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Oncology and Animal Physiotherapy

Rehabilitation and physiotherapy helps patients with a wide range of illnesses to optimise their physical functioning and quality of life.   Research has demonstrated that physical activity has numerous positive effects for patients with cancer. Unfortunately, many cancer patients are elderly or have other issues such osteoarthritis, obesity or deconditioning that will prevent them from being active.  Physiotherapy builds strength, improves joint stiffness, releases tight muscles and reduces pain to allow these animals to become more physically active.

Animal physiotherapy can help pets being treated for, or recovering from, cancer by:

  • Facilitating physical activity.

In patients with cancer, physical activity has been associated with a 34% lower rate of cancer death and a 33% improvement in cancer survival survival rates (1).  Physiotherapy will help dogs and cats move with less pain and joint stiffness and your physiotherapist will teach you the most appropriate exercises to be doing while your pet recovers.

  • Helping patients to tolerate cancer treatment.

Cancer treatment at SASH is designed to optimise your pets’ quality of life and keep them comfortable for as long as possible.  A systematic review of 82 studies in humans demonstrated that therapeutic exercise not only improved strength but also reduced cancer- and chemotherapy-related fatigue, improved cancer-specific concerns and improved physical functioning and quality of life (2).

  • Improving outcomes for patients with cancer.

Studies have indicated a relationship between higher physical activity levels and lower mortality in cancer survivors.  A recent meta-analysis reported that, post-diagnosis, physical activity reduced breast cancer deaths by 34%, all causes mortality by 41% and disease recurrence by 24% (3).

At SASH, we have a dedicated state-of-the-art Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Centre and are fortunate to be the only veterinary hospital in Sydney with both therapeutic laser and underwater treadmill.

Underwater Treadmill

Hydrotherapy, or exercise in water, is beneficial for pain, function, joint mobility, strength and balance.  Hydrotherapy allows weak or deconditioned animals to start exercising earlier without pain or risk of injury.  For more mobile pets, we can change the water depth to encourage them to build strength and fitness faster. Ultimately, these benefits improve rehabilitation outcomes for your pet and help them return to their normal daily activities sooner.


1 Orsini N, Mantzoros C S et al. Association of physical activity with cancer incidence, mortality, and survival: a population based study of men. British Journal of Cancer. 2008 98:1864-1869.

2 Speck RM, Courneya KS, Masse LC, Duval S and Schmitz KH (2010). An update of controlled physical activity trials in cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Cancer Survivorship. Vol 4:2, pp87-100.

3 Ibrahim EM and Al-Homaidh A (2010) Physical activity and survival after breast cancer diagnosis: meta-analysis of published studies. Medical Oncology. Vol 28:3, pp753-765.

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The purpose of this valuable resource is to act as a practical guide to assist general practitioners to diagnose cancer earlier, provide more accurate information to clients.

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