Aquatic therapy, also known as hydrotherapy has been used for many years to treat orthopedic and neurological conditions in people. It makes sense that it should also be beneficial to our canine friends.

In veterinary medicine, this type of treatment is commonly used for rehabilitation after surgery or injury, or to tone up the muscles of your dog’s legs. It is also effective in treating arthritis and allowing overweight dogs to exercise without the risk of their weight damaging their joints.

  • There are several reasons why this type of treatment is so useful in your dog.
  • With his body is being supported by the water, this means he can exercise without putting any weight on his legs.
  • The pressure of the water on his limbs reduces inflammation and improves the blood flow. This can reduce post-operative swelling
  • Warm water is very relaxing and it can ease pain, so your dog will feel so much more comfortable after his pool session.
  • Exercise in water builds up endurance, and is good adjunct to training for your canine athlete.

There are two main ways in which aquatic therapy is delivered to dogs.

Swimming Pool

Your dog can swim in a deep swimming pool wearing a flotation jacket, so they don’t have to worry about staying afloat. They can then paddle around at their leisure and work their legs as hard or as easy as they want to. Some pools contain jets so your dog has to swim against the current, which is hard work. It has been said that a 5 minute swim provides as much exercise as a 5 mile run, but it is much gentler on the joints.

Underwater Treadmill

These treadmills are encased in a waterproof plastic shell. As your dog walks on the treadmill, the water level rises until he is being supported by the buoyancy of the water. He can then continue to walk without as much weight bearing on his legs.

It may take a few attempts for your dog to get used to walking on the treadmill; after all it isn’t something that he would normally do. Be patient; most dogs learn quickly and are happy to walk along the belt as the warm water slowly fills the shell around him.

Walking in water has over 15 times the resistance of walking in air so your dog will get a really good workout.

How do you choose a therapist for your dog? This treatment method is very new, so there are no courses or degrees for people to take before offering aquatic therapy to dogs. Ask your vet and your dog owning friends for referrals. When you have a few names, make arrangements to visit them so you can check their facilities and discuss their experience.

The outcome of aquatic therapy in dogs is very variable. It depends on your dog’s condition and how quickly treatment was started after his surgery or injury. It also depends on the skill of the therapist treating him. In spite of that, it is a very useful tool in helping to return your dog to full health and mobility, or to keep your canine companion fit and lean.

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Dr. Susan Wright is an author, a dog bark collar expert and a veterinarian. Susan writes informative articles on the health and care of dogs.