Today’s featured alternative healing modality is canine hydrotherapy, a.k.a. canine water therapy or swimming for dogs. Different forms of hydrotherapy for humans have been around for thousands of years – ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used it to improve their health, spirits and general well-being.
Equine hydrotherapy, in particular using cold sea water on leg injuries, has been practiced for centuries, then it was picked up by the greyhound racing community, and now, hydrotherapy for dogs is becoming more and more popular.
What Is Canine Hydrotherapy?
Canine Hydrotherapy is swimming, or using an underwater treadmill, for dogs, often combined with other therapies such as massage, stretching and balance exercises. Some pools have jets to provide different levels of resistance, and the therapist can adjust the strength of the jets to fit each dog. Dog owners are usually not allowed to get in the pool, but the therapist will be there with your dog (who may or may not wear a life vest) and assist while he/she swims.
How Does Swimming Help?
The buoyancy of the water allows the patient to move freely and use his/her full range of motion without putting stress on joints and bones. This, combined with the resistance of the water, helps restore mobility and build muscle mass in dogs who have undergone surgery, been injured, are disabled, or are suffering from arthritis and other age related mobility issues.
The pressure of the water also increases lymphatic drainage and can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.
Other conditions that benefit from hydrotherapy include:
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
- Degenerative Myelopathy
- Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)
- Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
- Neurological problems and spinal injuries
- Circulatory problems
And just as for us humans, swimming is a relaxing way for your dog to get some exercise and have fun in a warm, soothing environment.
To find a practitioner in the US, visit The Association of Canine Water Therapy’s website. In the UK, check out the Canine Hydrotherapy Association.
Meet Terri Steely
Terri Steely is the founder and owner of Paddling Paws in Summerville, South Carolina. Terri, a registered nurse, became interested in canine hydrotherapy when her 16-week old pug Molly became lame. She knew how beneficial swimming in warm water was for humans and decided to give it a try with Molly.
After seeing the success she had with Molly, Terri started dreaming about opening her own canine hydrotherapy facility. She began studying human aquatic therapy, canine behavior, canine massage and canine water therapy, and in February of 2007 she opened the doors to Paddling Paws.
Today’s case study features Sophie, a Weimaraner with Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). Thanks to a combination of several alternative therapies (including hydrotherapy), she has not only survived way past the 6 months dogs diagnosed with DM are projected to live, but has maintained a wonderful quality of life. This is a great example of how important it is to never give up and keep looking for different solutions when faced with a devastating diagnosis by your vet.