Hydrotherapy for dogs and other small animals is a form of therapeutic aquatic exercise carried out under controlled conditions in order to improve movement and function in a partial or non-weight bearing environment. It utilises the natural healing benefits of controlled water pressure, temperature and duration to facilitate increased circulation to muscles, joint flexibility and reduced pain.
Alongside my veterinary physiotherapy qualification, I (Jo) am shortly to become a qualified ONCLR L4 Canine Hydrotherapist, trained by industry leading centre Greyfriars, and thereafter will hopefully be registered with the ICH. I am fortunate to have facilities available for the use of an underwater treadmill at Apollo Animal Therapy Centre in Ramsgate. For more information, please get in touch today.
“So, can I just get my dog to swim in the river?”
The short answer is: if you are doing it for therapeutic benefit, then no. Think of your reaction if you jump into cold water – your automatic response is likely to be mild to extreme shock, and when that happens your extremities feel cold as all the blood rushes to protect your vital organs. If you’re a dog with a joint problem for example, that’s the opposite of what you need – you need nutrients and blood circulation going to the injured area, not rushing from. Swimming or walking in water can be really beneficial, but if the movement, temperature and safety is not controlled then the therapeutic value can quickly be outweighed by counterintuitive and prolonged motions.
Hydrotherapy can be used to decrease pain, increase sensory perception and improve muscle patterning and recruitment which is especially important in dogs with neurological disorders for example.
Other benefits of hydrotherapy include:
- increased muscle bulk, strength and tone,
- increased range of motion of joints,
- improved gait and muscle patterning,
- slowing of effects of degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis and degenerative myelopathy,
- mental stimulation and positive behavioural impact, and
- improved quality of life and return to “normal” function.