Monday, May 17, 2010

Hydrotherapy for Your Dog

Water therapy for dogs? For dogs?

You've probably even seen a treadmill submerged in the water, in the swimming pool at your local health club.
They are used for seniors, for people with arthritis, and for people recuperating from injuries and surgery. But for DOGS?

Yes! For dogs!  And water therapy was one major way by which we brought Joey back to health, stemmed off the threat of arthritis, and returned him to his life of running, safely.

What are the advantages of water therapy? 
In water, there is no gravity, so your dog is not fighting against the pull of gravity from the earth. He is floating in water and all his energy is devoted to moving against the water (and not the pull of the earth).  Pressure is equalized on all sides.

If your dog has an injury, there is no stress directly on the injured area, i.e. no pounding of the pavement or the pads of your dog's feet.(This was important in our case, since Joey had a broken ankle and broken toes.)

Veterinarians recommend it. So what do you need to - or prefer to - do your own hydrotherapy with your own dog?  You need:

  1. a dog harness

  2. a body of water

Obtaining the dog harness is easy.
Any pet store will carry them. Just measure your dog's breadth and length before you pick out the harness to get a good fit.

Obtaining the body of water may be more of a challenge! 
It may be winter and water may be cold, and besides there may not be a body of water near you!  Remember, dogs can, because of their double layer of hair, tolerate colder temperatures that you (we) humans can. But at the first states of hydrotherapy, you need to accompany your dog into the water.

But let's say there is a body of water, and it's warm enough for you to tolerate; what do you do next?  

  1. In the beginning, just walk your dog along the edge of the water.
    Get him used to walking in the water. That will be considerable exercise for a dog who has not been walking regularly due to injury, or for a dog who may be experiencing pain that he cannot communicate to you.

  2. In subsequent days and weeks, get him a little deeper into the water. Continue to walk him.
    Just the water itself will provide resistance and that will be considerable physical therapy for him (or her).

  3. Gradually, you can get your dog fully into the water.  Next, hold him up by the harness, so that he is just floating in the water. Allow him to become comfortable being held by you.

  4. He may kick his legs underneath him to simulate swimming. Good. This is what you want.

  5. Time him.
    Start with 30 seconds. In subsequent days or weeks, increase that to one minute.  Let him rest or swim toward shore. Wait. Then try it again, for 30 seconds to one minute at a time.
Swimming in general is a great activity for your dog and, as mentioned above, he can tolerate much colder water temperatures than we humans can. So as he gets stronger, he can go in the water and swim on his own and it will be a great therapy for arthritis and other conditions.
Finally, don't get arrested!
 Seriously!  I was standing in a body of water about 20 feet from the shoreline, holding Joey up by his harness as he doggie-paddled beneath the water without moving forward, and a policeman came along and told me that it was legal for the dog to be in the water, but not for me to be in the water!

Please share your comments or experiences with doggie hydrotherapy (and/or getting kicked out of a body of water!)

No comments: