Hydrotherapy in pool
Hydrotherapy is widely accepted throughout history for its rehabilitation benefits. The word hydrotherapy is derived from the Greek word ‘hydro' (water) and therapeia (healing). Where conventional ground based activity can be too hard on joints, the non weight bearing/no impact nature of water based exercise has proven a very effective alternative and is very enjoyable for most animals.
In short, HYDROTHERAPY is a non weight bearing, gentle form of controlled exercise which :
- Helps reduce pain
- Improves joint mobility and range of motion
- Promotes circulation and weight reduction
- Prevents recurrence or further injury
- Increases confidence in aquatic environments
- Improves muscle strength
- Improves aerobic & cardiovascular fitness
- Helps speedier return to previous function
Why swimming ?
Swimming (amongst others) is an excellent form of hydrotherapy because most of the muscles normally used in movement are involved, without the stresses caused by running on hard ground. On land each footfall creates a shock wave which travels up the limb and is absorbed by bones, tendons & joints. While the stresses are necessary to maintain healthy strong bones, if severe, or repetitive, these shock waves can actually damage or weaken the limb, particularly in an arthritic joint or one recovering from an injury or surgery. Swimming allows the "working out" and strengthening of the muscles while avoiding this potentially damaging concussion.
Also, because of the increased resistance to movement, the muscles have to work harder than they would do on land, thereby increasing heart rate & oxygen consumption improving overall aerobic & cardiovascular fitness.
The warm water helps promote blood circulation while helping to relax recovering muscles. In turn, this helps decrease pain and muscle spasm. Since a decrease in range of motion can often be due to pain, swelling or stiffness, warm water will usually provide relief as blood vessels expand and circulation improves.
The hydrostatic pressure of the water on the body and limbs also helps in reducing swelling during exercise.
In addition to eliminating impact on joints, the buoyancy of the water also helps the animal move more freely even though impaired by weakness, poor balance and/or coordination.
Conditions which can benefit from hydrotherapy
Generally, CONDITIONS benefiting from hydrotherapy can include :
- Pre/post surgical conditioning & recovery
- Musculoskeletal disorders such as dysplasia, arthritis, paralysis in animal of all ages
- Neurological & orthopedic conditions
- Ligament, muscle & spinal injuries
- General fitness and/or stamina training for amputees, competing or working dogs and as preventative measure in aging dogs
For example, in pre-operative cases, hydrotherapy will strengthen the relevant muscles which help support the affected site, and, if the gait is unbalanced at first on land based exercise, the muscles are in place to compensate for the extra strain. It is not uncommon to see sufficient stabilization of an affected joint to allow delaying surgical intervention to when the condition has matured. Veterinarians will confirm that this is especially desirable in cases where the affected animal is young and the evolution of the condition is still uncertain.
In post-operative cases, hydrotherapy removes the weight load from injured limbs and enables the gradual rebuilding of wasted muscles with substantially less strain to the operated area, often avoiding re-injury.
Finally, in any action sport, whether it involves humans or animals, it is a well known fact that the fitter the participants are, the less likely it is for injuries to occur.
What happens on a session?
All programs are carefully designed to aid your pet's recovery and/or optimise its fitness level. Your dog (dogs are the most common users of hydrotherapy) can swim in a variety of controlled ways, free swimming in still water or with more resistance introduced through powerful, adjustable water jets for controlled exercise and work rate.
Sessions are always private and dogs are introduced to the water gradually. Even though animals can swim by instinct, how much they enjoy it depends on their confidence in the water and this can be achieved by gradual acclimatization.
The length of swim sessions depends on your dog's condition, needs and ability and is determined by the hydrotherapist. Although the intent is to progress gradually as his/her capabilities improve, the hydrotherapist may chose to reduce or maintain the same levels on days where your dog is having an "off" day. Sessions will always occur at a pace that is favorable to the natural ability of your pet and respects their level of comfort in the water.
Owners are not permitted in the water but may be asked to participate in various ways (praise a good work effort - for example).
Most dogs benefit from hydrotherapy. Cats will also benefit but are sometimes less collaborative. Our unit is designed to accommodate companion animals of all sizes.
Except in the case of an athlete or of a healthy adult dog, Animotion accepts clients for hydrotherapy on a referral basis from a licensed veterinarian. This ensures your animal does not have any underlying problems which may be further aggravated by this approach and also gives the vet an opportunity to bring about other medical problems to our attention. A referral form is available on request for your vet and yourself to complete.
Owners are encouraged to get involved and will enjoy watching their dog swim in a pleasant and warm environment. It is important to note that active participation on the part of the owner throughout the program improves its outcome.