by Helga Schmitt
The most suitable type of hydrotherapy for dogs and the expected regime will be determined following the initial assessment of the dog. There is a number of ways that hydrotherapy can be performed and the following are some of those:
Children's wading pool
Above-ground or in-ground human swimming pools
Hydrotherapy for dogs in a pool is a non-weight bearing exercise. In an underwater treadmill there is some weight bearing but the degree of weight is controlled by the level of water. Hydrotherapy is astounding in how much it helps our furry companions. Decreasing the canine's pain and inflammation and increasing the dog's sense of well-being is only the tip of the iceberg.
There are pros and cons with small dog pools, large dog pools, and essentially with every form of hydrotherapy available. It is important to educate yourself about what is best suited for you and your dog's situation.
Smaller dog pools can be a problem with nervous or anxious dogs. Large dogs may have difficulty moving around in them, or manoeuvring to get in them. These may also require that you use a hoist instead of a ramp for entering or exiting.
Larger types of dog pools allow dogs more natural swimming movements in them. This is a good thing for more nervous dogs and for motivating them. The other advantage is that hydro-therapists and physiotherapists can be hands on with the dog in the pool. Usually these have ramps, resting areas or platforms, and you can use a stretcher to assist a dog into the pool if need be.
Some dog pools will have anti-swim jets which are really good for increasing sensory awareness and promoting the reflex swimming response in dogs with neurological disorders. These jets are also great for conditioning the working dogs which need a high level of fitness and strength. Swim jets can sometimes be overused and caution is required in this regard.
Dog underwater treadmills allow precise settings for active time, rest time, speed and water height. The hydro-therapist or physiotherapist can be hands on with the dog in the treadmill. The smallest of improvements can be seen and documented. Gaits can be assessed and retrained.
It is of a general opinion that better flexion is achieved in a pool while better extension of joints is achieved in a treadmill. Despite this, the same degree of extension can be achieved in a dog pool with hands on.
Dog spas or hot tubs are usually provided as an add-on service. These spa tubs are usually not big enough to accommodate larger breeds of dogs. The water temperature is usually high in these, and some have jets. These tubs are good for the dog's relaxation and sense of well-being. They also reduce levels of pain and increase the blood flow to the peripheral areas.
Swimming in ponds, rivers or oceans has limited advantages over the disadvantages. While the dog can be free and sociable, the following are also to be considered:
Cold temperatures causes the blood to move away from the peripheral limbs
Cold temperatures can lead to increased stiffness in the dog's osteoarthritis
Lack of control with swimming can allow for an accident
Risk of waterborne diseases
Risk of drowning
Even in summer the water can be very cold
There is a variety of ways that hydrotherapy for dogs can be achieved. The most accommodating forms are the underwater treadmill and the dog pool. Whichever way you decide to perform canine hydrotherapy, be careful to not injure the dog if it is recovering from surgery. It only takes seconds to undo a surgical procedure, and your dog needs total supervision and hands on care when rehabilitating.
About the Author
Helga Schmitt has been passionately studying and researching dog health, physiotherapy and rehabilitation hands on for the past 20 years. She is a Certified and Registered Hydrotherapist, Chartered Herbalist, Holistic Nutritionist, and holds a Certificate in Homeopathy. She strives to educate dog owners about healthy choices. You will find a wealth of information in her e-book
"The Ultimate Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy Guide for Dogs."