The Power of Water! Hydrotherapy for Pets
Hydrotherapy, or water-based exercise, is a mainstay of physical rehabilitation and provides tremendous benefits for a variety of pets. This article will describe the use of the underwater treadmill and therapeutic swimming.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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The Ideal Properties of Water
Buoyancy: The property of water that allows us to float. This decreases the amount of weight-bearing on joints which makes exercising less painful. It also provides a component of safety, as the water provides support to help patients from falling.
Hydrostatic Pressure: The constant pressure of the water as it surrounds the body helps with swelling in joints and tissues.
Temperature: Warm water feels good and can relax tense muscles. The ideal temperature is 86-92 degrees.
Cohesion/Turbulence: Resistance provided by water that allows muscles to become stronger and improves cardiovascular fitness. Think about how difficult it is to walk through water!
Underwater Treadmill for Pets
The underwater treadmill is a treadmill enclosed by thick Plexiglas windows on each side. A door allows the patient to enter the empty tank. The door is closed and water fills the tank from the bottom up.
An advantage of the underwater treadmill is that the rehab therapist can control all aspects of the program. The height of the water and the speed of the belt can be tailored to meet the needs of each pet and achieve maximum benefits. Assistive devices such as life jackets can be used. Treats or toys often motivate patients to walk.
The Benefits of Swimming
Swimming differs from the underwater treadmill in that it is a non-impact exercise and requires no weight-bearing. Depending on patient needs, the therapist may be in the pool to provide support and hands-on treatment.
Hydrotherapy sessions are adjusted gradually and as needed. The intensity of the program will change depending on the condition and patient needs at each session. Energy level, proper movement, and (gait) pace are monitored for each pet.
When Do Pets Benefit from Hydrotherapy?
- Patient conditioning BEFORE surgery
- Post-operative patients
- Neurologic (back surgery)
- Orthopedic: cruciate tears (ACL), bone fractures, muscle sprains and strains
- Neurologic conditions: intervertebral disc disease, degenerative conditions
- Geriatric Conditions
- Sports Medicine: sporting injuries, conditioning
- Weight Loss
What if my dog doesn’t like water?
Rehabilitation therapists ensure that the experience is as positive as possible for every patient. They will ask what motivates your pet – treats, toys, or lots of praise. Most patients become very comfortable within one or two sessions.
How do I find hydrotherapy near me?
The best way to locate a hydrotherapy professional is to talk to your vet. You may need a referral from your primary care veterinarian or the rehabilitation facility may require an examination by the on-site therapist before treatment.
Hydrotherapy is a tremendous tool, but it isn’t a magic bullet for all conditions. The ideal treatment plan should be designed by a rehabilitation professional incorporating a combination of modalities that best help to address the whole patient.
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