Hydrotherapy for Dogs
Hydrotherapy offers many ways to significantly improve a dog’s health, support healing and help a dog maintain a healthy weight. Adding hydrotherapy services to your veterinary facility can help you attract more clients and help your clients maintain their dogs’ health so they can live long and happy lives. Continue reading to learn more about how you can implement dog hydrotherapy in your practices.
How is Hydrotherapy used for Veterinary Rehab?
Hydrotherapy is an excellent tool when it is part of a treatment plan. While it cannot completely heal a condition on its own, it can help improve a dog’s stamina, promote cardiovascular output and rebuild muscle mass. It’s also a great way to reduce body tissue swelling, making this type of therapy a natural anti-inflammatory.
Hydrotherapy is water therapy that improves health and allows individuals to exercise with less stress on their joints and body. Water provides resistance and buoyancy that encourages gentle muscle conditioning and strengthening while protecting joints from too much pressure.
In addition to these benefits, hydrotherapy can improve coordination, balance, energy, circulation and blood flow and can help prolong a dog’s life. It can also help working and athletic dogs maintain their health and stay in shape. Since hydrotherapy cannot reduce local pain and inflammation or specifically target individual muscles, it’s best to offer hydrotherapy in combination with other therapies as part of an individualized treatment plan for each dog that can benefit from it.
Hydrotherapy for Canine Rehabilitation
Hydrotherapy can improve a dog’s health in many ways. It can help to ease discomfort, improve health and promote healing. The benefits of hydrotherapy for dogs include treating or helping the following:
- Muscle atrophy
- Recovery and healing after surgery
- Metabolic conditions such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease
- Hip dysplasia
- Degenerative joint disease
- Paralysis or loss of a limb
- Walking abnormalities
- ACL injuries
- Various orthopedic conditions and injuries
What Happens During Canine Hydrotherapy?
During structured hydrotherapy, veterinarians or physical therapists can adjust underwater treadmill speed and water depth to tailor the therapy to a dog’s needs. Dogs have different needs and limitations based on their size, age and specific health conditions, so it’s important to customize hydrotherapy to best meet the health goals of each dog you treat.
Hydrotherapy uses resistance, hydrostatic pressure, viscosity and buoyancy to help dogs move and exercise without added gravity. By removing the pressure of gravity, hydrotherapy provides a form of weightless physical activity.
The underwater treadmill is the most common type of hydrotherapy for dogs, but veterinarians can also offer other types of therapy, such as dog pools and whirlpool therapy. In a hydrotherapy pool for dogs, a veterinarian or therapist can help a dog swim in water with or without a harness as they monitor the dog’s movements. During whirlpool therapy, warm jet streams massage a dog’s injured muscles while they are safely harnessed and monitored in a pool.
When to Offer Canine Hydrotherapy to Dog Owners
Since hydrotherapy has a variety of benefits, it can help dogs with many different conditions and goals. While you should avoid suggesting hydrotherapy as a cure for symptoms on its own, it’s an excellent treatment to suggest as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for a dog. You can offer hydrotherapy for dogs for the following purposes:
Pre-Operative Preparation or Post-Surgery Healing
Offering pre-operative hydrotherapy for dogs can help them maintain muscle strength before surgery. This will help them retain their muscle mass to prevent post-operative muscle atrophy, and it will set them up to experience a much smoother rest and recovery process following surgery. Hydrotherapy is also important after surgery because healing from orthopedic procedures requires more than simple crate rest.
Post-operative hydrotherapy for dogs helps gently and safely strengthen the muscles surrounding weakened joints or bones. It eases the rehabilitation process so dogs can heal with less stress and return to normal activities faster. You can offer post-operative hydrotherapy to pet owners so they can help their dogs heal faster and improve their movement quality.
Hydrotherapy is beneficial after surgery because it also helps with the following:
- Immune system functioning
- Increasing lymph drainage and eliminating toxins from the body
- Increasing circulation
- Strengthening supporting tissues
- Reducing pain perception and inflammation
- Improving sleep and digestion
- Mental stimulation after limited activity
- Rebuilding muscle mass to reverse muscle atrophy
- Increasing balance and coordination
Dogs tend to age slower, live longer and maintain a higher quality of life when they stay fit. It is important to educate pet owners about how much obesity can affect their dog’s health. Encourage pet owners to help their dogs maintain a healthy weight by educating them on the following conditions and complications canine obesity can cause:
- Intervertebral disc disease leading to back problems
- Tracheal collapse and reduced respiratory function
- Heart changes
- Kidney disfunction
In addition to other weight loss tips, you can offer pet owners hydrotherapy services to help their dogs exercise safely. Hydrotherapy is an excellent way to help dogs exercise their entire body and support their mental health at the same time, and it benefits dogs of all ages since it is gentle on joints.
If you treat any sporting dogs at your veterinary facility, you can offer hydrotherapy to pet owners as a way to help their pets stay in shape. Hydrotherapy is a fantastic way to increase endurance, improve stamina and strengthen muscles. It allows dogs to get more physical conditioning exercise than they could otherwise because it places less strain on their muscles and joints than running on dry land would.
