Memorial Day signals the start of summer for us all and best of all, it’s the time of year when our public outdoor pools open for the season. That got us thinking about all the benefits that swimming gives for humans and dogs alike.
While there’s no better way to cool off your pup on a hot summer day than a dip in a swimming pool there’s so much more to it. Swimming can keep your dog in shape, help him lose weight, recover from surgery or injury and ease some of the aches and pains that senior dogs can suffer from.
In fact one of the fastest growing trends in the field of veterinary medicine is using aquatic therapy or hydrotherapy to treat dogs for a range of ailments from dog obesity to canine injury rehabilitation.
Your first reaction to hydrotherapy for dogs might be to scoff and declare that this is ridiculous. What will they come up with next? Dog Yoga?
Scoffing aside, hydrotherapy is a great way to exercise your dog that is very easy on his bones and joints. It’s exercise that can take place all year round, and can start when your dog is at least one year old. This is especially helpful during the winter months when the pavements are potentially hazardous for dogs as they are salted.
Another reason for the growth in water therapy for dogs is helping them recover from surgery or other injuries and conditions.
The first aquatic center in the country catering exclusively to dogs opened in Los Angeles in 1985. While this center subsequently closed, hydrotherapy for dogs has grown massively in popularity. Aquatic centers for dogs are opening in cities all over the country as more and more dog owners see their pups as their children and seek out the best possible treatments.
Since the first underwater dog treadmill was developed in 1997, water therapy has been used to great effect to help dogs with arthritis exercise their joints. Dogs, like humans need to keep moving to maintain muscle mass and swimming is a great way for dogs struggling with mobility issues to exercise with minimal discomfort.
In a dog population that is 56% obese, swimming has also been shown to help dogs lose weight very effectively.
Hydrotherapy for dogs is not without its risks though. Some dogs are prone to getting ear infections and certain types of skin conditions can become inflamed or agitated. The most important thing to remember is that, just like humans, swimming tires them out more quickly than any other type of exercise. So care needs to be taken that dogs are not doing too much exercise in a session and that they never left unattended in a pool.
Before embarking on hydrotherapy as the perfect solution for your pup’s needs, talk to your veterinarian to understand if this is the best approach for you. If your dog is recovering from surgery or an injury don’t use hydrotherapy as a treatment without first clearing it with your veterinarian.
Finally it’s important to remember that swimming doesn’t come naturally to all dogs. In fact most dogs need to be taught how to swim, and some dog breeds, may never be able to learn. Talk to your veterinarian before you take your dog swimming or on the water for the first time to figure out the best and safest approach.