Hydrotherapy, or aquatic therapy, is physical therapy and exercise in warm water including walking in the underwater treadmill, swimming, and pool exercises. By utilizing our heated underwater treadmill we are able to provide an extended level of care for our patients whether for exercise with minimal weight bearing on painful and arthritic joints, endurance conditioning for athletes, post-operative muscle strengthening and gait retraining, and even weight loss.
Benefits of Warm Water:
- Increases blood flow to muscles.
- Increases joint flexibility and thus range of motion.
- Decreases pain while encouraging circulation.
In the underwater treadmill, we can adjust the water level for changes in buoyancy and therefore the amount of weight bearing on different joints. The higher the water level, the less weight the body is bearing on the joints when walking. This reduces pain on joints while enhancing their range of motion. Animals that will not bear much weight on a limb or walk very stiff with less flexion and extension can gait more normally and use the joint in the intended range of motion with hydrotherapy. With the body surrounded by water, animals have increased confidence while standing and balancing to try to walk again and use limbs after injury and surgery. The water pressure also helps to reduce swelling in limbs, and the water resistance and surface tension are important for muscle strengthening.
- Allows gait retraining with proper mechanics (using assistance if needed).
- Encourages weight bearing on affected limbs.
- Increases overall range of motion by increasing flexion (less than swimming) while increasing extension (more than swimming).
- More controlled environment than swimming as referred to body mechanics
Many dogs are so passionate about swimming and playing fetch in water that they will go beyond their limits increasing the risk for injury and overexertion. This is a concern for pets that are out of shape, overweight, injured, or have arthritis. Instead of having your pet swim in a river or lake, we recommend a training program managed by our rehabilitation doctor to achieve your goals and reduce the risk for injury.Interested in learning more about this topic? Read an article from our Rehabilitation Veterinarian about Hydrotherapy.