If your dog is in need of low-impact exercise, or is recovering from an injury or surgery, hydrotherapy (aquatic therapy) may be the ideal way for your pup to have fun while working out. Today our West Chester vets explain what aquatic therapy is and how it could benefit your dog.
What is hydrotherapy or aquatic therapy?
Hydrotherapy, also called aquatic therapy, is a form of physical therapy for dogs utilizing the buoyancy of water. A certified hydrotherapist leads your dog through a series of exercises in water at a specially equipped rehabilitation center.
Aquatic therapy for dogs is a low-impact treatment that can help to improve your pup's strength, range of motion and endurance. The buoyancy properties of water minimize weight bearing stress to the joints, which helps prevent tissue injuries, inflammation and pain.
What conditions can aquatic therapy help treat?
Aquatic therapy is beneficial for:
- Post-operative recovery from orthopedic procedures
- Dogs with neurological conditions
- Pets suffering from painful osteoarthritis
- Dogs dealing with pain due to hip dysplasia
- Metabolic conditions such as Cushing’s and diabetes which can result in muscle atrophy
- Paralyzed dogs
- Helping overweight pets get the exercise they need to lose weight
Aquatic therapy can also be used as a training tool to help working dogs reach optimal fitness levels.
How does aquatic therapy work?
Aquatic therapy utilizes the buoyancy, resistance, viscosity, and hydrostatic pressure of water to help your dog work painful joints and limbs. By altering the water level your dog can swim weightlessly in the water, providing zero-impact exercise for your pooch. Or by reducing the water level so that your pup's feet touch the underwater treadmill, the water's buoyancy can allow your dog to gently 'run' on the treadmill without putting excess stress on their painful limbs.
The buoyancy provided by the water works to reduce the stress placed on your dog's limbs and joints, and allow your pup is able to take part in a fun exercise that can help speed their recovery from injury or just help them to lose weight.
Typically warm water is used to help loosen muscles and speed recovery for injured dogs, whereas colder water can be ideal for working dogs who will have a hard workout while in the water.
Are there different types of aquatic therapy for dogs?
Depending on your pet's requirements, we may choose the 2,500-gallon heated in-ground swimming pool or an underwater treadmill.
The underwater treadmill allows us to gradually and gently introduce controlled levels of weight bearing exercises by varying the water level (and as such controlling the level of buoyancy). For example, a dog that is in water up to about their hip level will put about half the amount of weight on their limbs than normal. Treatment using our underwater treadmill is commonly used to for dogs with joint issues and arthritis.
The underwater treadmill is encased in a glass or plastic watertight container big enough to accommodate most dogs. A side door is opened to allow your dog to walk in, then the door is shut, and water fills the chamber to the level just above the dog’s legs.
Slowly the treadmill will begin to move and encourage your dog to walk. The water in the tank provides strength training resistance while eliminating the added stress of gravity.
Swimming and performing guided exercises in our dog pool provides your pooch with a non-weight bearing way to get joints moving, build strength, and have a personalized cardio workout. This form of aquatic therapy is especially effective for osteoarthritis and weaknesses related to neurological conditions.
Some canine rehabilitation centers are equipped to provide their four-legged patients with Jacuzzi style treatments. Whirlpools provide a massage-like benefit while helping to relax muscles.
Is aquatic therapy good for all dogs?
Aquatic therapy is not ideal for all dogs. Some injuries do not respond well to this therapy, and dogs suffering from an unstable spine should not take part in aquatic therapy. Speak to your vet to learn more about the right rehabilitation therapy for your pet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.