Swimming is one of the best exercises for anyone, humans and animals alike, as the water bears the weight of the body so there is no pressure on the joints which also enables limbs which have suffered from muscle wastage to move freely again, and can also help to rebuild some of the muscle which has wasted away. As the limbs are moving like they would if the dog was walking briskly or running, this encourages the heart to work a bit more than usual and therefore is cardiovascular exercise, which also aids circulation of the blood to the affected limbs and the body in general.
It may sound as though hydrotherapy is just about swimming but there’s more to it than that – if there wasn’t, anyone could take their dog for a swim and call themselves a Hydrotherapist!! The dog needs to be closely monitored for signs of distress or tiredness and as soon as this is noticed, the session will stop.
Dogs swim wearing a flotation aid for buoyancy and are hooked up to the hoist, which helps to keep them swimming on the spot. They enter and exit the pool via a ramp or, if they are unable to negotiate the ramp, we have a specially-made harness which we attach to the hoist and gently lift them into and out of the water, so we can help any dog in any condition to get in! Initially they may only swim for 3 minutes and this is why the first swim is always a free trial, but this will gradually be increased until they can manage 15 minutes non-stop – it may not sound like a lot but they are usually quite tired at the end of it!
They are then rinsed off and dried as thoroughly as possible, either with towels or a dryer as well if it doesn’t scare them.