Happy Hydrotherapy – Whole Dog Journal

Almost instantly after my youngest canine, Sirius, had surgical procedure on each of her knees final 12 months, I introduced her to see a bodily therapist. This licensed animal rehabilitation specialist created a customized conditioning and rehabilitation plan for Sirius. One of essentially the most helpful modalities of remedy that Sirius obtained was hydrotherapy. It allowed her to keep up all of the muscle she had developed in her Rally Obedience and agility coaching previous to her knee harm – and finest but, she liked the underwater treadmill. Sirius had one bodily remedy session per week for eight weeks and was cleared to renew regular exercise simply 10 weeks post-surgery.

About 10 months later, my 10-year-old Cattle Dog-mix, Charlotte, went from strolling a number of miles a day and coaching in sports activities to not with the ability to stand up – in a single day! We carried her into an emergency vet clinic the place she was recognized with a herniated disc. We have been instructed she would by no means stroll comfortably once more and that we ought to be serious about of end-of-life choices. 

Two days later we introduced her to the identical veterinary rehabilitation specialist who labored with Sirius; we doubted the dire prognosis we had been given for Charlotte and weren’t prepared to surrender on a canine who had been so vigorous so lately! Through a mix of therapeutic remedy modalities, which included twice weekly hydrotherapy for the primary month, Charlotte additionally made an (virtually) full restoration and was cleared to do the whole lot she loves: mountain climbing, swimming, lengthy walks, trick coaching, and so forth. 

I credit score a lot of my canine’ restoration to hydrotherapy and expert licensed veterinary rehabilitation specialists. 


Canine hydrotherapy is a helpful remedy modality for canine recovering from many orthopedic accidents, in addition to degenerative situations like arthritis, as a result of permits canine to maneuver whereas bearing little or no weight on an injured limb. A much less generally thought of good thing about the remedy is elevated self-confidence for a canine who’s injured or outdated.

Hydrotherapy isn’t canine simply splashing round in a pool, and the therapeutic potential for injured canine can’t be achieved by simply bringing your canine someplace for a leisure swim. There are two main modalities of hydrotherapy remedy that canine may obtain: engaged on an underwater treadmill and therapeutic swimming. “The added resistance from water is excellent for increasing cardiovascular fitness, while providing low impact resistance muscle training,” says Marti Drum, DVM, Ph.D. 

Dr. Drum is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ACVSMR), a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner, and a Clinical Associate Professor within the Small Animal Clinical Sciences Department on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She can be the appearing service chief of the bodily rehabilitation service on the University of Tennessee Certificate Program for Canine Rehabilitation – and an enormous fan of hydrotherapy! 

Crate Rest?

If your canine is injured or has surgical procedure, chances are high your basic veterinarian has advisable crate relaxation to maintain your canine quiet. Crate relaxation may make therapeutic simpler for you, however it could considerably lower the probability of your canine returning to regular perform. Additional accidents and arthritis can happen if canine should not appropriately re-conditioned after surgical procedure or harm. While you don’t desire a canine operating round and inflicting extra harm to an harm, crate relaxation doesn’t promote optimum therapeutic. Today, people who’ve knee or hip surgical procedure are shortly began on bodily remedy, and more and more, veterinary medication is recognizing the significance of this as effectively.

We know there are devastating penalties to limb immobilization. Not utilizing a limb for a number of weeks or months causes modifications to the muscle, tendon, cartilage, bone, and ligaments that may make these tissues weaker than regular,” Dr. Drum says. “Encouraging early limb use within the rapid post-operative part really advantages most surgical procedures to assist stimulate therapeutic, significantly bone therapeutic, and scale back restoration instances.
It’s essential to notice that that is managed exercise beneath the direct supervision of a veterinary rehab specialist and that canine who’re recovering from surgical procedure or harm will want exercise restriction. Allowing your canine to do an excessive amount of, too quickly may end in “catastrophic failure of the restore” Dr. Drum cautions.


