Proprioception refers to the animals awareness of stimuli relating to its own position, posture, equilibrium or internal condition. When an animal is having issues with proprioception, their symptoms could include abnormal body positions or movements, abnormal placement reactions in the limbs (legs), abnormal limb position at rest (legs crossed or paws turned under), and abnormal wearing of the toes, partial loss of movement in limbs, paralysis, Urinary incontinence, in-coordination, weakness or seizures.


Pet Wellness Worx provides Proprioception Stimulation,  Neuro-Function and Hind Leg Awareness

Proprioception Infographic copy


These are the Exercises Pet Wellness Worx uses to stimulate Proprioception responses in a neurological deficit dog.

Stand– Support weight of hind quarters, best way to achieve this is to get a special supportive harness and let patient stand squarely on its feet multiple times a day. A towel underneath stomach can also be used, this is not ideal as it can place excessive pressure on abdominal organs. If paws knuckle over correct them. This is to start activating the pathways to the brain again. Place on different textures such as bubble wrap, grass, bark, ect.

Flexor reflex – pinch between the toes of the back legs to elicit a withdrawal reflex, 2-3 times a day

Play with the hind feet all the time, you can also use an electric toothbrush underneath the pads.

Passive range of motion exercises (PROM) – 10-20 reps, two to three times per day

Place animal in a quiet and comfortable area, lying on their side. Massage muscles of hind limbs for 2-3 min paying attention to the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles. Start of with just stroking muscles and see response, animals will always show you when they’re uncomfortable. Ensure that leg is in a level plane and that entire weight of leg is supported. Slowly flex leg until you see signs of discomfort and with hands in same position extend leg. Slowly continue to extend until you see signs of discomfort. One rep = extension and flexion of leg.

This can also be achieved when animal is in a standing position.

Weight shifting – support hind quarters on both sides while gently shifting weight from one side to the other. Support pelvis and slowly push to one side while supporting the other side. Change direction and repeat exercise. Initially movements should be slow and rhythmic, as balance improves unbalancing movements can become faster.

Additional challenges can then be added. Place hind quarters on unstable surface such as hot water bottle or cushion and shift weight. As they become use to this weight can gently be shifted to side without supporting opposite side.

It is very important that animals are kept in a safe non-slip area, I find that buying a play pen and placing it where family is around keeps them the most calm as they then still feel like they’re part of the action.

Continue the Stand, Flexor Reflex and Stimulate Feet until your next session at Pet Wellness Worx.

As they starts improving Pet Wellness Worx would add some more exercises. They will evaluate if your pet is ready for the harness when they see him again.



Proprioception Advanced Exercises 

Thermotherapy – apply hot packs or beanie bags to back muscles. 2-3 times per day for 10-15 minutes. NB only if area is not inflamed (hot to touch). Hot water bottles should be half filled with cold water and then topped up with boiling water. Ensure that beanie bags are not to hot. If it burns your skin it will burn their skin.

Massage back muscles and hind-limb muscle as demonstrated during consultation. 2-3 times per day

Flexor reflex stimulation – 2-3 times per day, pinch between the toes of the back legs to elicit a

withdrawal reflex.

PROM (passive range of motion) both when lying and standing 2-3 times per day

Sit to stand exercise – prompt patient to sit (helps when a treat is involved, low calorie of course) and make sure legs are in the correct position. Let patient stand, re position feet if knuckling. Start with 5 reps increasing it slowly to 10 reps, 2-3 times per day.

When this exercise is mastered, sit to stands can be done on an unstable surface such as blow up mattress or on a pillow.

Weight shifting 2-3 times per day for 20-30 s initially slowly increasing to 1 minute. This can be done on hot water bottle, pillow, trampoline, blow up mattress.

Cavaletti rails – get a long piece of perspex tubing and divide in equal lengths (+/- 40 cm). Connect with ropes to form a ladder. Place this flat on the floor somewhere where patient will need to walk over this all the time. Initially some bribery will be required but pretty soon they’ll use it easily enough. Height can be increased as they start improving by placing tubes onto cans.

Weave poles – let patient weave between poles, start with 5-10 reps once to twice a day and then slowly start decreasing distance between poles.

Turning exercises while standing – while patient is standing encourage turning or stretching to flank with positive reinforcement. Concentrate on the weaker side.

Slow consistent leash walking – start with 5 minutes a day and increase weekly by 5 minutes.

Uphill inclines – 5 minutes daily, slight incline initially

Once this is completed they would add stairs and ball exercises.

and please NO JUMPING!!!


If you have any questions please email:

Pet Wellness Worx Rehabilitation South African Pet Services 1