Hydrotherapy allows dogs to exercise, whilst letting them play too. It’s a great way to safely get young dogs used to water, and is also ideal for weight loss, as it doesn’t put any extra stress on the joints that is often an issue for overweight dogs.
By getting your dog moving around, it helps with circulation and fitness, just as it does for humans. This is especially helpful for joint movement, as it’s easier to stretch and utilise the joints without the same pressure you can get on land, meaning there is less limitations and increased flexibility. By utilising this fully, dogs that have had bone or joint operations, such as on hips or knees, will be able to start moving the damaged muscle much more efficiently, and quickly post operation, than if they were on land still. This is particularly useful for dogs that really don’t want to start moving again, who perhaps limp or hop on a bad leg, as in the water they will need to move all their legs to swim properly, so instinct will take over and start the muscles moving. This small movement can lead to much better recovery in the long run.
The same goes for weight loss. Dogs that are overweight often struggle with exercise, as there is already extra pressure on joints and bones, especially spines of stretched dogs like Dachshunds, or knee joints of larger dogs. Walking when there is excess weight can cause serious pain for some dogs, and result in them moving less, and the weight is much harder to shift. In water, their weight is irrelevant, and it allows dogs to really get moving and burn some calories.
With Hydrotherapy Centres popping up all over the country now, this really is accessible to the public now, and does not require referral from a vet anymore. Many people start Hydrotherapy with their dogs for other reasons too, such as to help build stamina. For dogs that do competitive exercise, such as Fly-Ball, this is a great way of building strength and stamina. These dogs need to do high power exercise for periods of times, and swimming regularly can really maintain their fitness and help in competitions.
When booking a Hydrotherapy session, a twenty to thirty minute session is usually sufficient, and much more than can be detrimental. How often you need to go, and for how long, will depend on the reason you’re going; for stamina, once a fortnight is usually sufficient, although for weight loss or recovery plans may require move often. Even going once a month would have an effect on your pet’s health.
What else do you need to know? Take towels! You’ll also need your lead, and toys can be helpful too, though there will be some there. Floating toys, neoprene for example, are a great way of getting your dog swimming further into the pool to chase them. Your dog shouldn’t eat at least 3-4 hours before swimming, and at least 1-2 hours after as well.
If you’re interested in finding out more, please have a look at the Canine Hydrotherapy Association site, which will find your local registered centre to get you started.