Hydrotherapy comes from the Greek meaning water healing and is now widely used in the animal world. It is a low impact form of physiotherapy particularly useful in dogs. There are many benefits of hydrotherapy:
– General cardiovascular fitness
– Weight loss in combination with food restriction
– Rehabilitation after injury or orthopaedic surgery
– Management of certain medical conditions such as arthritis or elbow/hip dysplasia
It is a great form of exercise to help get joints moving where the animal’s bodyweight is supported by water allowing muscles to build without the impact on those joints that walking has. Studies have shown that a short hydrotherapy session equates to a several mile run.
There are definitely benefits of hydrotherapy over swimming in lakes or the sea. Firstly the warm water helps reduce some swelling and pain and aids circulation and there are no bugs to cause nasty infections. Also it is a controlled environment with life jacket and staff on hand if there are any problems and what’s more it is fun!
I actively encourage hydrotherapy in my patients as I have seen the benefits first hand. Harvey Wallbanger (pictured) came to me as a pup with such severe hip dysplasia that I could push his hip joint out with my thumb very easily and he could not sit down properly. He was too young to consider total hip replacement and despite considering euthanasia due to the severity of the disease we opted for medical management coupled with hydrotherapy. Harvey took to the water immediately and his progress was amazing. By the age of 18 months he no longer needed painkillers and was able to sit like a normal dog. It was at this age that he would have needed hip replacement but his therapy worked so well that he did not need it and went on to live a long and happy life, thanks to the commitment of a conscientious owner.