Hydrotherapy for Dogs
A couple of months ago our dog tore his anterior cruciate ligament or ACL. Did you realize that animals could tear theirs as well? Most commonly this is a human injury, but of the two dogs we have owned we have repaired three ACLs. When talking to the vet I found out that ACL tears are fairly common in dogs too. Veterinary science has come a long way since our old dog tore her ACLs because this time after surgery we were offered hydrotherapy for our dog as part of the recovery process. So I have been doing some research.
According to our vet, hydrotherapy will speed healing as it helps build the muscles and ligament back quicker in a safe environment. During hydrotherapy Ralphie (our dog) is walking on a treadmill partially submerged in warm water. This allows Ralphie to work his leg while only supporting about 40-50% of his body weight. He is a large dog, weighing 85 pounds, so this is a real benefit for him. The past couple of months as he has been limping along on the other three legs he has also been supporting his entire body weight on just three legs, which has been stressing those muscles and ligaments. We don't want another injury from this added stress, and the hydrotherapy really helps prevent this.
Hydrotherapy can also help dogs that have arthritis, orthopedic conditions, muscle problems and more. I talked to a man that had been bringing his dog in for hydrotherapy. She had been hit by a car and broken her hip. He said the hydrotherapy really helped her get around better. Another man I spoke with brought his dog in once a week due to arthritis. Prior to hydrotherapy his dog had been on various arthritis medicines that weren't really working very well. Within a few weeks on hydrotherapy his dog was off all medications and getting around better than ever.
According to the Canine Hydrotherapy Association there are more benefits than just speeding the healing process. Hydrotherapy will relieve pain, swelling and stiffness, strengthens muscles, stop muscles spasms, improve circulation and range of motion, and help cardiovascular fitness.
As for the benefits I have seen in Ralphie, after the initial soreness from working his leg again, he was definitely putting more weight on that leg after the first hydrotherapy session. After the second session, he was putting even more weight on it. He seems perkier all around and has more energy as well. Which I am not sure is a good thing at this point because he is too hyper for his own good. When I do the range of motion exercises he is now able to extend his leg fully, whereas prior to the hydrotherapy he was not.
Hydrotherapy is not cheap, at $30 per session, but I felt the benefits were too great to not continue with it so we have purchased a few more sessions. Ralphie loves the hydrotherapy and it is really making a difference in his healing. If your dog has trouble getting around or has an injury or surgery that he is recovering from, hydrotherapy will probably help. Check with your vet to see if you can get your dog into this program.