Ever gone for a long walk or run with your dog, and wondered what your canine friend might be feeling after a simple activity like this? As human beings, we feel the strong friction and resistance to gravity when our feet hit the ground and the strain our muscles feel post workout. But we are better equipped to deal with the jerks and bumps on the road, and know when to stop.
However, for a dog, a long activity like this can often be excruciating on the joints. They can’t communicate with us, and let us in on how they are feeling. In order to relieve this strain, Hydrotherapy might be the next best solution.
What is hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy is a form of treatment which utilises water to provide therapeutic effects. Water is a great element, which provides natural resistance, allowing your pet to perform exercises according to their age, comfort level, and maximum potential.
Apart from helping fight against arthritis, obesity, and spinal cord injury, it aims to relieve pain in its patients, as well as reduce muscle spasms, and improve the joint mobility of your pet. The buoyancy of water and decreased gravitational force in the pool can help the animals perform exercises which they wouldn’t easily be able to do on land.
Hydrotherapy can range from simple floating, and paddling in water to more intense exercises, depending on the condition which the pet faces.
Dr. Pawan Kumar, a trained veterinary surgeon who has been in the field for over 17 years, and has witnessed the success of Hydrotherapy in his patients, says, “Swimming can be more beneficial to arthritic dogs than running, due to the fact that water does not provide a concussion effect.”
The joints of an animal move easily in water, and the buoyancy effect of the water aids in relieving pressure on the joints, ligaments, and tendons, post orthopedic and spinal surgery, and helps obese dogs lose weight.
“Hydrotherapy is extremely beneficial for dogs who face extreme respiratory stress such as ‘Boxers, Pugs, and Bulldogs’ who by nature, genetically have short snouts,” he adds. “It relieves respiratory stress on animals, helps them to improve their breathing, and makes them tougher too.”
Training is the key
Dogs are natural born swimmers, and this is not just a myth. However, when it comes to the practice of Hydrotherapy, assistance is most definitely required.
A dog owner needs to go to a veterinary centre to learn about the different breeds of dogs, how the pet patient might react when placed in water and also to pick up some helpful tips to make their dog’s session in the pool both relaxing and enjoyable.
A body harness is placed on the animal, supporting its neck and back, before it enters the pool. A trained veterinary professional will then stand by the side of the pool, and assist the animal at all times. Once the dog is familiar with the pool after 2-3 sessions, the owner can then give the dog a floater to swim with as a next step. The floater is then removed, and gradually the dog is trained to swim laps.
A session can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. If the dog at any point feels stressed, or fatigued, they can be pulled out of the pool immediately. The most crucial point is that the pet owner needs to be present and extremely watchful at all times.
Dr. Kumar says, “A pet owner might see that their dog is sticking his or her tongue out when they swim, and perceives that the dog might be excited or happy. However, most times, this isn’t the case, and indicates that the dog might be fatigued”
Thus, learning about your dog’s needs during the training session is crucial. Re-training only needs to be done, if the dog has been out of the pool for too long.
Zero stress, happy hormones
Overall, Hydrotherapy is a stress-free experience. Think about the times you have gone for a swim, and felt rejuvenated, with a new sense of self. Animals feel the same too. The therapy also improves the emotional well-being of the animal as water, in itself, is a natural relief provider.
Happy hormones are released in the dog, while swimming, which in turn, relieves anxiety and stress. It is a time of absolute fun and frolic for your pet. It not only helps to relax the dog, but also provides a great bonding experience with the owner.
Myriads of benefits
Depressed dogs benefit greatly from hydrotherapy, as attention from their owners is something they crave for. Having the owner throw toys to them, play with them and spend time with them, uplifts their mood. Their eating and sleeping patterns also improve gradually.
Hydrotherapy is extremely beneficial in some cases of post-surgery, as it helps to heal any surgical cuts that might have occurred during the procedure. It allows tendons and ligaments to repair in its natural course. The procedure also helps dogs who are struggling with tendinitis, arthritis, osteoarthritis, and improves the proprioception reflex in dogs.
After an orthopedic or spinal surgery, recovery time can take as long as three months for the animal to get back in to shape. With hydrotherapy, healing can take place in six weeks, and can save a lot of time and cost for the owner. Soon your pet will become happy, healthy and fit.
Cost and benefits
The cost of a simple Hydrotherapy procedure varies from centre to centre, as maintenance and cleaning of the pool needs to be done frequently. Pets often tend to shed a lot of hair, throw up, or release bodily fluids from time to time. The price ranges anywhere from Rs 500 upwards for small breeds and Rs 700- Rs 1,500 per session for large, and extra-large breeds.
However, the therapy can be extremely cost effective depending on the nature of disease, and the frequency of hydrotherapy that an animal might require.
As of now Hydrotherapy centres are available in Pawsh (Pune), Critterrati, (Gurgaon), Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Care Clinic (Bangalore), PetZone Mahalaxmi Veterinary Clinic (Mumbai), Heart2Heart Veterinary Hospital (Chennai), and Hotel for Dogs (Chennai.)
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