Not Just a Swim
in the Pool!
Hydrotherapy - a
therapeutic option for dogs
Kloof Physiotherapy – operating for the past 10 years as a
referral practice for vets in KZN - offers a unique
opportunity to animal owners who are looking for ways to
assist their pets in the recovery stage after surgery or
injury. Hydrotherapy by a qualified practitioner speeds up
the post-surgical rehabilitation and recovery process and
brings relief from pain.
Research has shown that animals benefit in the same way as
humans from physiotherapy and other related rehabilitation
treatments that accelerate the healing process, relieve
pain, restore function and generally improve health.
Hydrotherapy is an evidence-based treatment and is used
world-wide as a component of animal rehabilitation
programmes. The water provides a wonderfully therapeutic
medium to promote and assist recovery after injury or
surgery, giving relief from arthritic pain and can be used
to assist in weight loss and general conditioning.
Due to specific
properties of water such as density, buoyancy, hydrostatic
pressure, surface tension, relative density and viscosity,
exercises performed in water and their effect on the body
differs greatly from exercises performed on land. It is
because of these differences that hydrotherapy is such a
useful medium to assist in rehabilitation.
An animal in pain will be able to relax in the heated water
environment. This allows the physiotherapist to assess joint
range, to palpate soft tissue and to perform specific
passive movements and stretches to an affected limb. In the
early stages of recovery, buoyancy enables the animal to use
the limb in a reduced weight bearing environment and
encourages early function which would otherwise be difficult
to perform on land. Hydrostatic pressure reduces pooling of
blood in the body extremities which are deeper in the water
and assists in the reduction of oedema. In later stages of
recovery the viscosity of the water is utilized in
Kloof Physiotherapy has a heated pool with a gradually
inclined entrance ramp designed for easy access for injured,
post operative or elderly canine patients. Practice owner,
Julia Hewitson - a registered physiotherapist with extensive
clinical experience in the treatment of people and animals -
individually assesses each patient for suitability to
hydrotherapy. For example, a history of underlying cardiac
or respiratory conditions depending on their severity could
be contraindicated. Julia goes into the pool with the
patient to provide the treatment and exercises and this also
enables her to monitor for any undue stress mentally or
physically during the session.
Any vets who do not currently refer patients for
physiotherapy are welcome to contact Julia to find out more
details of the various treatment options offered either at
the practice, vet premises or home visits.
rehabilitation – I used Bobath, Rood, Proprioceptive
Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) as examples of treatment
methodologies and looked at the sensory integration,
proprioception and postural rehabilitation techniques.
This section was supported by slides and videos
demonstrating different treatment techniques.
I also included the treatment of respiratory and cardiac
conditions for consideration for veterinary practioners to
refer animals for physiotherapy. This category of conditions
commonly treated in the human field by physiotherapists is
not well documented or established as a treatment option in
the field of veterinary medicine yet.
In concluding, I discussed general home management and
physiotherapy advice for owners with elderly pets –
including support before and after euthanasia of a pet - and
the various orthotics, ramps and mobility aids that are
available and can be assessed for and recommended by a