Hydrotherapy is the use of water in the treatment of disease. The concept of using water for therapy has been around for hundreds of years, as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans. Swimming allows the muscles to exercise and strengthen while avoiding any potentially damaging concussions. Also due the increased resistance to movement in water the dog will have to work harder, movement through water is 15 to 20 times harder than moving through air.
Properties of water and we utilise them in hydrotherapy:
Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure applied by water on an immersed body and can assist in reducing swelling or swollen joints and oedematous tissue. It stops the tendency of blood and oedema to pool in the lower parts of the body. This is assisted by exercising the limbs to enhance circulation. Hydrostatic pressure can also decrease pain perception which will allow the dog to move more effectively in the water with less pain.
Buoyancy aids in the rehabilitation of weak muscles and reduces the load on weight bearing and painful joints, this helps reduce pain which allows the dog to exercise and move with ease. The dog will have a increased range of motion when it is in the water due to reduction in pain and swelling.
Viscosity can assist in stabilising an unstable joint, so it does the job a bandage would do. Buoyancy and viscosity prevent the dog falling by increasing the time span for the dog to react, this can make the dog more confident and willing to move in the water.
Unlike rivers, canals or reservoirs our pool is kept at a constant 30 degrees. The warmth of the water stimulates a process known as vasodilation, or widening of the blood vessels. The combination of dilated blood vessels and increased work load of the dogs muscles encourages improved circulation which in turn provides vital nutrients to degenerated joints and to all the organ and muscle groups.
Benefits of Hydrotherapy
Swimming tones muscles and improves fitness, because of the resistance caused by being in water this makes movement more difficult. muscle strengthen and bulk is improved by encouraging the limbs to move against the resistance of the water.
Endorphins are the ‘feel good’ factor any mammal experiences after exercising. The phenomenon known as ‘runners high’ is caused by the brain being flooded with these hormones. Endorphins not only make your dog feel happy and energised after a swim, but also act as the bodies natural pain killer which means that any dog suffering from a painful condition such as arthritis will feel much, much better after a hydrotherapy session.
When the body is immersed in water every breath requires more effort, which means the muscles used for breathing have to work much harder. As with any muscle, these muscles will strengthen with exercise and the whole respiratory system will improve.
Because of the increased work load there is a higher demand for nutrients by all the muscle groups being worked during a swim, meaning the heart has to work harder to meet these requirements, as with any muscle the heart will strengthen with exercise.
Water increases sensory perception and stimulates the sensation of joint positioning. It can also decreases stress and calm and soothe the nervous system.
Water can decrease inflammation and increases lymphatic drainage which can improve the immune system.