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Joint Focus - The Benefits Of Canine Hydrotherapy

Monday, September 19, 2016  ‹ Back To Latest News List

Our Berkshire based Canine Technician Michelle, who is also a qualified Hydrotherapist and owner of Aquatic Canine Therapy in Newbury has written our latest blog.  As part of our focus on joints in this quarter, Michelle writes about the benefits of hydrotherapy on canine joints.   

The Benefits of Hydrotherapy on Canine Joints

Hydrotherapy can be used to rehabilitate a dog for several conditions however the most common is Osteoarthritis usually brought about by the following conditions;
• Hip and elbow dysplasia
• Cruciate ligament injuries/repairs
• Geriatrics
• Obesity
There are several reasons why a dog’s joints can become unhealthy, however, some of the main causes can be poor diet, over exercise as a puppy, resulting in wear and tear on joints; or a joint not forming properly causing dysplasia. Cruciate injuries are common as a result of increased pressure on the ligament, for example fly ball, ball chasing, long distance running. Over time all of these conditions will result in Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis presents itself with limping due to joint pain. The dog will show signs of joint stiffness, struggling to get up especially after a long period of rest, impaired mobility due to the cartilage being gradually worn away. Through palpation of the joint you may feel swelling and inflammation. When moving the joint to establish the range of movement you may feel crepitus. It is likely that there will be evidence of muscle atrophy due to the impaired mobility. This condition does not have to be limited to the older dogs as we often see younger dogs with this condition.

There are two kinds of hydrotherapy, pool or an underwater treadmill. At Aquatic Canine Therapy we would always recommend the use of the treadmill for all arthritic dog’s because:
• The buoyancy of the water supports the joints. The water levels can be adjusted to make it easier or harder, the deeper the water the easier for the dog and the lower the water the harder it becomes as the water structure becomes thicker and therefore harder to move.
• As with pools the water is heated to between 28 and 32 degrees to maximise the flow of blood around the body with helps to repair damaged tissue and the heat helps to relax, lengthen and strengthen the muscles.
• The treatment is controlled as you set the speed of the treadmill and the duration of the treatment. This can be immediately altered to match the dog’s needs.
• The movement of the water causes added resistance and micro turbulence which again helps to build the muscle.
• It provides maximum flexion and extension of the limbs. The water levels can be adjusted to force an increased flexion or extension to correct a gait.
• Re-educates the gait pattern following the muscle atrophy in the fore or hind limbs
• Very easy to observe the range of movement (ROM) through the glass sides
• The dog is unable to cheat unlike in the pool where they have a tendency to tuck their hind legs up making it difficult to get a good rom which is essential if building up hind muscle.

As a result of having Hydrotherapy, the dog returns to activity much quicker. Hydrotherapy provides natural pain relief and therefore the dogs have that feel good factor when they have finished their treatment. We always recommend a minimum of 12 sessions for maximum effect but some clients have noticed improvements all be it short lived after just one session. With joint issues we would also recommend that as a minimum monthly sessions are attended to help maintain the muscle development and to support the joints through the cold and damp months when Osteoarthritis can become worse.