What is hydrotherapy or aquatic therapy?

Hydrotherapy, also called aquatic therapy, is part of certain rehabilitation protocols that focus on utilizing the buoyancy of water to allow for better movement patterns. A doctor or technician leads your dog through a series of exercises in water at our specially equipped rehabilitation center.

Aquatic therapy for dogs is a low-impact treatment that can help to improve your pup’s strength, range of motion, and endurance. The buoyancy properties of water minimize weight-bearing stress to the joints, which helps prevent tissue injuries, inflammation, and pain.

What conditions can aquatic therapy help treat?

Aquatic therapy is beneficial for:

  • Post-operative recovery from orthopedic procedures
  • Dogs with neurological conditions
  • Pets suffering from painful osteoarthritis
  • Dogs dealing with pain due to hip dysplasia
  • Metabolic conditions such as Cushing’s and diabetes can result in muscle atrophy
  • Paralyzed dogs
  • Helping overweight pets get the exercise they need to lose weight

Aquatic therapy can also be used as a training tool to help working dogs reach optimal fitness levels.

How does aquatic therapy work?

Aquatic therapy utilizes the buoyancy, resistance, viscosity, and hydrostatic pressure of water to help your dog work painful joints and limbs. By altering the water level your dog can swim weightlessly in the water, providing zero-impact exercise for your pooch. Or by reducing the water level so that your pup’s feet touch the underwater treadmill, the water’s buoyancy can allow your dog to gently ‘run’ on the treadmill without putting excess stress on their painful limbs.

The buoyancy provided by the waterworks reduces the stress placed on your dog’s limbs and joints and allows your pup is able to take part in a fun exercise that can help speed their recovery from injury or just help them to lose weight.

Typically warm water is used to help loosen muscles and speed recovery for injured dogs, whereas colder water can be ideal for working dogs who will have a hard workout while in the water.

Underwater Treadmill

The underwater treadmill allows us to gradually and gently introduce controlled levels of weight-bearing exercises by varying the water level (and as such controlling the level of buoyancy). For example, a dog that is in water up to about their hip level will put about half the amount of weight on their limbs than normal. Treatment using our underwater treadmill is commonly used for dogs with joint issues and arthritis.

The underwater treadmill is encased in a glass or plastic watertight container big enough to accommodate most dogs. A side door is opened to allow your dog to walk in, then the door is shut, and water fills the chamber to the level just above the dog’s legs.

Slowly the treadmill will begin to move and encourage your dog to walk. The water in the tank provides strength training resistance while eliminating the added stress of gravity.

Is aquatic therapy good for all dogs?

Aquatic therapy is not ideal for all dogs. Some injuries do not respond well to this therapy, and dogs suffering from an unstable spine should not take part in aquatic therapy. The doctors as VRIVC will be happy to discuss this with you at your pet’s appointment.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor’s advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.