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Hydro-Therapy and Rehabilitation for Pets

dog-hydro-therapyIf your dog is facing possible surgery, see what today's pet expert has to say about the advanced rehabilitation methods available these days using an underwater treadmill!


Hydro-Therapy for Your Dog

Hydro-therapy or water therapy, is a well accepted form of rehabilitation in human medicine. Patients who are suffering from post-surgical pain, injury rehabilitation, neurologic or muscle or arthritic diseases, all benefit from water rehabilitation therapy. It is even used in weight-loss programs.

Animals, of course suffer all of the same maladies, so it makes sense that they too should benefit from the use of hydro-therapy.

Hydro-therapy can take the forms of warm water soaks, whirlpools, swimming pools, and underwater treadmills. One of the most important pieces of equipment in hydrotherapy rehabilitation, is the underwater treadmill because of its multi-purpose functionality. After surgery or injury or with neurologic or arthritic problems, the patient often has to deal with the lack of balance and/or strength. Re-habbing joints, muscles, ligaments etc, for many of the above requires walking and balancing exercises. The use of water allows the patients to balance easier, because of the bouyancy.

As the water depth in the treadmill is raised, the water takes more and more of the patients' weight and provides the patient with balance as he learns to walk and take small amounts of weight on his limbs again. As the sessions continue and the animal improves, we decrease the level of the water used, thus allowing the patient to bear more and more weight on the limb and get back to 100% weight bearing and balance gradually as he recovers.

It is well documented in human medicine that immobilization of the limb resulting from surgery, injury, neurologic or arthritic problems, results in atrophy of the muscle and loss of strength, especially in those muscle groups necessary to maintain an upright posture during weight bearing. (largely the extensor muscles). In dogs, progressive atrophy of the quadriceps and hamstrings, (hind leg muscles), has been reported to continue for at least five weeks in dogs undergoing unilateral cruciate ligament surgery. (one of the most common knee surgerys done in dogs). Passive range of motion exercises will not prevent muscle atrophy, nor will it increase strength or endurance in muscles. Moreover, muscle atrophy is better attenuated by high intensity resistance activity than by simple weight support. By putting a patient in water, and making them move, the resistance to muscle activity is of higher intensity. However weight bearing is greatly reduced, thus minimizing damage to the repairing limb or joint. You have all experienced trying to walk in a swimming pool. The resistance to you walking is much greater than if you were walking on dry land, and the bouyancy of the water takes the weight off your joints.

– Dr Mark Newkirk, Newkirk Family Veterinarians


About the Author: Dr Mark Newkirk is CEO, owner and operator of Newkirk Family Veterinarians. Serving pets for 3 decades!

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