skipping motion either temporarily or permanently. There are different grades of luxation (1-4) which will determine if the dog requires surgery or not. Physical therapy, along with weight-management and pain medications can help for all degrees of luxation whether as a non-surgical option or pre/post-operatively. Physical therapy will reduce the strain on the affected joint and relax any musculoskeletal tension that will build up due to compensation.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)

IVDD is the degeneration of the cushion like discs in-between each vertebrae, leading to herniated discs and spinal cord compression. Dependant on the level of degeneration, surgery will likely be the main course of action but physical therapy can really help with rehabilitation, building mobility and function as well as supporting any secondary musculoskeletal issues that may arise.


Probably the most common of all, arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the cartilage that protects the joint wears away. It is unfortunately not curable but can be successfully managed with pain medications, supplements, physical therapy and diet control. Physical therapy can help ease pain and discomfort as well as maintain joint mobility and by supporting the surrounding structures and muscles in their movement and function.

Cruciate ligament injuries

Degeneration of the ligament/s within the knee. A bit like a fraying rope this will usually happen over time rather than through trauma. Physical therapy can help by supporting the surrounding musculature, keeping the tissues that will be compensating as relaxed as possible and preventing further injury. Post-operatively physical therapy will help bring strength back to the limbs affected and restore balance where compensations may have occurred.