The word hydrotherapy originates from the Greek words for water and healing.
To enable healing to happen however, certain conditions need to be correct.
A main difference between swimming and hydrotherapy is that hydrotherapy is planned, controlled and reviewed.
The use of water allows the dog to engage in non weight bearing exercise in the pool. By using the water to support the dog, the exercise is low impact on the damaged joints.
A very important part of the therapy is the temperature and cleanliness of the water. The pool is heated to a comfortable 30 degrees Celsius. By using warm water it allows the muscles to relax and more oxygen is released into the blood.
Every living plant and animal needs water to survive which makes it a very powerful substance on this Earth. I believe hydrotherapy uses water to work with the natural body to provide strength, shape and stamina for the dog
Hydrotherapy uses the 6 Key Properties of Water.
Objects float because the upward force of buoyancy is equal to the downward force of gravity. Buoyancy therefore can help rehabilitation by reducing the effects of gravity.
In water, buoyancy decreases the amount of shock which travels through the body via the bones, joints and ligaments when compared to exercise on land. Having no impact means no shock through the dog’s body on joints that may be damaged or painful.
A greater range of movement of the dog’s limbs is easier to achieve due to less pain when not bearing the weight of their body.
For a dog who has an injury, exercise to increase lost muscle can start earlier using exercises that are non-weight bearing.
For dogs who are obese, buoyancy enables them to exercise with their weight supported.
Resistance is all around us, although when walking through air we don’t notice it. When entering water this however changes. The molecules in water are more tightly packed together than in air, so in water the dog needs to push the molecules away. Resistance makes the dog’s muscles work harder and helps to build up muscle and cardiovascular strength.
Turbulence is the disruption of the natural flow of water. It can be used to massage and stimulate the skin, aiding circulation. It can be used to increase resistance and to work on balance which helps increase core stability. Turbulence can be created by the dog, therapist or by jets.
Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure that is exerted by a fluid at a given point within the fluid, due to the force of gravity. It can help reduce swelling in joints and may decrease pain receptors in the skin. Water pressure can also affect the lungs and make breathing harder which is why all dogs are closely monitored and their programme very slowly increased.
The viscosity of a liquid is significantly greater than air because the molecules in a liquid are more tightly packed together. This can help to improve cardiovascular fitness, strengthen muscles and enhance sensory awareness.
Water molecules adhere to each other. The cohesive force is greater at the surface. Therefore a smaller dog or one that draws their limbs close to the surface or out of the water has to work harder.
What does all this mean?
It is important for the therapist to understand the key properties of water and how they can help each patient. With this knowledge an individual programme can be devised to maximise the benefits of each session.