There has been plenty of rave surrounding Hydrotherapy as the alternative treatment for canines with physical ailments. But how much do we really know about Hydrotherapy? We speak with Melanie Lee, Communications Officer at SPCA and ex-hydro-therapist to straighten misconceptions and iron out the facts surrounding the treatment.
1. We have heard of Hydrotherapy and know that it is a form of water therapy for dogs. What are the top common misconceptions surrounding Hydrotherapy?
Common misconceptions include the following:
That all dogs are natural swimmers. Some breeds (E.g.: Labradors, Retrievers, Spaniels and Newfoundlands) are bred to be natural swimmers but each dog is an individual with different personality and characteristics.As such,it is essential that the introduction to hydrotherapy be a positive experience, taking into account the dog’s character and personality.
Dogs that are muscular (E.g.: Staffordshire Bull Terriers) tend not to float as well as other breeds and have to work harder to stay afloat.
Bracycephalic breeds (E.g.: Boxers, Pugs, Old English Bulldogs) may struggle to breathe when they are working hard in the water. These breeds need particular care when they undergo hydrotherapy.
All hydrotherapies are the same. It isn’t. There are two types of Hydrotherapy, namely underwater treadmill and hydrotherapy pool. A hydrotherapy pool allows an animal to exercise in a non-weight bearing environment, which relieves pressure on joints thereby reducing pain and encouraging movement.
With an underwater treadmill, the water level is adjusted to precisely control the amount of weight bearing. The speed of the underwater treadmill can also be adjusted, to achieve the best possible range of movement of the limbs. Another advantage of the underwater treadmill is that the dog can be viewed from all angles and this is really very useful for assessing the animal’s gait and in making adjustments to get better quality movement
2.What are the main benefits of hydrotherapy?
For some dogs, just floating gently in the water can relieve pain and inflammation. For others, more vigorous exercise is used to increase the use of limbs, increase muscle bulk and tone, as well as to strengthen support for joints, especially after surgery or injury. Hydrotherapy can also increase cardiovascular fitness and help with weight loss.
3.Can you tell us a little more about how this natural therapy works?
t is difficult to move quickly within water because of its viscosity property. This means that the dog has to work hard to move forward when swimming and in turn, this helps to increase muscle strength and bulk. Within water, animals are also subjected to hydrostatic pressure, which has the effect of a gentle pressure on limbs. This can help to reduce swelling and pain especially in the lower limbs, and is beneficial for dogs with elbow, stifle, carpal and tarsal injuries or arthritis.
4. Can bringing my dog to the beach or the swimming pool for regular swims be considered Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy is conducted in a purpose built, and suitably heated hydrotherapy pool or underwater treadmill. The optimal temperature helps to expand the blood vessels to allow better blood circulation and increases blood flow throughout the body. This in turns, relieves pain, reduces inflammation and swelling as well as relaxes stiff joints.
Swimming at the beach where the temperature is not controlled and is colder, can cause blood vessels to constrict. Thus, resulting in a decrease in blood flow. The other point to note is the high salt content in seawater. If an animal intakes too much of it, it may feel sick thereafter.
5. How do I know if my dog requires Hydrotherapy?
Common problems that are treated with hydrotherapy include:
- • Arthritis
- • Hip dysplasia/li>
- • Cruciate ligament rupture
- • Patella luxation
- • Elbow dysplasia
- • Degenerative myelopathy
- • Intervertebral disc rupture slipped disc)
- • Spondylosis
- • Mobility problems related to age or obesity
- • Young active dogs on restricted exercise
6. What should I look out for when engaging a Hydrotherapist?
Registered canine hydro-therapists will never swim an animal without a vet’s permission. This protects you, your animal and other animals visiting the hydrotherapy facility and ensures that the treatment plan is appropriate for your animal. Expect to be asked for a lot of information about your animal, particularly on your first visit.
By choosing to engage the services of a registered canine hydro-therapist, you can be assured that the hydro-therapist abides by a code of practice and ethics by their professional association. Some of the training requirements of a hydro-therapist include completing courses on subjects such as first aid for animals, pool water management and canine anatomy. An experienced hydro-therapist must also have good observation and communication skills
7. Tell us a little about your scope of work now with SPCA. How does your past experience as a Hydrotherapist help you with your work today?
I’m now the Communications Officer at SPCA. I work on content creation for SPCA’s social media channels, newsletters, magazines, etc with the aim of increasing awareness about SPCA, animal welfare, raising funds and supporting cause marketing partnerships. Part of what I do is to also track SPCA’s media coverage and seek opportunities with reporters.
Hydrotherapy has enabled me to be more observant and to pay attention to detail, especially to non-verbal such as body language, range of movement and gait.
When I speak with my colleagues and when certain terminologies are used, I am able to comprehend what is being conveyed. For example, when they speak about an animal’s gait, I understand that they are talking with reference to the way the animal walks.