Hydrotherapy – buying quality of life for your pet

A Dog in a paddling pool

Jane Davidson RVN veterinary-nurses, Veterinary Surgeon

I don’t usually like LinkedIn I see it as a necessary evil in today’s online world but it does occasionally throw up some interesting articles. The most recent to catch my eye has been the usually awful “trends in the pet industry”. These usually consist of never ending plugs for pet products that you know aren’t that great for our pets but are popular with owners.**Sigh**

I braced myself to read about the toys that will become the foreign bodies of 2018 and was pleasantly surprised. A trend that is becoming obvious to product designers and marketing people is:

We want the best quality of life for our pet for as long as possible

This isn’t news to me – I’m a lifelong advocate of the older pets, but it was great to see it in the news that non-vet nurses will read. Having a quick scan through more global pet industry papers there were indeed more products for the older pet, for comfort, mobility, stress, anxiety. You name it and good quality products were there.

But it isn’t always a product that’s needed to make your pet's quality of life better, there are services for that too. Some of them you don’t even need to go to a vet for!

I’ve taken both my dogs for hydrotherapy now. Both older dogs, both with dodgy joints. The strength they have gained from the sessions has been amazing. With Wilson, I’m sure we got at least an extra fabulous year with him due to the hydrotherapy, and it’s a skill that vet nurses can carry out.


Photo credit: Jane Davidson – Wilson in his buggy




 When Hollie started limping earlier this year I wasted no time in getting her to the vets, then to the    hydrotherapist.










Benefits of Hydrotherapy

The benefits are like those we get when exercising in a controlled and supported manner. Pets can safely strengthen muscles and improve mobility. This can be used post operatively but also for those with chronic conditions. Hollie has the aged joints of a Peke and has been able to progress from using the water to support her to making it a little bit harder for her. She has improved in the time she can walk for and the speed she can walk at. Her limp has gone and she is not needing any pain killers. All of which is good news. So far, she’s been going for 7 months and for a 10-year-old mainly Peke dog that’s quite impressive.

As she is a short-nosed breed swimming is not advised as she would have her neck at an odd angle to help her breathe, so we use an under-water treadmill – rather like the ones for racehorses but smaller!

Treadmill vs swimming pool

Many hydrotherapists have access to both a swimming pool and a treadmill. Hollie has benefitted from the treadmill because of her confirmation but also because I suspect she wouldn’t swim if left to her own devices, here is a picture of her “enjoying” her paddling pool this summer:

For larger dogs swimming pools are great and allow space for people to get in an interact, observe the swimming gait and play games to promote movement in the water.

Owners experience with Hydrotherapy

I have never been involved with hydrotherapy at work so I go along as a client. I had some worries initially about Hollie as she has some issue with noise. With the treadmill, the dog usually stands on the treadmill and the water is allowed in slowly. However, I knew this was a bit noisy so the first time we put the water in first and the lowered Hollie in. Luckily the hydrotherapist doesn’t mind getting her feet wet!

Hollie has coped well and has improved with every visit. As an owner, I’ve been really impressed with the impact on my pets. I could buy more products or medication to help improve Hollie’s quality of life. As a vet nurse, I’m super proud it’s an RVN that carries out my dogs’ treatment. It’s a win/win situation.



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