Water therapy for humans has been in practice for a very long time now, but its application to animals started quite recently. It started as therapy for horses and now it is also gaining ground as a therapy for dogs. Based on what we’ve read and seen so far, this may be a good form of therapy for your disabled dog. We thought it worth finding out more so we’ve done some research to see what benefits our pets may get from water therapy.
What is Water Therapy
Water therapy or Hydrotherapy is a method of physical therapy or physical rehabilitation that makes use of water. The patient is immersed in water during the physical therapy session. It makes use of the properties of water to assist and supplement the therapy process. When submerged in water, the body becomes buoyant and is supported by the water making gravity less of a hindrance during the therapy. Water also helps in reducing the stress on the patient’s joints during therapy. It is safer because the water supports the limbs unlike empty space and it also has a higher efficacy since it is a more dense environment compared to empty space thereby producing more resistance during sessions.
Medical practitioners make use of water therapy to address bone, muscle and joint problems. It is especially effective for patients recovering from an injury or surgery, those who have degenerative joint problems and paralysis. It is also used as an exercise regimen for weight loss as well as to prevent muscle loss and joint problems.
Water Therapy for Dogs
There are mainly three types of water therapy for dogs, whirlpool, dog pool and treadmill.
Making use of a whirlpool is one of the basic methods of water therapy for dogs. The dog is suited up in a life vest and assisted by a trained therapist in the whirlpool during the session. Water temperature is controlled as part of the therapy. Warmer water is usually used to ease muscles during sessions. The water movement also helps in relaxing the dog while in session.
A dog pool is similar to a swimming pool for humans where dogs do their therapy exercises such as playing catch or doing lapse. Again, dogs wear life vests and are assisted by trained medical practitioners during these sessions. Even dogs who cannot swim may undergo this type of treatment as they can be guided and taught by the medical practitioners.
A water therapy dog treadmill is a treadmill placed in a see through, water tight tub. During sessions, the dog is put in a life vest and placed on the treadmill. The tub is then filled with enough water to submerge the limbs and lower body of the dog. This puts the dog in a partially weightless environment. The water temperature is also regulated as part of the therapeutic process. The treadmill is activated so that the dog can walk underwater. The speed and duration is regulated based on the prescribed therapy regimen for the dog. The entire session is supervised by a trained medical practitioner.
The type of water therapy, the exercise regimen and the intensity and duration of each session varies depending on the specific diagnosis for each dog and is based on the prescription of a trained medical practitioner.
Benefits of Water Therapy for Disabled Dogs
As we went through more and more reading materials regarding water therapy, we also found more reasons why water therapy is worth considering to help our disabled pets. Aside from the ones we have already mentioned earlier, here are more benefits of water therapy:
- It relaxes while it stimulates and strengthens the body
- It helps generate higher energy levels for the body
- It improves over-all balance and coordination during movement
- It helps decrease pain and stress on the body
- It improves blood circulation
- It improves the body’s immune system
- It improves digestion and removal of body toxins
Another area that water therapy may be beneficial for disabled dogs is weight loss. Many disabled pets become overweight over time due to the decrease in their activity. Water therapy can be used as an alternative exercise regimen more acceptable to overweight pets since the water lessens the weight on the limbs during exercises.
If this article has made you interested in hydrotherapy, consult your veterinarian first before taking any other steps. If you decide to place your pet in a therapy regimen, make sure you do your research first and that you bring them to a clinic or institution certified in canine rehabilitation. Your veterinarian can help find a suitable clinic for your pet’s rehabilitation.