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A Deep Dive into Dog Hydrotherapy: Unleashing the Flood of Benefits

Dog hydrotherapy is growing in recognition for its benefit as a low-impact exercise aiding in pain management, muscle strengthening, and quality of life.

Dog hydrotherapy 

Dog hydrotherapy is making waves in the realm of canine health and wellness, establishing itself as a go-to solution for various health concerns. With the increasing numbers of pet parents seeking holistic and effective treatment options for their furry friends, hydrotherapy is rapidly gaining traction. In this insightful piece, we will explore what dog hydrotherapy entails, its numerous benefits, and why it might just be the miracle your pup needs.

Understanding Dog Hydrotherapy

Dog hydrotherapy is a type of therapy that involves the use of water to aid in the healing and rehabilitation process of dogs facing health issues or needing physical therapy. It is conducted in specially designed pools or water treadmills, where dogs can exercise and move without the harsh impact of regular land-based activities. Veterinarians and canine hydrotherapists, individuals specialised in this field, often recommend hydrotherapy as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

What are the types of dog hydrotherapy?

Dog hydrotherapy is a therapeutic approach that uses water to help dogs with various health issues or to improve their fitness and well-being. Hydrotherapy for dogs typically takes place in a controlled environment, such as a specialized facility or a veterinary clinic, where trained professionals oversee the process.

There are several forms of hydrotherapy for dogs, including:

  1. Swimming Therapy: In swimming pool sessions, dogs are allowed to swim freely in a pool often equipped with a treadmill or with the aid of a therapist. It's a low-impact activity that helps in improving circulation, and enhancing overall well-being.  The buoyancy of water reduces the impact on joints and allows dogs to exercise with less strain. Swimming can help with weight loss, muscle building, and improving overall fitness.

  2. Underwater Treadmill Therapy: Dogs walk on an underwater treadmill with their body submerged in water. This therapy helps in building muscle strength, improving range of motion, and aiding in the recovery from various orthopaedic and neurological conditions. Water treadmill therapy involves a specially designed enclosed treadmill filled with water. The buoyancy and resistance offered by the water provide a safe environment for dogs to exercise, promoting muscle development and joint flexibility.

  3. Hydro-massage: Water jets are used to provide a gentle massage to a dog's muscles and joints. This can be relaxing and is often used to alleviate muscle tension and promote circulation.

  4. Cold Water Immersion: This form of hydrotherapy involves placing a dog in cold water to reduce inflammation and swelling, particularly for injuries and conditions that benefit from cold therapy.

  5. Warm Water Immersion: Warm water therapy helps to relax muscles, increase blood circulation, and relieve pain and stiffness. It is often used for dogs with arthritis, muscle strains, or joint problems.

Watch this video for a deeper understanding of how hydrotherapy can serve as a valuable therapeutic resource and contribute to overall fitness


Who is hydrotherapy beneficial for?

Hydrotherapy can be beneficial for dogs with various conditions, including arthritis, obesity, muscle atrophy, orthopaedic injuries, neurological conditions, and more. It can also be used as a fitness regimen for working or athletic dogs to enhance their performance and prevent injuries.

It's important to note that hydrotherapy for dogs should be performed under the supervision of trained professionals who can tailor the treatment to the specific needs of each dog. Always consult with your veterinarian before starting any hydrotherapy program for your dog to ensure that it's a safe and appropriate treatment for their condition.

The Flow of Benefits: Dog hydrotherapy is not just a physical activity but a holistic treatment offering a plethora of benefits:

  1. Low-Impact Exercise: Hydrotherapy provides a low-impact form of exercise, which is especially beneficial for dogs with joint issues, arthritis, or those recovering from surgery. The buoyancy of water reduces the stress on their joints, making it easier for them to move and exercise. Take a look at our blog on 'How Exercise And Diet Can Help Your Pet Live Longer And Healthier'.

  2. Muscle Building and Strengthening: Swimming and underwater treadmill therapy can help dogs build and strengthen their muscles. This is particularly useful for dogs recovering from injuries, surgery, or those with muscle atrophy.

