The benefits of hydrotherapy for dogs
15th April, 2020
From cooling off during a hot summer’s day at the beach to keeping in great shape, humans love the water. And the same goes for our canine companions. If your dog has been unwell or injured making sure you’ve the best dog insurance is only the first step in ensuring they make a swift recovery.
Whether you want to ease an old dog’s arthritic pain or get him back on his feet after surgery, getting your pooch in the water may be just the thing he needs.
Here’s a quick guide to just some of the benefits that hydrotherapy brings to our faithful friends.
What is hydrotherapy for dogs?
In sessions usually lasting from 10 minutes to about half an hour, hydrotherapy uses water to provide relief from a whole variety of conditions.
There are three common methods of hydrotherapy for dogs all using different equipment and serving different purposes.
- An underwater treadmill is commonly used for joint issues and arthritis.
- Whirlpool therapy is used for those dogs recovering from surgery as it provides great pain relief.
- Dog pools use water resistance to help improve joint motion and muscle strength. It mainly targets elbows, chest muscles, limbs and shoulders.
What are the benefits of hydrotherapy?
Recovery from injury or surgery
The number one reason that vets might suggest hydrotherapy for your dog is to speed up recovery from injury and surgery. The water resistance and buoyancy makes it a great non-weight-bearing environment to begin the journey back to health.
When dogs aren’t moving, they lose muscle very quickly. Hydrotherapy helps them work their joints, maintain muscle mass, and move around comfortably all while minimising their discomfort. Warmer water is typically used for such therapy or recovery sessions as it helps loosen tight muscles.
Before undertaking any session of hydrotherapy it is important to take veterinary advice. Pet owners who have dog insurance with us have free access to the Purely Pets’ 24 Hour Vet Helpline.
This exclusive service operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year so if you have a question about whether hydrotherapy might be right for your pup, you can ask the experts.
There are many painful conditions that affect the joints of dogs including arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia and osteoarthritis of the shoulder. For canine sufferers, these conditions make exercise very painful.
However, the weightless feeling we have all experienced when having a dip in the pool means that such dogs can still get some exercise – without undue weight and strain on their muscles and joints.
Increased blood circulation (particularly if the water is warm) and the gentle pressure of the water also does wonders for swollen joints, providing the perfect drug-free method of pain relief.
When it comes to fitness and muscle conditioning, hydrotherapy is a great low-impact exercise that can be done whatever the weather and whatever the age of the dog.
This is an ideal way for working, show and agility dogs or those dogs that can’t be let off the lead to stay in shape. It is also useful for elderly dogs that can’t walk easily to maintain their muscle mass.
Movement in the water helps work the muscles so well that the time needed for a hydrotherapy session might be less than the time needed for a similar exercise on land.
For athletic dogs in need of training or exercise, the use of colder water is advised because it helps them maintain a normal, balanced body temperature.
As with humans, a dog’s heart and lungs will also work a lot harder in water, especially when exercise is involved. Whatever the method of hydrotherapy you chose, your dog’s whole cardiovascular and respiratory systems will get a deep work out, while in a safe, fun environment.
One of the biggest advantages to having dogs hit the pool is the weight loss potential that comes with moving in the water.
If your dog is unfit it can be tough to exercise on land as the extra weight puts a strain on the joints. However, in water buoyancy ensures that the strain will not be as great.
Your dog can therefore work those muscles without putting too much stress on the joints. Even the most immobile pups can enjoy a little run in the water.
As their owner, you have responsibility not only for practical issues like dog insurance but also for trickier areas like mental wellbeing. A dog’s behaviour can be hugely dependent on its physical health.
An old or injured dog can soon start to show signs of unhappiness or aggression if their movement is painful or restricted. Movement in water will stimulate your dog’s release of endorphins, which can both reduce pain and increase mental stimulation.
Are there any risks of hydrotherapy?
While there are clear benefits of hydrotherapy, there are some risks to be aware of, too. Some of the most common ones include:
- ear infections from too much water in the ears
- skin conditions or dry skin
- excessive tiredness that may lead to drowning if dogs are not properly monitored
It is also vital to note that there is a massive difference between attending a hydrotherapy clinic with a trained professional and just letting your dog jump in the local lake for a splash about.
An unregulated water temperature and bacteria in the water can cause more harm than good. And without proper support, a dog recovering from surgery may not have the muscle strength to stay afloat for very long.
Effective hydrotherapy requires professionals with experience in handling dog injuries and pain relief and specialised equipment, which targets the specific areas of your dog’s medical issues. As with starting any new treatment, it’s always best to check with your vet beforehand.
Protecting your pup with dog insurance
Here at Purely Pets, our dog insurance specialists have designed 15 levels of cover for you to choose from.
With a range of policy benefits including lifetime cover from £1,000 to £15,000, a variable excess level, a handy 24 Hour Vet Helpline and online policy management, it couldn’t be easier to find the right cover for your four-legged friend.
Get a quote today.