Hydrotherapy For Dogs
By Canine Hydrotherapy Association
Hydrotherapy can be used in the treatment of osteoarthritis, orthopedic conditions, neurological conditions, muscle, ligament and other soft tissue injuries. It can also help with general convalescence and fitness.
Extensive work in human physiotherapy has demonstrated that a suitably monitored course of hydrotherapy acts by encouraging a full range of joint motion in reduced weight bearing conditions, thus improving muscle tone and promoting tissue repair, without imposing undue stress on damaged tissues.
Swimming helps to improve general fitness, cardiovascular stamina, muscle tone and is also helpful in aiding recovery from injury or surgery and improves fitness, especially in the management of obesity. Muscle wastage begins within 3 days of any immobilization so to prevent further weakness or injury it is important to rebuild, through safe exercise, any muscles that have deteriorated. It is better to swim dogs in heated water since cold water causes constriction of the blood vessels near the skin and to the superficial muscles (those just under the skin) which restricts the flow of blood making the muscles less efficient.
Hydrotherapy is also considered to be a natural anti-inflammatory through its ability to reduce tissue swelling.
Hydrotherapy is used in the form of swimming and aquatic treadmill therapy.
Benefits of Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy in conjunction with veterinary treatment can significantly improve the quality and rate of healing following surgery or traumatic injury. After surgery the careful use of hydrotherapy can help with rehabilitation and increase the chance of a successful return to full fitness. Enhancing general health and fitness can aid convalescence and speed up recovery.
Hydrotherapy has specific effects on body tissues:
Hydrotherapy is an excellent form of exercise because most of the muscles normally used in movement are involved - without the stresses caused by motion on hard ground. On land, each footfall creates a shock wave which travels up the limb and is absorbed by bones, tendons and joints. While these stresses are necessary to maintain healthy strong bone, if severe or repetitive, these shock waves can actually damage or weaken the limb, particularly an arthritic joint or one recovering from an injury or surgery. Hydrotherapy allows the "working out" and strengthening of the muscles while avoiding this potentially damaging concussion. Also, because of the increased resistance to movement, the muscles have to work harder than they would do on land.’
A decreased range of motion can often be due to pain , swelling, or stiffness. The dog will have an increased range of movement (flexion and extension) when it is in the water due to reduced pain and swelling thereby allowing further range of movement generally.
Warm water increases the circulation of blood to the muscles, increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients and flushing away waste products, leading to muscle relaxation and a reduction in pain and stiffness. Improved circulation reduces swelling around an injured area and enhances healing
Hydrostatic pressure applied by water can assist in reducing swelling by forcing body fluid (oedema) away from affected areas. This is assisted by exercising the limb to enhance circulation.
Buoyancy also reduces the load on weight bearing joints, this helps to reduce pain and allows easier movement and exercise. The buoyancy of water helps stiff joints into a further range of movement with minimal additional pain. Buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure also help to support the body during exercise, this can aid the re-education of gait patterns in neurological conditions and reloading of a limb post surgery.
Swimming tones most of the major muscle groups and improves the general overall fitness of the dog. Movement in water is more difficult due to the resistance of the water. Water based exercise uses 30% more oxygen than similar land based exercise. By encouraging pain free limb movement against the resistance of water, muscle bulk will increase and thus muscle wastage will be reversed.
Under water, the chest is under pressure from the force exerted by the water squeezing inwards. This means that every breath requires more effort - the muscles used, particularly in breathing in, have to work harder (try breathing while someone sits on your chest). As muscle strengthens with exercise, this improves the whole respiratory system.
The heart has to work harder in order to meet the increased demand for nutrients by all the muscles which are being worked. If all this sounds like hard work - it is - that's the idea! For most dogs a short swim is an extremely challenging workout. But the natural buoyancy of the water and the fact that sudden twists, stops and falls are impossible, makes hydrotherapy a safe and effective form of exercise.. It's also very enjoyable for most animals.
Conditions that benefit from hydrotherapy
Most dogs will cope quite happily with hydrotherapy as a form of exercise. However it is essential to get advice from your Veterinary Surgeon before taking your animal for treatment. For the welfare and safety of your dog all CHA members will liaise with your Veterinary Surgeon prior to commencing therapy.
**Canine Arthritis And Joint is intended for informational, educational and entertainment purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or treat any health condition. You should always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect your pet might have a health problem. The opinions expressed by Canine Arthritis And Joint are not to be replaced for medical care. This website and the information contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information and opinions on Canine Arthritis And Joint are not intended and cannot be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This applies to people and pets!
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