  3. Improved Range of Motion: Hydrotherapy can increase a dog's range of motion by promoting flexibility in their joints and muscles. This is beneficial for dogs with orthopaedic conditions and can help them regain mobility.

  4. Weight Management: Hydrotherapy is an effective way to help overweight or obese dogs shed excess pounds. The resistance of the water and the exercise it provides can contribute to weight loss and better overall health.

  5. Pain Management: The warm water and massage elements of hydrotherapy can help alleviate pain and discomfort in dogs with chronic conditions, such as arthritis or hip dysplasia.

  6. Enhanced Cardiovascular Fitness: Swimming and water exercise can improve a dog's cardiovascular fitness, promoting better heart health and endurance.

  7. Stress Reduction: Hydrotherapy can help reduce stress and anxiety in dogs. Many dogs find the water environment calming and enjoyable, which can have a positive impact on their mental well-being.

  8. Faster Recovery: Hydrotherapy is often used as part of a rehabilitation program for dogs recovering from injuries or surgeries. It can help speed up the healing process and reduce recovery time. Complement hydrotherapy with the use of Felcana Go to track your pet's activity, sleep and rehabilitation during their recovery.

  9. Neuromuscular Rehabilitation: Dogs with neurological conditions, such as intervertebral disc disease, can benefit from hydrotherapy to improve coordination and balance.

  10. Injury Prevention: For active and working dogs, regular hydrotherapy can be a preventive measure, reducing the risk of injuries and maintaining their fitness.

  11. Quality of Life: Many dogs, particularly those with chronic pain or mobility issues, experience an improved quality of life with regular hydrotherapy sessions. It allows them to stay active and engaged in daily activities.

It's essential to note that the effectiveness of dog hydrotherapy depends on the individual dog's condition, the type of hydrotherapy used, and the skill of the professionals overseeing the sessions. Always consult with a veterinarian before starting hydrotherapy for your dog, as they can assess your dog's specific needs and recommend the most appropriate form of therapy. Continue to monitor your dog's progress using an activity monitor such as Felcana Go for real-time analysis of achievements.

What conditions can hydrotherapy help with?

Hydrotherapy can help soothe conditions such as:

  • Arthritis. Take a look our our blog on canine arthritis to understand more about the condition.
  • Joint injury and disease
  • Pain, swelling and stiffness
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Spinal injuries
  • Ligament problems
  • Limb amputation

It can also be beneficial alongside other therapy to improve:

  • Muscle strength and condition 
  • Cardiovascular fitness (heart and lungs)
  • Agility
  • Digestion
  • Weight control
  • Circulation
  • Joint flexibility and range of motion
  • Balance and coordination
  • Energy levels
  • Management of pain and stress

Managing arthritis in our older dogs

Hydrotherapy is a type of therapy used to provide relief from various physical ailments. It involves the use of water to promote healing and reduce pain, swelling, stiffness, and muscle soreness. Hydrotherapy can help with conditions like arthritis, joint injury or disease, hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as spinal injuries.

Arthritis is a common condition which hydrotherapy can be used to alleviate. The warm water relaxes the muscles around affected joints enabling them to move freely without pain or inflammation. Joint injury or disease resulting in pain and limited mobility benefits from hydrotherapy's entire range of motion exercises in warm water. This helps build strength while reducing pain in damaged tissues through support and buoyancy.

Furthermore, hydrotherapy improves blood flow at the site which increases healing rate. For breeds prone to hip or elbow dysplasia such as cockerspaniels or labradors, aquatic exercise provides low-impact activity for these vulnerable joints which speeds up healing time while strengthening their muscles with minimal strain on the ligaments surrounding their hips or elbows. Lastly, hydrotherapy is an effective way to reduce discomfort from spinal cord injuries as it limits extra weight on the spine while offering improved circulation for several weeks or months until the patient is able to walk on land again. The combination of warm water and low-impact exercise helps strengthen muscles around the spine, providing support and stability to reduce the risk of further injury.

