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Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Pets

Hydrotherapy is one of the most popular treatment options among Canine Rehabilitation professionals. And for good reason! So, let’s dive right in and talk about why water is so great when it comes to treating our pets.

What is Hydrotherapy?

Wheelchair dog enjoys hydrotherapy treadmill

Hydrotherapy is defined as the use of water for pain relief and treatment. Stemming from Greek medicine where it was called the Water Cure. It uses the properties of water; buoyancy, resistance and hydrostatic pressure to allow a pet to move joints and limbs. Allowing pets to move and exercise their aching, painful joints with ease.

Perfect for people and pets who may be physically recovering from an injury, surgery or degenerative disease. Water therapy is an integral part of the healing process for many pets.

How Hydrotherapy Helps Your Pet

Hydrotherapy allows pets to exercise in a non-weight-bearing environment. They help relieve pressure on joints and encourage movement while reducing pain. During water therapy, the pet is more buoyant, and the water supports the dog’s body weight. The water’s support reduces the stress on a dog’s body while increasing resistance. This combination helps a dog to exercise and rebuild its strength easily.

Let’s break down how the water helps your pet. The warm water soothes muscles and reduces inflammation. While the buoyancy supports a pet’s body weight and decreases stress on joints and limbs allowing the pet to move. There are two common forms of Hydrotherapy, swimming in a Hydrotherapy pool and underwater treadmills.

Underwater Treadmills

underwater treadmill for animals

Underwater treadmills can be stand alone or incorporated into a pool. Both types come with their own set of benefits.

Underwater treadmill use can improve joint flexibility, muscle endurance and strength, increase circulation, and decrease joint pain. It also makes for a great way for a therapist to work on gait patterning in those pets suffering from neurological disorders. The underwater treadmill is most commonly used for pet’s recovering from knee, hip and back surgeries.

Underwater Treadmill Therapy Benefits

Some hydrotherapy sessions may utilize an underwater treadmill placed inside of a tank. Underwater treadmills allow a therapist to adjust the water height and better control a pet’s buoyancy and increase or decrease the amount of weight bearing.

The water’s resistance helps improve circulation and increase joint flexibility and range of motion while building muscle strength and endurance. Water levels can be adjusted to increase weight bearing as a dog heals. Treadmill exercises are used in gait training exercises and reteaching a dog how to walk after a spinal injury, IVDD, or surgical recovery.

Whirlpools for Canine Water Therapy

Whirlpool hydrotherapy is beneficial for pets who are in post-operative recovery following a major surgery. Just like a jacuzzi for humans, a therapeutic whirlpool session is relaxing and great for pain relief in dogs. The warm water jets from the whirlpool massage a pet’s injured muscles to soothe and relieve the affected joint. Time in the whirlpool deeply affects a dog’s muscles and joints, relieving their aches and pains.

Therapeutic Pools for Dogs

Swim therapy is a key component in a dog’s hydrotherapy. Continuous movement in a pool works a dog’s entire body and helps improve muscle strength and stamina. Swimming is a great workout; dogs experience improved balance and coordination since every muscle is involved. Since swim therapy is gentle on the joints, it is an ideal workout for arthritic dogs.

Benefits of Swimming

Life jacket for pets

Not only is swimming relaxing for your pet, it’s beneficial as well. Not all pets like water, but by working with a professional, your pet is introduced to water in a way that doesn’t seem so scary. By using toys, treats and life vests along with a personal swim buddy to help a professional helps your pet acclimate to the water safely.

Your rehab professional or Veterinarian may prescribe swimming for a number of reasons. It improves balance, increase strength and range of motion. At the same time, improves your pets coordination and cardiovascular endurance. Your pet may also see an increase in energy and decrease their weight or pain.

Is Hydrotherapy Right for My Pet?

Hydrotherapy Canine Rehab

So how do you know if your pet is a candidate for Hydrotherapy? Your Veterinarian or Rehabilitation professional will be able to offer guidance in this area and make sure your pet is healthy to swim. Your pet care professional will create a custom treatment plan for your pet and water therapy may be only one piece of your pet’s healing process.

Most commonly pets with the following conditions may benefit from Hydrotherapy:

  • Older pets with weakness
  • Pets suffering from arthritis
  • Overweight Pets
  • After knee/hip or back surgeries
  • Amputations
  • IVDD
  • Neurological disorders
  • Hip Dysplasia

How Often Should a Dog Have Hydrotherapy?

No two pets have the same treatment plan. How long and what type of therapy your pet needs will depend on several factors including: the pet’s age, type of injury or medical condition they’re looking to treat, the dog’s overall diagnosis and severity of their mobility loss, as well as their expected recovery time. Work with your pet’s vet and rehab therapist to determine the correct treatment plan based on your pet’s needs.

Hydrotherapy is a powerful tool when it comes to pet’s getting better. A dog that cannot stand might be able to swim and gain strength to get back on all four paws. A certified canine aquatic therapist will guide your pet through their entire session, ensuring their safety and customizing the session to help your dog heal and improve their overall well-being It’s possible for your pet to swim their way back to health.

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