Arthritis is a condition involving the chronic degeneration of cartilage and fluid around the joint surfaces resulting in joint inflammation. It can also involve the formation of new bone around the joint surfaces. Arthritis is a slowly progressive disease which starts with almost undetectable discomfort and may progress to the point where the animal is in such pain that is reluctant to walk, get up from a resting position and may even refuse to eat. Arthritis is not confined to older animals – it is not unusual for us to meet young dogs that have arthritis as a result of injury or joint abnormalities.
It can be extremely distressing for the owner to see the animal in such discomfort. Clinical studies have shown that regular but moderate exercise is beneficial, particularly swimming. Over exercise can be as damaging as too little exercise – dogs should not be walked until they are struggling to make it home or when they are reluctant to walk.
Management of the disease can often involve a variety of treatments at the same time to get the best results. It is vitally important to keep weight down as any increased load on joints can accelerate progression of the arthritis and increase pain levels. Your veterinary surgeon can advise on suitable diets and we can weigh your dog regularly to keep an eye on progress.
Why is hydrotherapy good for arthritis & osteoarthritis?
Hydrotherapy is renowned for being a gentle, non-weight bearing form of exercise that can help to reduce pain and swelling. It enables the dog to move freely in the water boosting circulation and reducing stiffness. Dogs that have become stiff and arthritic appear to get a new lease of life as they realise that they can have a bit of fun and exercise without being in so much pain and it tends to rejuvenate them
- Reduces pain – The soothing effect of the warm water encourages more fluid movement of the joints, leading to decreased levels of pain
- Reduced inflammation – Hydrostatic pressure applied by water can assist in reducing swelling or inflammation by forcing body fluid away from affected areas. This is assisted by exercising the limbs to enhance circulation
- Increases range of motion – A decreased range of motion can often be due to pain, swelling or stiffness. The dog will have increased range of movement when it is in the water due to reduced pain and swelling thereby allowing further movement range.
- Increased ROM increases “pump action” for synovial fluid – reducing toxins and increasing nutrients within the joint capsule
- Warmth of the water increases blood supply to surrounding soft tissues – helping to reduce spasm, stiffness and reluctance to move
- Improve quality of life