Vet Buzz from Erin Troy, DVM, CCRP,
Muller Veterinary Hospital
, Walnut Creek, CA
Water is a great medium in which to exercise. It is also a very successful way to help dogs that are in need of rehabilitation, conditioning or weight loss. Aqua therapy is effective at increasing strength, improving the comfortable range of motion of joints, and enhancing muscular and cardiovascular endurance. It also helps to minimize overall pain and discomfort in acute and chronically challenged patients.
Buoyancy is a basic property of water and it creates a perceived decrease in body weight. This allows dogs to exercise in an environment where they do not have to be fully weight bearing on sore joints or muscles. This facilitates more comfortable movement and exercise is more successful.
Resistance to motion is greater in water than it is on land so movements in water help to increase muscle mass, strength and endurance more quickly. Sensory awareness is also enhanced by aqua therapy and, in addition, water greatly limits most abnormal or dangerous joint movements.
Exercising in warm water helps increase circulation to the muscles, increase joint flexibility and decrease joint pain.
There are many patients who can benefit from the right form of aqua therapy including post-operative orthopedic and neurological patients and patients with trauma or chronic debilitating diseases. Aqua therapy can also help dogs in need of weight loss and can help to increase the overall condition of a competition dog.
Forms of aqua therapy include the use of pools, lakes, hot tubs and an underwater treadmill. Each of these poses separate challenges with safety and effectiveness. To determine which method is best for your dog you first must determine what the goals of therapy are. This can be accomplished by consulting with a veterinarian trained in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
There are few contraindications of aqua therapy and these include open wounds and a fragile cardiovascular status.
Many dogs love the water and used in the right way under trained supervision it can be therapeutic as well as fun.