The underwater treadmill utilized by veterinary specialists seems loads like a fish tank. During remedy, your canine will enter the treadmill (typically with a life vest on) both on her personal or with an authorized technician. The canine enters the glass tank when it’s empty, after which the door is closed and the tank is slowly crammed with heat water (between 80° and 94° F). 

The depth of the tank is adjusted based on the canine’s measurement, her particular harm, and the way far alongside she is within the restoration course of. If the therapist determines that she ought to be bearing no weight in any way, the tank is stuffed to a degree that permits the canine to drift along with her paws simply barely touching the treadmill. The decrease the water degree, the extra weight she is going to bear on her limbs.

Once the water reaches the specified depth the treadmill ground begins transferring on the velocity decided by the specialist. When this occurs, most canine naturally will start strolling – even canine who’re experiencing an excessive amount of ache or are too weak to stroll on land usually start transferring within the underwater treadmill due to the help and buoyancy the water offers. Depending on the place the person canine is in her restoration course of, jets could also be used so as to add growing ranges of resistance and the velocity of the treadmill will be adjusted to help constructing muscle or to keep up muscle. 

In addition, says Dr. Drum, “The treadmill belt itself helps encourage a rhythmic gait to facilitate gait retraining.” This was actually the case with my Charlotte, who needed to be carried into the clinic, however just a few days later, was capable of stroll comfortably within the underwater treadmill. 

While strolling on the underwater treadmill and strolling on land are each low-impact types of train, practitioners see stronger outcomes for canine who’re capable of train in underwater treadmills. The added resistance from the water helps canine acquire extra muscle tone than from strolling on land. 

The water additionally helps a canine whose stability has been impaired. The help offered by the water allows and encourages canine to maneuver their joints in a virtually regular full vary of movement. Plus, canine who have to drop some weight can burn extra energy by engaged on an underwater treadmill than they will on land. 


The second modality of canine hydrotherapy is therapeutic swimming, the place canine are gently guided right into a small, heated pool and supported in swimming by an authorized canine rehabilitation specialist. They are usually fitted with a canine life jacket, and canine who’re vulnerable to ear infections can also be fitted with a canine “swim cap” that stops water from coming into their ears. 

While helpful to many canine, therapeutic swimming isn’t an applicable remedy for each harm. When swimming, most canine primarily propel themselves by means of the water through the use of their entrance legs, so it wouldn’t normally be applicable for canine who’ve shoulder or entrance limb accidents, Dr. Drum says, as it could irritate these situations and gradual restoration. Hydrotherapy is probably not applicable for canine with groin accidents (strains of the iliopsoas muscle), both. 


Dogs with again, hip, and knee accidents usually profit from hydrotherapy, as do canine who’re recovering from surgical restore of accidents. And hydrotherapy is more and more advisable as a helpful remedy modality for proactively conditioning for canine athletes and dealing canine. 

 But canine don’t have to have an harm to profit from hydrotherapy. Dr. Drum says osteoarthritis is the most typical situation she sees handled with hydrotherapy. Older canine who’ve arthritis represent about half of the hydrotherapy sufferers that Dr. Drum sees, and she or he describes the advantages to those canine as “profoundly positive.” Senior canine that suffer from arthritis ache usually expertise decreased vitality and exercise, which may end up in lack of muscle mass and weight acquire – which, in flip, will increase the stress on the already compromised joints. 

Dr. Drum says, “It is not uncommon that our senior and geriatric patients experience a rejuvenation simply from starting a good hydrotherapy routine,” not more than a couple of times per week, however at the very least as soon as each two weeks. “You have to ‘use it or lose it’ to maintain muscle and cardiovascular fitness,” she says. 

When my lively, well-conditioned canine Charlotte was recovering from a herniated disc, she was unable to stroll on land and shortly grew depressed and much more anxious than she is ordinarily. But throughout her hydrotherapy periods, her confidence and happiness visibly elevated as she found that she may transfer within the water with out ache, and this appeared to offer her extra confidence as she slowly regained the power to stroll and transfer on land as effectively. 

Hydrotherapy For Sports Rehab

Hydrotherapy isn’t only for canine who’re getting older or injured, additionally it is a improbable remedy modality for conditioning canine athletes who practice or compete in something from agility to carting and each sport in between.

