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Type: Conditioning and Rehabilitation


Acupressure, like acupuncture, is based on concepts from traditional Asian medicine.  Specifically, that the body has a vital energy, called chi (qi), which flows through channels called meridians.  Using pressure from fingers placed at specific points over the meridians, practitioners believe that they can promote a more harmonious flow of chi, which leads to relaxation and healing.
In dogs, acupressure is most commonly used as a complementary therapy in rehabilitation. Unlike acupuncture, no needles or other invasive tools are needed, meaning it can be done at home by an average dog owner.
Acupressure practictioners can be certified by the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage (NBCAAM).


Acupuncture is based on concepts from traditional Asian medicine.  Specifically, that the body has a vital energy, called chi (qi), which flows through channels called meridians.  Practitioners claim that creating a harmonious flow in the body’s chi by unblocking disruptions leads to improved relaxation and functioning.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into body tissue at points along the body’s meridians.  Holistic veterinarians and other practitioners can use acupuncture as part of rehabilitation after illness, injury, or surgery, or with the aim of reducing pain from an ongoing condition, among other things.

Practitioners can be certified through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.

Body Score

A way to measure the body condition of a dog.  A dog’s body condition score is evaluated by observing and sometimes touching his body, and then comparing him to examples in five categories, labeled 1-5.

  1. Emaciated: Many bones visible from a distance.  No visible body fat and an obvious lack of muscle mass.
  2. Thin: Ribs, pelvis and spine can be easily felt. The tops of the lumbar vetebrae will be visible, as will a waist with an obvious abdominal tuck from both the side angle and the top view.
  3. Moderate: The ribs will be easily felt.  Abdominal tuck able to be seen from the side.  No excess fat.
  4. Stout: Ribs can be felt, but not easily. Noticeable fat deposits over the back and base of the tail. Abdominal tuck may be absent.
  5. Obese: Large amount of fat deposits over most of the body, including the neck and limbs. No waist or abdominal tuck; stomach may appear distended.

Healthy dogs can range between 2 and 4, depending on the breed and level of activity.  1 and 5 are both cause for concern, as they can lead to medical complications.



University of Ohio Veterinary Medical Center website.

Canine Massage

A kind of massage therapy for dogs, used as part of rehabilitation, to help reduce the risk of injury after exertion, and to promote relaxation.  Massage therapists use the same strokes on dogs as they do on humans, although in different locations because of the differences in canine and human anatomy.  Some canine massage therapists use exclusively Western techniques, whereas others incorporate techniques like acupressure into their practice.

Although not all states require licensing or certification, the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage offers certifications for professional canine masseuses.


Carpet Mill

A type of treadmill for conditioning or rehabilitating dogs.  It is made of a length of carpet or other material and a set of rollers.  When the dog runs, the carpet moves, keeping the dog in position There is usually an attachment point for a harness and barriers on either side of the running surface, so that the dog cannot turn around or jump off the mill, and is kept away from the sides where injury may occur.
Carpet mills are not electrically powered, so the dog has the ability to control his own speed.

Hind/Rear End Awareness

In sport and working dogs, it is considered to be important that they are trained to be aware of each of their limbs independently, and to be more conscious of where their body is in relation to their environment.  Rear end awareness exercises are designed to help with this.  Examples include:
  • Backing up
  • Backing onto a platform or wall
  • Targeting a paw pod or object with each foot
  • Balancing exercises
These exercise can also be used as part of rehabilitation and conditioning, as they improve balance, co-ordination and strength.

Paw Pods

Paw pods are small platforms that are designed for a dog to place one paw on.  They are made to be stable enough that a dog can target and balance with their paws on one, two, three, or four pods.  Use of paw pods is said to improve a dog’s balance and rear end awareness.  They are used for rehabilitation and in training dogs for sports like agility.

Sit Pretty

When a dog sits, and then raises his front paws and head up until his spine is vertical and straight, and he is balancing in a column from his hind end upwards.

This exercise can be used in rehabilitation and conditioning, because it strengthens the dog’s core muscles when it is held for a duration.

Slat Mill

A type of treadmill used for conditioning or rehabilitating dogs.  It is made of a series of slats, joined together in a loop and situated over a set of rollers.  When the dog runs forward, the slats move underneath him.  There is usually an attachment point for a harness, and barriers on either side so that the dog remains in position and avoids injury.
Slat mills are not electrically powered, so the dog has the ability to control his own speed.


An electric mill, or e-mill is a type of treadmill used for conditioning or rehabilitating dogs.  Veterinarians recommend only exercising large dogs on treadmills that are specifically designed for them – whilst small dogs can use treadmills for humans, larger dogs have a longer stride and need a longer, wider belt to avoid injury. Treadmills for dogs also have other safety features, like barriers, to keep the dog in the safest position.
Unlike slat mills and carpet mills, a dog is not usually harnessed into an electric treadmill, because he cannot control the speed and needs to be trained and supervised to make sure the equipment is a safe and pleasurable experience for him.


A large wheel, covered inside with a mat or padded surface, that a dog can run in like a hamster wheel. Treadwheels are used for conditioning and rehabilitation. They can be sized for any breed of dog. Dogs can be trained to get in, use, and get off the treadwheel by themselves, although manufacturers guidelines state that they should not use the equipment unattended.

Veterinary Physical Rehabilitation

When a dog is injured, he may be prescribed various different kinds of therapy for rehabilitation.  Some of these therapies are classed as veterinary physical rehabilitation, and others are classed as complementary and alternative veterinary medicine.

Veterinary physical rehabilitation can be performed by a veterinarian, or by a licensed non-veterinarian, ideally under the supervision of the canine patient’s vet.  Techniques include stretching, massage, hydrotherapy, application of heat and cooling, electrical stimulation, low-level lasers, exercises, ultrasound, and magnetic field therapies.  The American Veterinary Medical Association does not count veterinary chiropractic as part of veterinary physical rehabilitation.



Mills, D. and D. Levine (2013) Canine Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy. MA: Elsevier Saunders