Hydrotherapy for Dogs

Hydrotherapy for Dogs – It’s Amazing How it Works!

In aquatic therapy the buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, viscosity and resistance, as well as surface tension all are important components in the rehabilitation program for ones dog. These are all basic principles to understand about the properties of water and how it affects the body.

Buoyancy is the upward thrusting of the water upon the body, creating an apparent decrease in the weight of a body when immersed in it. Buoyancy aids in the rehabilitation of the dog by decreasing pain and minimizing the amount of weight placed on the muscles and painful joints.

In a study performed on dogs, the amount of body weight carried when immersed in water was based on the percentage of body weight on land in the following positions:

  •  91% when water was at the level of the ateral malleolus of the tibia
  •  85% when water was at the level of the lateral condyle of the femur
  •  38% when water was at the level of the greater trochanter of the femur

This is very helpful when treating dogs with arthritis because joints can be unloaded when considering the buoyancy factors of water.

Hydrostatic pressure offers an enhanced environment for working with sore and swollen joints or edematous tissues. By it sustaining constant pressure to the body or limb, it opposes the tendency of blood and edema to gather in the lower extremities, whereby aiding in reducing the swelling.

Hydrostatic pressure lessens the pain during exercise. The theory behind this is that the pressure creates phasic stimuli to the sensory receptors of the skin, causing a decrease in the nociceptor hypersensitivity. By reducing the dog’s pain perception, it allows them to perform more movements with less pain.

Viscosity or resistance to fluid flow is greater in water than in air. Water provides the resistance needed to strengthen the canine muscles and increase their cardiovascular fitness. The viscosity increases the sensory awareness and supports in stabilizing unstable joints. A dog with paraparesis may willingly walk in water but not on land due to the combination of buoyancy and viscosity which help support the dog.

With surface tension, if a dog is extremely weak, movement and exercise are performed with more ease just beneath the water surface than at or on the surface.

Canine hydrotherapy is extremely effective in improving muscle strength and endurance, cardio respiratory endurance, range of motion, agility and all the while enhancing the dog’s psychological well-being in addition to reducing the pain.

In hydrotherapy for dogs the water provides a direct effect on the heart rate and oxygen uptake. The temperature of the water and leg exercise further increases the heart rate. The heart rate and oxygen uptake were greater performing the exercise in water than performing the same exercises on land. When aerobic exercise is utilized in the canine rehabilitation process, it also aids in weight reduction and toning.

Although exercise on land is more effective for achieving maximum muscle performance, dog therapy in water minimizes the amount of joint effusion and leads to greater functional improvement. Exercise such as walking in water recruits muscles in a more functional manner. Performing these exercises where forces are decreased may minimize or eliminate damage and inflammation to the soft tissues.

Dog pools and dog underwater treadmills aid in reducing knee pain and joint effusion. This is helpful in facilitating the recovery of lower-extremity function after a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) stabilization in dogs. Canine rehabilitation through aquatic exercises may be used as a transition to land based exercises in post surgery or post injury rehabilitation.

Aquatic therapy for dogs has many physiological effects resulting from the heated water. Dogs receive increased circulation to their muscles, increased joint flexibility and decreased joint pain. Dogs become more functional on a daily basis. The recommended water temperatures are between 26 degrees C and 28 degrees C. Lower temperatures are tolerated by dogs with thicker coats.

Some of the available forms of hydrotherapy for dogs include whirlpools, underwater treadmills, and dog pools. Caution should be exercised if taking a dog to a lake or river for aquatic therapy, as currents can be hazardous, or bacteria with recent incisions. Dog life preservers are very beneficial and support the dog while allowing free breathing.

Hydrotherapy for dogs has helped with the following conditions: 

In addition to all of the conditions hydrotherapy for dogs assists, it also increases the dog’s balance, co-ordination, confidence and energy level. The benefits are enormous when considering hydrotherapy for dogs. The recovery time post surgery is significantly reduced. Aquatic therapy restores the physical condition of a dog with minimal discomfort.

Water therapy is very calming for dogs. It helps reduce levels of stress and assists with stimulating metabolic functions. The dog’s immune system is enhanced and the lymphatic system is drained much more effectively. Hydrotherapy for dogs helps rid their bodies of toxins and regulates the electrolytes in their system. Their digestion is improved as is their skin and coat.Download the Ultimate Rehabilitation & Physiotherapy Guide for Dogs

The potential benefits of canine hydrotherapy is becoming more widely recognised and utilized by veterinarians around the world. Aquatic therapy is the therapeutic treatment of choice for today’s canine patients.

About the Author
Helga Schmitt has been passionately studying and researching dog health, physiotherapy and rehabilitation hands on for the past 20 years. Her keen interest in health and healing motivated her to become a Chartered Herbalist and also obtain a degree in Nutrition and Advanced Holistic Nutrition. She furthered with a Certificate in Homeopathy and continues to study various healing modalities to this day. She is a Certified and Registered Canine Hydrotherapist.  Her research, past and current studies and experience, have her striving to educate dog owners that there are numerous ways to achieving and maintaining optimum health for your pet. Read more on Hydrotherapy for Dogs and all of its benefits in her best selling book, “The Ultimate Rehabilitation & Physiotherapy Guide for Dogs.”

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