Happy Hydrotherapy – Whole Dog Journal

Almost instantly after my youngest canine, Sirius, had surgical procedure on each of her knees final yr, I introduced her to see a bodily therapist. This licensed animal rehabilitation specialist created a customized conditioning and rehabilitation plan for Sirius. One of probably the most helpful modalities of therapy that Sirius obtained was hydrotherapy. It allowed her to take care of all of the muscle she had developed in her Rally Obedience and agility coaching previous to her knee damage – and greatest but, she cherished 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 having the ability to rise up – in a single day! We carried her into an emergency vet clinic the place she was recognized with a herniated disc. We had been advised she would by no means stroll comfortably once more and that we must be desirous about of end-of-life selections. 

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 just lately! Through a mix of therapeutic therapy modalities, which included twice weekly hydrotherapy for the primary month, Charlotte additionally made an (nearly) full restoration and was cleared to do all the things she loves: mountain climbing, swimming, lengthy walks, trick coaching, and many others. 

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


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

Hydrotherapy isn’t canines simply splashing round in a pool, and the therapeutic potential for injured canines can’t be achieved by simply bringing your canine someplace for a leisure swim. There are two major modalities of hydrotherapy therapy that canines would possibly 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 beneficial crate relaxation to maintain your canine quiet. Crate relaxation would possibly make therapeutic simpler for you, however it might probably considerably lower the chance of your canine returning to regular operate. Additional accidents and arthritis can happen if canines are usually not appropriately re-conditioned after surgical procedure or damage. While you don’t desire a canine working round and inflicting extra harm to an damage, 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 drugs is recognizing the significance of this as properly.

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 instant post-operative section truly advantages most surgical procedures to assist stimulate therapeutic, significantly bone therapeutic, and scale back restoration occasions.
It’s vital to notice that that is managed exercise underneath the direct supervision of a veterinary rehab specialist and that canines who’re recovering from surgical procedure or damage will want exercise restriction. Allowing your canine to do an excessive amount of, too quickly may lead to “catastrophic failure of the restore” Dr. Drum cautions.


The underwater treadmill utilized by veterinary specialists appears to be like quite a bit like a fish tank. During therapy, your canine will enter the treadmill (generally 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 dimension, her particular damage, and the way far alongside she is within the restoration course of. If the therapist determines that she must be bearing no weight in anyway, the tank is stuffed to a stage that permits the canine to drift along with her paws simply barely touching the treadmill. The decrease the water stage, 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 pace decided by the specialist. When this occurs, most canines naturally will start strolling – even canines 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 supplies. 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 pace of the treadmill may be adjusted to help constructing muscle or to take care of muscle. 

In addition, says Dr. Drum, “The treadmill belt itself helps encourage a rhythmic gait to facilitate gait retraining.” This was definitely the case with my Charlotte, who needed to be carried into the clinic, however a couple of 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 canines who’re capable of train in underwater treadmills. The added resistance from the water helps canines achieve extra muscle tone than from strolling on land. 

The water additionally helps a canine whose steadiness has been impaired. The help supplied by the water permits and encourages canines to maneuver their joints in a virtually regular full vary of movement. Plus, canines who must drop pounds 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 canines are gently guided right into a small, heated pool and supported in swimming by an authorized canine rehabilitation specialist. They are typically fitted with a canine life jacket, and canines who’re susceptible to ear infections can also be fitted with a canine “swim cap” that stops water from coming into their ears. 

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


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

 But canines don’t must have an damage to learn from hydrotherapy. Dr. Drum says osteoarthritis is the commonest situation she sees handled with hydrotherapy. Older canines who’ve arthritis represent about half of the hydrotherapy sufferers that Dr. Drum sees, and he or she describes the advantages to those canines as “profoundly positive.” Senior canines who are suffering from arthritis ache usually expertise decreased power and exercise, which may end up in lack of muscle mass and weight achieve – 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 every week, however at the 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 energetic, 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 classes, 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 properly. 

Hydrotherapy For Sports Rehab

Hydrotherapy isn’t only for canines who’re growing older or injured, additionally it is a implausible therapy 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, positioned in Annapolis Junction, Maryland. Dr. Canapp and her employees regularly make use of hydrotherapy as a vital conditioning device for a lot of of their canine-athlete sufferers. Her clinic sees many looking canines and flyball canines who come often 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 canines 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 canines again into the sport after an damage. Dr. Canapp defined that her state-of-the-art sports activities drugs clinic fashions itself after the perfect practices in human drugs and core to that’s the concept that canines who’re injured – particularly energetic, athletic canines – 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 drugs, a return to pre-injury stage is seen because the definition of success, and VOSM has the identical targets for his or her canine athletes.


Hydrotherapy will possible be solely a part of the therapy your canine receives. Dogs who’re recovering from damage or surgical procedure are prone to want a number of modalities of therapy with a purpose to obtain optimum restoration. Hydrotherapy remedies are sometimes supplied along side structured workout routines each at remedy classes and for house owners to follow-up with at house between classes. 

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


If you assume that your canine would possibly profit from hydrotherapy therapy, 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, bear in mind that not all people who find themselves providing these companies have the identical quantity or sort of coaching.

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

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

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

For injured or post-surgical canines, 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 gives 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 companies underneath the supervision and steerage of a rehabilitation-certified veterinarian.


Because hydrotherapy is such specialised therapy, there aren’t licensed practitioners in each group and you’ll have to journey to search out applicable therapy in your canine. 

Finally, it doesn’t matter what companies you’re in search of in your canine, at all times ask for (and test) a practitioner’s references, and browse any on-line critiques left by former purchasers.

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