How Hydrotherapy Relieves Three Common Ailments in Dogs

Like humans, dogs can benefit from hydrotherapy.  As they age, they are at risk for common health problems that come with the aging process. Their symptoms are a little different, and we have to be alert when their behavior and actions are different from the norm.  Below are three health problems dogs can obtain, and how hydrotherapy can relieve these ailments. Hip Dysplasia Most common in breeds like, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Labradors, and other large breeds, hip dysplasia is a disease in which the ball and socket joint of the hip is malformed. It can cause rubbing and grinding of the joint, as opposed to a smoother movement.  This disease often begins in young life, as early as four months.  It can develop later in life, as a result of osteoarthritis. The most common causes of hip dysplasia are genetics, rapid weight gain, nutrition deficiencies, and pelvic muscle mass. As mentioned above, larger breeds are at higher risk, but can occur in smaller breeds, too.  To prevent hip dysplasia, dogs should maintain muscle strength as it helps stabilize the joints.  Proper diet and exercise also helps. The common symptoms for hip dysplasia are;
  • Decreased activity
  • Difficulty to rise to standing position
  • Reluctant to run, jump, or climb stairs
  • Swaying gait, aka “bunny hop”
  • Narrow stance in hind legs
  • Decreased range in motion in hips
  • Muscle loss in thighs
  • Enlarged shoulder muscles due to weight shift (dog tries to avoid weight bearing on hind legs)
  In general, hydrotherapy is an age old natural remedy used to cure or ease common health issues, simply by immersing one’s body in water.  Hydrotherapy occurs in forms of both cold water and warm water, depending on the ailment.  Warm water therapy is the most common form, due to use of these three common components: heat, buoyancy, and massage.  Heat relaxes the muscles throughout the body.  Buoyancy reduces the body’s weight in water by 90 percent, helping with exercise and movement.  The massage component helps ease the troubled spots, allowing the body to release the body natural pain killing hormone, endorphins. Hydrotherapy can provide the following for dogs with hip dysplasia:
  • Increasing range in motion
  • Improved muscle strength
  • Improved cardio system
  • Decrease in pain and inflammation
  • Slower progression of degenerative diseases
  • Heightened muscle patterning
Arthritis Arthritis is the most common ailment in older dogs. Also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, arthritis occurs when cartilage surfaces of joints wear thin, and those cartilage cells die. Joint fluid develops in place, assisting with deterioration of the cartilage.  After the cells die, enzymes are released, causing pain and inflammation in affected areas. There are seven common symptoms of arthritis to look for.  They are:
  1. Limping
  2. Difficulty moving (in/out of car, up/down stairs, etc.)
  3. Spinal issues or “hunch back” appearance
  4. Increased tiredness
  5. Irritability (might nip or bite when handled)
  6. Muscular Atrophy-muscle tissue wears off due to inactivity
  7. Licking, biting, or chewing. Dogs lick or bite at painful areas on body, causing inflamed skin or hair loss.
Causes of arthritis in dogs include:
  • Ligament, Muscle, or tendon disease
  • Previous fractures involving joints
  • Developmental disorders
  • Congenital disorders, like Wobbler’s Syndrome
  • Dietary or hormonal disease
  • Metabolic disorders, like hemophilia
  • Certain cancers
  • Inflammatory joint disease
  • Osteoarthritis
Hydrotherapy for arthritis benefits dogs just like how it benefits people.  Hydrotherapy builds endurance and muscle tone.  Dogs can exercise in water with little or no pain.  Buoyancy helps in this area because water decreases weight of the dog by 90 percent, allowing movements to become easy. Renal Failure Every nine in 1,000 dogs suffer from renal, or kidney, failure. Kidneys help regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, pH levels, hormones, and blood volume throughout the body.  Renal failure occurs when the kidneys are unable to remove waste and toxins from the body.  There is also a decrease of blood flow or oxygen to the kidney. Because of this, failing kidneys require more water to function to try to eliminate waste, if possible. Common breeds prone to this disease are bull terriers, German Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, and Cairn Terriers.  Renal failure is a slow progressing disease, and there is no cure or reversal of disease.  Common causes of renal failure include urinary blockage, ingestion of toxins like medications or antifreeze, or genetics. Symptoms of kidney failure include:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blood in urine
  • Seizures
  • Increase in urination
  • Increase of water intake
  • Dehydration
Hydrotherapy can aid with renal failure by increasing blood flow and expanding blood vessels to help the body rid toxins through massage from the water jets.  Heat from the water can also ease the pain and inflammation to allow ease of mobility for exercise.  Buoyancy can help decrease pressure on the hind legs and back for improved movement. With all the benefits of hydrotherapy for dogs, therapy can be done at home.  At first thought, purchasing a hot tub could get pricey once you consider the cost, placement prep, installation, chemical purchases, and maintenance.  There is one version of a hot tub that is portable, easy to install, eco-friendly, and even budget friendly.  We like to call this tub the Softub.