What is Dog Hydrotherapy? Dog Hydrotherapy Explained

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What is Dog Hydrotherapy? Dog Hydrotherapy Explained

Dog hydrotherapy has become a commonly used form of healing and therapy to help support dogs with medical issues. Hydrotherapy sounds like its name, where water is used as a therapeutic tool to help support dogs. In the last decade, dog hydrotherapy has become increasingly popular thanks to its success in treating ailments such as joint pain due to arthritis or injury in dogs. 

Originally, animal hydrotherapy actually began in the horse racing industry to help horses recover after an intense race. It then transferred to greyhound racing and as it continued to be used, veterinarians realized the numerous benefits the hydrotherapy could provide for all dogs. Hydrotherapy is now often recommended as one of the main treatment options for dogs when they need physical therapy.  

How is Dog Hydrotherapy Used?

One of the most common forms of dog hydrotherapy is using a treadmill underwater to help treat an injury or medical issue. The water temperature used during hydrotherapy is typically between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit making it not only a pleasant experience for the dog but also beneficial. 

Using the resistance and buoyancy of the water allows the dog to use muscles that are stiff or injured. The treadmill helps put the dog in motion and keeps them steady under the water allowing exercise to happen without pain. The treadmill height and speed can be adjusted to meet the individual needs of your dog’s physical capabilities. 

Different Forms of Dog Hydrotherapy

Now that you know that treadmills are a part of the hydrotherapy experience, there are other techniques used as well. While water is involved in all of dog hydrotherapy, there are different forms of using the water for therapies. 

Using pools for swimming exercises is the more common form of hydrotherapy that provides dogs with the opportunity to heal and strengthen muscles without the added risk of falling. Dogs can enjoy all of the physical and mental benefits of swimming while in a safe and controlled environment. 

Whirlpools have also become a more popular option for dog hydrotherapy. Whirlpools are used for dogs that need support with muscle relaxation and healing. The whirlpool helps provide massage to the muscles while also encouraging relaxation. Some dogs take more time to adjust to using the whirlpool as the loud noise and water movement can make some dogs anxious. However, once they learn to adjust many dogs enjoy using the whirlpool as part of their hydrotherapy treatment. 

Common Reasons to Use Dog Hydrotherapy

Many animal physical therapists use dog hydrotherapy as one of their main treatment options. Different physical conditions benefit from the use of hydrotherapy. If a dog is struggling with hip dysplasia, your veterinarian may recommend trying hydrotherapy to help increase muscle tone and ease any pain your dog may be feeling. Arthritis is also a common reason that vets will recommend hydrotherapy as part of a treatment plan. Healing from orthopedic issues and surgery can also be expedited by using hydrotherapy. 

Dogs with any neurological concerns may also be prescribed hydrotherapy as one of their treatment options. Movement in the water keeps dogs safe when they are struggling with coordination and balance from different neurological conditions. 

Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Dogs 

When dogs are in pain from surgery or joint disorders, the last thing they want to do is move. When using hydrotherapy, the buoyancy of the water takes all of the weight and pressure off of your dog’s joints and muscles. As you adjust the water levels, your dog will receive the benefit of exercise and moving their muscles without any of the pain they would feel if they were doing the same exercise without the water. 

Any exercise your dog gets in the water during hydrotherapy will provide numerous benefits. When a dog consistently uses hydrotherapy, they will receive both physical and cognitive benefits. Because hydrotherapy is a different form of exercise, it can provide mental stimulation which can improve your dog’s mood and cognitive functioning. Cardiovascular health is also increased with the use of hydrotherapy which increases your dog’s quality of life as well as their life span. 

What to Expect During a Hydrotherapy Experience

Many pet owners wonder what exactly will happen when their dog goes to their first hydrotherapy appointment. They also wonder about the cost of using hydrotherapy. Thankfully, it tends to be pretty inexpensive with a session ranging from thirty to fifty dollars depending on the location and time frame of the appointment. Once you learn some of the exercises from the professionals you can help your dog at home in the water too. 

Since many dogs can be fearful of the water, their first appointment may simply be helping them adjust to being in the water. If an underwater treadmill is going to be used as part of the therapy the therapist may have your dog slowly test out the treadmill to get them used to the movement. 

Dogs will often wear a life jacket in the water to help the therapist hold the dog while swimming. During the first session, your dog may simply swim around so that the therapist can make an assessment of their movement capabilities as well as being able to formulate a plan for their treatment. 

Interesting Facts About Dog Hydrotherapy 

With hydrotherapy being used more frequently, vets have learned new information about how it works and the benefits that dogs receive from participating in hydrotherapy. Dogs have gained muscle mass from using hydrotherapy. Because of this, many sporting dogs use hydrotherapy as a part of their training regimen. Obese dogs have also seen significant weight loss after consistently using hydrotherapy as part of their exercise routine.

Elderly dogs can also enjoy the benefits of hydrotherapy as it can be a low-impact form of exercise that can improve their health. With so many benefits for all different types of dogs, hydrotherapy is a great tool to use to improve your dog’s quality of life and increase their physical fitness. 

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