Canine Hydrotherapy

The benefits of swimming and moving in water on the physical body are well known and have been used for centuries. Because of the increased resistance to movement, a 5 minute swim is equivalent to about a 5 mile run. The buoyancy of water supports and lessons stress on the joints, encourages freer movement and provides a safe environment for exercise.

A client will seek canine hydrotherapy for reasons that include geriatrics and arthritis, paralysis and other mobility issues, pre and post surgical rehabilitation, injury prevention and rehabilitation, helping obesity, dysplasia, increasing body awareness, balance, and coordination and to just plain help fitness and muscle tone.

Water both stimulates and relaxes and can affect all systems of the body on the physical level.

Integumentary System: This system speaks of our skin, the largest organ of the body which wraps and protects our entire being. Water increases circulation which can help skin and coat condition and can help stimulate all the touch receptors.

Muscular System: Water increases relaxation which can help pain and spasms. When moving in water, the resistance is 15 – 20 times that of moving in air so muscles are being used without the stresses of weight bearing. An efficient and safe way to exercise and build muscle.

Nervous System: Water can calm and sooth the nervous system, decrease stress. Water can stimulate the sensations of joint position and re-establish sensation channels.

Circulatory System: Warm water can increase body temperature, causing blood vessels to dilate and increase circulation and detoxification, delivering nutrients and oxygen and carrying away wastes. Buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure counters the effects of gravity, increases return from lower extremities, increases blood volume centralization. Soft tissue is compressed which increases circulation, lymph movement, oxygen in the blood and respiration.

Endocrine System: Water can increase metabolic functions and hormones which regulate many processes in the body.

Lymphatic System: Water can increase lymph drainage, decrease inflammation and improve the immune system.

Respiratory System: Water can increase the depth of respiration through pressure on the lungs. Providing oxygen and disposing of carbon dioxide.

Digestive System: Water can increase smooth muscle activity (digestion) which provides nutrients to cells and eliminates through the feces.

Urinary System: Water can increase blood flow through the kidneys (which filters the blood), ridding the body of toxins (including anesthetic) and removing waste products. This process can help regulate and balance water and electrolytes in the body.

Reproductive System: Water and its stimulating effects on the body can help enhance the role of hormones which influence all other systems of the body.

Skeletal System: The skeletal system supports the body and moves one in space via a framework, it also protects internal organs. Water can decrease inflammation, increase circulation and in its safe and supportive ways, increase range of motion as the non-gravity environment can enhance stretches and movement.

There’s no doubt about it—dogs need exercise. Whether your pooch runs a few laps while chasing a chew toy or goes on mile-long runs, this form of exercise is essential to a dog’s well being. But what can you do when your dog is injured and walking becomes complicated? Therapy for dogs is on the rise and many veterinarians are recommending hydrotherapy for injured pooches to get them back on track to recovery.

Hydrotherapy isn’t much different for dogs than it is for humans. Canine hydrotherapy involves the use of water to help relieve pain and to regain strength after injuries and/or surgery. There are canine rehabilitation centers across the United States that use underwater treadmills and rehabilitation pools to help build back muscle without putting force on the dog’s joints. The water decreases the dog’s weight and provides resistance in all the right areas needed for recovery.

As a pet owner myself, I have seen first hand the effect arthritis has had on my pooch and wish I’d known about hydrotherapy to help my dog’s fragile joints. Although there are many services offered to dogs that may seem a bit over the top, (Doggie Yoga, ‘Doga‘) being one of them—I know hydrotherapy isn’t one of those.

“The dog often feels so much better after the first swim that the next time they look forward to it and enjoy it much more,” said Lori Beuerle from the Canine and Conditioning Rehabilitation Group. “We definitely believe the dogs enjoy hydrotherapy. Clients often comment on how much happier their dog is after a hydrotherapy session. For geriatric clients, we see happier dogs living longer and more comfortably.”

Hydrotherapy isn’t just some extra expense for pet owners. This form of therapy has proven results, not to mention it is an activity dogs actually enjoy. A little pain-free exercise, what is better than that?

As always, you should consult your veterinarian when considering a therapy method for your dog. For more information on canine hydrotherapy and the benefits of swimming for dogs, check with the friend staff from Pet Stop.

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