You know what it’s like when your limbs are aching – a hot bath does the world of good. Well, that’s the principle, essentially, behind dog hydrotherapy.
Yes, it’s a bit more complicated logistically (very few people have a hydrotherapy pool in their home, for starters), but the idea is very much the same.
It’s a wonderful tool for rehab after surgery or injury, particularly for joint or muscle issues, and can play a huge part in getting your pooch back on their paws.
What does hydrotherapy involve?
Hydrotherapy translates as water therapy, and that’s because all movements take place in water.
Adding water to rehab programmes has a number of brilliant benefits.
Firstly, as in the bath example, warm water in and of itself has long been known for its soothing effect on aching joints and its ability to relax tight muscles, which all helps with relaxation and pain management. And that’s even before you get onto any of the specialised equipment or exercises we use here at Butterwick, so it’s a great start for your pet!
Furthermore, the buoyancy provides support, making it easier for your dog to exercise and recreate normal movement patterns, which is vital when working toward restoring functional movement.
Also, if your dog has had a period of recuperation following an injury or surgery, the water provides vital resistance for him or her to move against, which helps build muscle. Muscle tone can diminish rapidly, especially if your pet has not been exercising as much due to pain or as part of their recovery.
It’s not easy though; think of how hard it is wading through the sea, and that’s when you’re fully fit. To make sure your pet doesn’t get over-tired or frustrated, we start with gentle sessions and slowly increase them over time. While we’re doing it, the water also provides a hydrostatic pressure, so when your dog is submerged in the water this will help reduce swelling, allowing more movement in the joint and decrease pain.
What exercises can the dogs do in water?
When we first meet your pet ahead of them starting their programme of canine hydrotherapy, we’ll get to know them (and you) really well. That means we can make sure we devise a thorough and realistic plan of action depending on their breed, their injury, their level of fitness and their personality. After all, what works for one dog might not for another – they’re as individual as we are!
We are very lucky at Butterwick to be able to offer both a hydrotherapy pool and two underwater treadmills, both allowing specific benefits.
In the pool, your dog will essentially be swimming – but don’t worry, we’ll be there with them! While the water will naturally help with buoyancy, we know that they may need extra help, and so they’ll be accompanied at all times. We also encourage you to stay poolside too to keep your dog calm, knowing their beloved owner is nearby.
The specialised movements, exercises and training provided by our expert means your dog will soon feel at home in the water and their excitement and energy will put a smile on your face too.
This type of pool therapy can be particularly useful for targeting different areas including shoulders, elbows or legs to improve muscle and joint strength.
Alternatively (or additionally), your pet could also benefit from one of the dog water treadmills we have on site. These work in exactly the same way as a standard treadmill you’d find in a gym, but in a water tank.
This has see-through walls so that the hydrotherapist (and you) can see your dog and their gait from different angles, and adjust the water level and speed to maximise and promote a proper gait to help build the right muscles. The water is filled up to the level of their injury or a specific point to help with correct movement, so your pet’s head remains above the water at all times.
Once settled in, one of our experts will help your pet with a series of exercises, while the water will help to support their weight. This means they can exercise in a low-impact environment, which avoids placing further stress on the joints while also increasing fitness, mobilising joints and building up muscle strength.
Whatever option works best for your four-legged friend, rest assured that they will always be accompanied by a trained professional, with years of experience working with dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments.
If you’d like to know more about hydrotherapy and if it’s suitable for you beloved pet, get in touch for more information or a free, no-obligation taster session.