All About Hydrotherapy Treatment for Animals
What is Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy is a physiotherapy programme that utilises the properties of water for the promotion of health or the treatment of various diseases. Dating back to ancient cultures, hydrotherapy has been used to treat humans for many years and is reported to have physiological and therapeutic effects.
The Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Animals
Hydrotherapy can be of great benefit to animals too. The stabilising and buoyant properties of water allow an animal to exercise in a partial or non-weight bearing environment, delivering increased circulation to muscles, increased joint flexibility, and reduced joint pain. Cats, dogs, and even horses benefit from this form of therapeutic exercise, typically carried out in a warm water pool or an underwater treadmill. Treatment in a pool is referred to as immersion swimming, in which case the animal swims freely or with the assistance of a hydrotherapist and the underwater treadmill is essentially resistance walking on a moving belt submerged in the water.
Conditions that Benefit from Hydrotherapy
Water resistance is useful for muscle strengthening and cardiovascular training whilst water pressure is known to reduce swelling. Muscle wastage begins in animals within just three days of any immobilisation and so hydrotherapy is a great way to prevent further weakness or injury through gentle exercise.
Progress can be made in just a handful of short sessions. Not only does the physical fitness of the animal improve dramatically; so does their mental wellbeing. Unable to exercise pain-free, animals can often fall into depression, but once the underlying cause improves, their mood shifts accordingly.
There are a huge number of conditions that benefit from hydrotherapy and these can be categorised as follows:
- Soft tissue injury
Vets will frequently refer an animal for hydrotherapy as a matter of routine following a surgery or to aid with a specific condition, and they will advise on an appropriate treatment plan.
Hydrotherapy for Arthritis
The temperature of water can provide relief to animals suffering from painful arthritis. Being in warm water increases circulation and hydration levels, causing blood and oxygen to flow to the affected areas. This can reduce pain and stiffness, while simultaneously flushing fluid and toxins away.
Hydrotherapy is not exclusively for rehabilitation! Lots of animals simply love to be in the water and it is a great form of exercise for them too. If you think your animal could benefit from this kind of treatment, reach out to a local hydrotherapy centre and they will contact your vet for permission for the treatment.
A typical session of hydrotherapy will last between 30-60 minutes and the frequency at which these sessions are required will vary depending on your animal’s abilities and level of fitness.