By Karen A. Soukiasian
Canine hydrotherapy is rapidly being recognized as a safe, healthy and helpful form of exercise and relaxation.
If you are unsure of yourself, or your dog has specific needs, a professional can do it.
Many times, the owner is encouraged to participate. They are taught how to make it an exercise experience they and their dog can share, that is relaxing and beneficial physically and emotionally.
It helps create or reinforce that bond of mutual trust so vital to a healthy relationship with our pets.
Who can benefit?
It has been found dogs suffering from conditions such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, obesity, aging, lack of mobility, arthritis, joint problems, acute and chronic pain, circulation problems, stroke, TPLO surgery, tendon/ligament injuries, neurological problems, pre-and post surgery, spinal injuries, swelling, impact injuries, trauma, lack of confidence, and orthopedic problems to name a just a few, often respond positively in just a few sessions.
The buoyant sensation of weightlessness, and the calming resistance of water, offers dogs a form of moderate, yet painless and safe physical exercise that doesn’t exacerbate existing conditions.
On the flip side, canine hydrotherapy also offers healthy, active dogs a really fun way for low-impact exercise, as a way to save wear and tear on their muscles and joints. An hour in the pool, diving in to fetch a tennis ball or floating weights is a great calorie burner, work up for endurance, and creative way to amuse and tire out your over exuberant puppy or dog. It’s also an enjoyable way to work on obedience command training. This way, your dog won’t have a feeling they are being trained… you’re just having fun together!
For pool owners, knowing their dog is at ease in water, they are more assured, their pet will be able to find their way out of the pool, should they fall into it. The leading causes of most puppy and dog drownings are fear and panic! The animal usually panics, thrashes around in one place, frantically trying to climb out, until exhausted, and drowns. If they are relaxed and self-assured in the water, they will confidently swim around to find an exit.
Benefits of canine hydrotherapy
It’s been shown to work for dogs of all ages. The sooner you start, the easier it usually is, to acclimate your dog to enjoying the benefits of being in the water.
Studies have shown, a quality 5-minute swim, is equivalent to approximately a 5-mile walk, without pain and other negative side effects. What a terrific way to exercise and spend quality time, your senior dog, who just can’t take those long walks with you any more!
Besides building confidence and being fun, rehabilitative and preventative benefits include: bonding, strengthens heart and lungs, reduces stress, stretches and loosens muscles, relieves joint pain, increases circulation, reduces pain, decreases inflammation, improves range-of-motion, improves gait, teaches relaxation, burns calories, increases body awareness and endurance.
An added benefit is, by offering your pet a new, fun, and exciting low-impact exercise, it’s a fantastic way to tire out that puppy or dog with no “off” button!
How it’s done
Depending on the animal’s comfort level, reason for therapy, and as a general safety precaution, some procedures will require the puppy or dog wear a canine life jacket!
At first, the animal is gently introduced to the life jacket, then to the spa or pool. Depending on their size, they are either carried or lead into the water. The water temperature is normally between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Until the animal relaxes, the handler will often sit with the animal on their lap, or hold them by the handle on their life jacket.
Depending on what the animal is there for, will determine the amount of time in the pool, and forms of exercises that will be applied.
Even if your dog is an experienced swimmer and is just there for the exercise, there should always be someone there to supervise when they are in or around the pool.
Therapy sessions can last from 15 minutes to an hour.
Bottom Line: If your puppy or dog is suffering from degenerative diseases, obesity, injury or aging, if they need rehabilitation and low impact exercise, or, if you are looking for a new way to have fun with your pet, consider canine hydrotherapy. It’s great! It works! You will see, and your dog will feel the incredible results.
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