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Hydrotherapy Overview

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is the treatment of conditions using water and is becoming increasingly popular within veterinary medicine. The most common forms you will find in a practice are the underwater treadmill (UWTM) and the hydrotherapy pool. These are both useful for a variety of conditions and can aid dogs suffering with issues such as osteoarthritis, joint dysplasia’s and cruciate ligament ruptures. They are also used commonly for fitness and utilised in weight loss programmes due to the weightless element reducing the load on joints.

How does it work?

The properties of water make it such an effective tool to use within physiotherapy:

· Buoyancy provides gravity-eliminated support to allow for greater mobility without excess joint strain from the weight of the animal.

· Viscosity provides additional resistance to movement in water which increases muscle strength and fitness.

· Surface tension provides greatest resistance at the surface, thus shallower water increases work done by the animal to make it harder but also increases joint strain. This means water height can have a big influence, so it is always best to consult a professional for hydrotherapy.

· Hydrostatic pressure compresses tissues, promoting lymphatic and blood return to decrease swelling and improve circulation. It also stimulates sensory nerves and joint mechanoreceptors, which may decrease pain perception.

· Thermal effects of hydrotherapy lowers the heart rate and enhances the body’s temperature regulation to increase endurance, aerobic capacity and energy expenditure. Warm water also increases circulation for increased oxygen delivery and toxin elimination.

Where can I go for hydrotherapy?

There are many centres all around the UK offering hydrotherapy for animals, especially for horses, dogs and cats. It can even be performed at home for some smaller pets, although consulting a qualifies hydrotherapist or physiotherapist is highly recommended first.

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