Thursday, 4 January 2018

Benefits of hydrotherapy

As well as offering education, physical therapy and massage, exercise advice and rehabilitation, we also have lots of useful suggestions for carers. This makes for an all-round Complementary Therapy for their dogs. I know some people tend to put quotation marks around Complementary Therapy or do those finger things in the air when talking about it as though it is whichcraft or dodgy. I’ve never understood why, as it is what is says – complementary therapy to that already being received. Most often, this is traditional pharmaceutical treatment prescribed by the vet. That should always be the first port of call. Anything else can add to or complement that. 

The Cancer Research UK site ( has a clear definition worth copying in full : “A complementary therapy means you can use it alongside your conventional medical treatment. It may help you to feel better and cope better with your cancer and treatment. An alternative therapy is generally used instead of conventional medical treatment. All conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, have to go through rigorous testing by law in order to prove that they work. Most alternative therapies have not been through such testing and there is no scientific evidence that they work. Some types of alternative therapy may not be completely safe and could cause harmful side effects.” 

Over the years of managing our dog’s various issues, and most recently Sarah’s arthritis, we’ve tried several complementary therapies allowing us to offer experience and advice. She’s had acupuncture from vet Guy at Coastway. Sam has had Cartophen injections. Sarah has had laser therapy. They have both had, and still do have, homeopathy from Tim Couzens of the HVMC and energy healing from Louise Wilson of Touch of Reiki. 

One that adds perfectly to their massage and physical therapy, and one used by many of the dogs I work with, is hydrotherapy. This addition made a considerable difference to our Sarah’s movement as well as to her fitness. At first, she could only manage once or twice round the pool at Coastway Vets and was totally exhausted when she came home. But that gradually built such that the therapist was able to do several laps non-stop with her. 

Unfortunately, she had a bit of a crisis 18 months ago and her back legs failed. After medication and other interventions, we started on twice weekly hydrotherapy at House of Hugo with Mia. 

This is a bigger pool which she seemed to prefer. We’re now down to weekly sessions and while she may not get into the pool with a big smile, she does it. She knows the way out. She knows where the exit ramp is. But she is happy to swim up and down with Mia helping and coaxing. She even allows Mia to ‘float’ her back to the start – which I think is probably her favourite part of the session as she lies in her arms like a Princess. 

I thought that the massage and exercise she was getting was enough. So, when we had to cancel a couple of sessions over Christmas, I assumed she’d be able to get straight back into the swim. But no. She was far more tired out on that first visit back after 3 weeks. Puffing and panting within 10 minutes. She needed a lot more rest and float time. 

It reinforced that if you find something that works, keep at it. Don’t assume you can drop this or that therapy – whether complementary or traditional – and your dog will be fine. It is rather like going back to the gym after a 2 week break. The cardiovascular exercise she was getting from her regular walks with us, was clearly not quite enough. Her body had got used to this weekly shot of non-weightbearing exercise. I’m confident that by the end of the month she’ll be back to her usual 30 minute hydrotherapy. Still not loving it, but doing it as she knows it’ll do her good. 

If you think it would help your dog, see if you have a local hydrotherapy pool which you could go to. It could be the thing that really helps – the perfect complement.

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