Debra Canapp, DVM, is co-owner and Medical Director of Veterinary Orthopedic and Sports Medicine (VOSM) Group, situated in Annapolis Junction, Maryland. Dr. Canapp and her employees often make use of hydrotherapy as a important conditioning instrument for a lot of of their canine-athlete sufferers. Her clinic sees many looking canine and flyball canine who come commonly for therapeutic swimming throughout their “off” seasons. Dr. Canapp explains that for these canine athletes, “Swimming is great because we’re taking the impact off their joints while improving cardiovascular conditioning.” This permits these canine to remain in peak situation between competitors seasons with out including high-impact stress to their our bodies.

Hydrotherapy can be one of many instruments Dr. Cannap makes use of to get these sport canine again into the sport after an harm. Dr. Canapp defined that her state-of-the-art sports activities medication clinic fashions itself after one of the best practices in human medication and core to that’s the concept that canine who’re injured – particularly lively, athletic canine – shouldn’t be saved on strict crate relaxation. Instead, for optimum therapeutic (together with returning to sports activities coaching) applicable and supervised rehabilitation is crucial. In human sports activities medication, a return to pre-injury degree is seen because the definition of success, and VOSM has the identical targets for his or her canine athletes.


Hydrotherapy will probably be solely a part of the remedy your canine receives. Dogs who’re recovering from harm or surgical procedure are prone to want a number of modalities of remedy so as to obtain optimum restoration. Hydrotherapy therapies are sometimes offered along with structured workouts each at remedy periods and for house owners to follow-up with at dwelling between periods. 

Anti-inflammatory and/or ache medicines are normally prescribed, at the very least initially. Other holistic remedy modalities similar to acupuncture and laser remedy can also be supplied and offered by your canine’s rehabilitation specialist. 


If you suppose that your canine may profit from hydrotherapy remedy, you’ll be able to both ask your general-practice veterinarian for a referral, or schedule a session and analysis with an authorized veterinary rehabilitation specialist by yourself. If you discover a practitioner by yourself, nevertheless, remember that not all people who find themselves providing these providers have the identical quantity or sort of coaching.

It’s more and more straightforward to seek out canine trainers, therapeutic massage therapists, and even veerinary practices who supply “canine conditioning” courses or workshops that embody swimming in a remedy pool. If your canine merely wants assist with weight reduction, zero-impact train, or conditioning, these providers could also be simply high-quality. 

But in case your canine is recovering from an harm or surgical procedure, her remedy can be finest guided by knowledgeable with as a lot training and hands-on coaching and expertise as you will discover. It’s essential to make the most of hydrotherapy for an injured canine solely beneath the supervision of specialised veterinary professionals who can decide whether or not the remedy is true on your canine, and to create an individualized remedy plan on your canine’s particular well being wants. 

If they don’t seem to be licensed specialists, the remedy they supply on your canine could also be at finest ineffective and at worst trigger extra accidents or delay therapeutic. As only one instance, a typical mistake for these not correctly educated is to go away a canine on the treadmill for too lengthy, which may end up in the canine turning into sore and prolonging therapeutic. 

For injured or post-surgical canine, search for licensed rehabilitation practitioners – individuals who have accomplished specialised coaching on high of their DVM or veterinary nursing levels. Dr. Drum advises that house owners search for specialists with one of many following credentials: 

  • Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP). (Dr. Drum particularly likes this system on the University of Tennessee that provides this certification.)
  • Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT). (Dr. Drum favors the University of Florida’s program for this certificates.)
  • Certified Canine Rehabilitation Assistant (CCRA) or Certified Canine Rehabilitation Veterinary Nurse. People with this certification can present providers beneath the supervision and steerage of a rehabilitation-certified veterinarian.


Because hydrotherapy is such specialised remedy, there aren’t licensed practitioners in each group and you will have to journey to seek out applicable remedy on your canine. 

Finally, it doesn’t matter what providers you’re searching for on your canine, at all times ask for (and examine) a practitioner’s references, and skim any on-line evaluations left by former shoppers.

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