Treat Health Conditions
You can also offer hydrotherapy as a treatment option for dogs with metabolic conditions such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease. These diseases can cause muscles to atrophy, but hydrotherapy can help to rebuild or maintain muscle mass in dogs that have these conditions. Educate pet owners so they understand that while hydrotherapy cannot heal these conditions, it can help dogs maintain some of their strength and activity levels.
How to Tell if Hydrotherapy Is the Right Treatment Option
Before offering hydrotherapy to pet owners, ensure it is a safe and beneficial option for their dogs. Consider each dog’s temperament and lifestyle. Ask pet owners if their dogs enjoy swimming and how well they react to baths. If a dog experiences significant stress in water, hydrotherapy may not be the best option for them. Stress can cause a dog’s heart rate and blood pressure to increase, and they might experience back pain or injury if they panic and flail in the water.
You should also consider a dog’s health, age and medical history before offering hydrotherapy as an option. While hydrotherapy is very safe for older dogs because it’s gentle on joints, it may not be a good option for dogs who are in the end stages of their lives and struggle with physical activity.
Avoid offering hydrotherapy to any dogs that have ear conditions. Their conditions could potentially worsen if they have any ear infections or imbalances, so make sure to remind pet owners to communicate with you if they notice their dogs display any signs of ear discomfort.
How to Help Pet Owners Prepare Their Dog for Hydrotherapy
You can help pet owners prepare their dogs for hydrotherapy sessions by providing simple instructions. Remind owners to make sure their dog refrains from eating two hours before and one hour after their hydrotherapy session. Explain to them that this will help prevent their dog from getting sick or experiencing cramps after therapy. You can also remind pet owners to bring a towel to keep their car dry when they take their dogs home from therapy.
You or the physical therapist can also help a canine patient prepare for hydrotherapy by helping them feel relaxed. It’s important for a dog to feel calm and comfortable before a hydrotherapy session because it keeps their heart rate steady and prevents them from panicking and flailing when they enter the water. Before a hydrotherapy session, allow the dog to roam around the room and become comfortable with the person who will provide the therapy.
You can also place a comfortable mattress or dog bed in the room to allow the dog to rest comfortably before their session. Use this time to talk with pet owners about their dog’s condition. If the hydrotherapy is for pain management or muscle conditioning, ask them how their dog seems to feel walking around the house or up and down stairs. Before each session, ask them if they notice their dog struggling at home or if they notice improvements to gauge how therapy is affecting them.
To support a dog during a hydrotherapy session, ask their owner to stand where the dog can see them while they offer praises as encouragement. Treats and toys are also excellent motivators for dogs during treatment sessions.
Tips for Adding Hydrotherapy to Your Veterinary Facility
Hydrotherapy is an excellent way to provide specialized services for your clients. Pet owners will appreciate the opportunity to improve their dog’s health with this gentle and beneficial therapy. Consider the following tips for adding hydrotherapy to your veterinarian clinic:
Choose the Type of Therapies You Will Provide
Before ordering hydrotherapy equipment, decide which type of therapy you would like to provide. You can offer weight loss and conditioning programs for dogs experiencing obesity or for athletic and working dogs that need to stay in shape. You can also offer treatment to help dogs manage pain or post-operative rehabilitation. Once you know which therapies you want to offer to pet owners, you can choose the right equipment.
Make Sure You Have Space for the Appropriate Equipment
Space is also an important factor to consider. Before ordering hydrotherapy equipment, ensure you have adequate floor space to fit the equipment in your facility. Check the dimensions of an underwater treadmill or pool and measure your space to find the right spot in your facility where you can install the machine and provide treatment. This will ensure you can maximize the efficiency of the space where you will offer hydrotherapy.
Hire Knowledgeable Staff
Before offering hydrotherapy services to clients, make sure you have the appropriate staff on your team. Hydrotherapy requires very specific care by a trained professional. Make sure you hire experienced veterinarians or physical therapists who have the training to properly provide hydrotherapy.
Set an Appropriate Price
A hydrotherapy treadmill for dogs is an excellent investment that can attract more clients and allow you to help dogs live long, healthy lives. Over time, you can earn a return on investment by charging fair prices for hydrotherapy sessions. Hydrotherapy session prices can range from $20 to $50 per session or higher. Before you set a price for your hydrotherapy session options, consider the following factors:
- How much you will need to pay your veterinary staff or physical therapists
- The price of your hydrotherapy equipment
- The length of your hydrotherapy sessions
Since hydrotherapy for dogs is somewhat new and unfamiliar to many pet owners, it may be beneficial to put some extra effort into your marketing strategies. Consider hosting an open house so new and existing clients can learn about hydrotherapy, or reach out to a local news station and ask if they would promote your services on their channel.
You can also use social media to post announcements about your hydrotherapy services or video testimonials from clients who have tried your services.
Provide Dog Hydrotherapy for Your Client’s Pets With the HydroWorx K900
Adding water therapy for dogs to your facility is a fantastic way to attract more clients and help more pet owners maintain their dogs’ health. Underwater treadmill therapy for dogs may be the answer pet owners have been searching for to help ease their dog’s pain or discomfort.
The HydroWorx K900 is a hydrotherapy treadmill for dogs that provides dogs with the same beneficial technology that helps humans rehabilitate, exercise and improve health without pressure on the joints. The HydroWorx K900 was designed and developed with input from rehabilitation and veterinary professionals and includes many beneficial features.