Our pets are living longer lives, which is fantastic news. But, with this gift of time comes age-related issues that slow them down in their senior years, especially dogs.
Joint-related problems are one of the most common issues owners face. When a dog has mobility challenges it can set in motion a cycle of reluctance to exercise, which may lead to weight gain, putting more pressure on the joints and exacerbating the issue further.
Thankfully there are a number of steps we can take to help our four-legged best friends. Aside from supplements and medications that focus primarily on the joints, hydrotherapy is one of the lesser-known options for helping joint issues by building and maintaining muscle mass and function. Hydrotherapy also aids with recovery following surgery or as a means to lose excess weight.
What is hydrotherapy for dogs?
In the simplest terms, hydrotherapy is swimming for dogs. It takes place in a temperature-controlled pool for the purpose of building muscle and improving flexibility.
The warm water of the pool naturally dilates blood vessels and allows for increased flow of oxygen, blood and nutrients to the muscles and joints. The underwater environment insures that there is zero impact or weight on joints; perfect for pets recovering from injuries or coping with joint problems. Water is naturally calming and most dogs take to the pool environment enthusiastically.
Canine hydrotherapy is perfect for pets with disabilities that limit their mobility or range of motion. The underwater treadmill or resistance provides the perfect environment to increase muscle strength without the worry of straining or stressing the joints or heart.
What makes canine hydrotherapy so special?
Joint problems can lead to a loss of muscle which can be especially noticeable around the hip joints. What makes hydrotherapy so amazing for dogs with joint issues is the weightless environment water creates that allows the muscles to work and move without putting any stress on the associated joints.
Water provides buoyancy that means dogs can use all their muscles without putting any stress on injured, damaged or weak muscles.
The Benefits of Resistance
Do you remember the last time you went swimming? Gliding under the water is freeing, as your muscles work hard to propel you forward. Pushing against the water creates a natural resistance and it has been estimated that a five-minute swim is equivalent to running file miles.
This means that just a short canine hydrotherapy session offers a plethora of health benefits in a quick burst of time. The resistance of the water also means breathing requires more effort, making hydrotherapy a great cardiovascular workout for your dog’s heart and lungs.
Hydrotherapy isn’t just for senior dogs
A major benefit of canine hydrotherapy is the fact that it is great for dogs of all ages and physical abilities.
- Is your young pup over-exuberant and in need of burning off some extra energy?
- Does your senior pet have mobility issues, making you look for a way to keep him active without stressing his joints?
- Does your healthy adult dog need some extra TLC and physical therapy after a joint injury?
- Are you struggling to get out for a daily walk over the winter?
If so. . . hydrotherapy may be answer you’ve been looking for. It has been shown to be so effective, that some veterinary hospitals are making it a mandatory part of their protocol for joint and ligament injuries.
How do you find a canine hydrotherapy center?
The International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork (IAAMB) and the Association of Canine Water Therapy (ACWT) website offers a comprehensive list of facilities across North America and should be your first stop on your dog’s hydrotherapy journey.
The next step is to call and book an orientation session so you can get to know the facilities and the people who will be working closely with your pet. Ask to meet the individual therapists who will be working with your pet and ensure that they are licensed and trained.
You’ll also want to ask general questions such as whether vaccinations required to use the facilities, how often the pool is cleaned, what types of chemicals are used in the process and are you able to be present or observe your dog’s sessions.
Why not just take your dog down to the lake or beach for a good swim?
A controlled environment offers your dog a much better chance of success; think of hydrotherapy as controlled exercise rather than playing. When done properly, hydrotherapy can be incredibly healing. The temperature of the water is also one of the key elements of effective hydrotherapy.
Whether you’re looking to support joint health or build your pet’s strength after surgery, canine hydrotherapy for joint issues is a great choice.