For those dealing with arthritis, hydrotherapy is an excellent option for relieving pain and inflammation while also helping to maintain strength in affected joints. By reducing stress on these joints, hydrotherapy can significantly improve mobility and flexibility. It also allows dogs to exercise without putting any extra strain on their bodies, making it perfect for overweight or elderly dogs that would otherwise be unable to participate in strenuous physical activity. Additionally, the warm water helps reduce muscle spasms and tension while promoting relaxation and stress relief. Take a look at our blog on 'Exercising Your Senior Dog' for more guidance.

How often should my dog have hydrotherapy?

This depends on your dog's needs and fitness level. Your vet will advise you on an appropriate treatment plan.

Dogs don't need to be injured to benefit from hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is an excellent and beneficial option for those with various needs whether it’s a long-term condition or someone maintaining their fitness

Inpatients or patients in the recovery phase up to 12 weeks after surgery can benefit from the increased movement and range of motion that comes with aquatic therapy, helping them regain strength while protecting joints affected by surgery. Longer-term rehabilitation cases beyond week 12 have found also benefited in their continued treatments.

Hydrotherapy is also ideal for those who just want to maintain their current level of fitness or health. Cats and dogs needing physical conditioning and maintenance such as elderly pets, arthritic pets, weight management plans, and general fitness are all ideal candidates for this kind of therapy; as are sporting dogs such as greyhounds and working breeds like retrievers who use a lot of energy during competitions.

With the use of hydrodynamic therapy, these animals can remain healthy overall despite strenuous activities outside the water. Hydrotherapy keeps them fit, supple and is a great cardiovascular workout, all of which help prevent injuries.

Hydrotherapy aids weight loss and allows cats and dogs to exercise in a controlled environment. Swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise, so greatly reduces strain on joints of animals that need to lose a few pounds.

Older dogs and cats benefit hugely from hydrotherapy as they can enjoy mobility in the water that cannot be achieved on land. The water is therapeutic and gives them a feeling of wellbeing as well as mental stimulation.

Dogs that dislike water. We also cater for dogs who are not keen on water, or who lack confidence in the water. It is always a good idea to make sure you dog is a confident swimmer and we are happy to help you achieve this, by swimming them in a buoyancy aid, in warm water. The entry into the pool is gradual and a hydrotherapist is with them at all times. It doesn't usually take long for them to find their swimming paws!

Puppy swims are also very popular. It is a really good idea to introduce your puppy to water at an early age and we offer a reduced rate swim for puppies under 6 months old.

What are the key water properties and what do they mean?

Buoyancy: Buoyancy is the upward exerted force onto an object when immersed in the water, this reduces the weight going through the limbs and makes movement easier.

Hydrostatic pressure: This is the pressure exerted onto the body when submerged in water, this reduces swelling and inflammation.

Resistance: Resistance is greater in the water compared to walking on land. It creates a cushioning effect on submerged limbs which makes movement harder, this helps to increase muscle mass.

Turbulence: This is the movement of the water which can create a more challenging environment for the patient. This can only be used in fitness patients.

Cohesion: Water molecules tend to adhere to each other creating a greater resistance, this is greater on the surface of the water. 

Tailored to Individual Needs

One of the significant advantages of dog hydrotherapy is its customisability.

Each session can be tailored to suit the specific needs, health conditions, and physical capabilities of every dog. The water temperature, depth, and exercise intensity can be adjusted to provide a personalised therapeutic experience.

Case Studies:

Numerous case studies exemplify the transformative power of dog hydrotherapy. From ageing dogs regaining their youthful vigour to injured pups making remarkable recoveries, the testimonies are profound. Veterinarians and pet parents alike attest to the visible improvements in the dogs’ physical strength, mobility, and overall demeanour.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of canine health and wellness, dog hydrotherapy emerges as a beacon of hope for many. It encapsulates a synergy of physical healing, rejuvenation, and emotional upliftment, solidifying its place in the modern repertoire of dog healthcare.

Investing in dog hydrotherapy is not just a step towards addressing specific health issues but a leap into a world where the holistic well-being of our beloved pets is prioritised and nurtured. After all, a happy, healthy dog makes for a joyful, fulfilled pet parent.