Arthritis is the most common joint disease in veterinary medicine with over 200,000 dogs affected annually so we made January 2019 ‘Arthritis Month’ to raise awareness of this condition in our pets as well as what complimentary treatments are available to improve their lives.
This handsome chap is a 13 year old collie cross who was rescued by his current owner a number of years ago. He has mellowed nicely in his old age and his owner has worked very hard on his confidence with new people and strange things. Looking at him today you wouldn’t have known he had had such a difficult past. As with a lot of older dogs he is now struggling with arthritic changes, more particularly in his spine and hips. His Dad, although initially sceptical about starting treatment on an old boy did the right decision and brought him for an initial assessment with us after enquiring at his veterinary practice.
We found Skip had lost some muscle in his hind limbs and was beginning to show signs of deterioration and struggled on certain walks and obstacles around the house. We opted to put Skip in the treadmill as opposed to the pool because he was weary of water and we wanted to maintain muscle mass by varying water height in the treadmill. Skip has quite high water for buoyancy and support. The higher water creates additional resistance compared to normal walking, which in turn helps maintain muscle mass as he drives through the water.
Skip has now attended multiple sessions including a physiotherapy session where his Dad was advised on exercises he could do at home and managing arthritis. His Dad feels he has improved and he is much happier in leaving Skip alone in the house, although he’d hate to admit it. Skip continues to come for weekly sessions to help maintain the muscle mass and support him through his senior years.
Since having elbow surgery Ruby has been a regular at the practice even appearing in our TV advert! She started off in the treadmill to ensure she was kept nice and controlled and that we didn’t over work her elbow. As she progressed we varied the water height from high and supportive to a more challenging shallower water where she needed to bend her forelimbs up and out of the water maximising her range of movement. She progressed so well that we decided to move her onto the pool. The pool provided a longer reach in the forelimb, which helped stretch any tightness out and work her body as a whole. She has built up from completing four single laps to multiples of doubles and is now at a point where we’re maintaining her at a nice even level with more spread out session for maintenance and preventing a flare up. We’ve even started her on a laser trial over the colder months to ensure the joint is at its healthiest.
This handsome man comes for fortnightly hydrotherapy sessions in the pool and loves it! He brings his little brother Freddie along for the ride and he watches as Bailey impresses him with his swimming. Bailey has arthritis prominently in his elbows and struggles to stand and walk for prolonged periods of time. When in the pool he feels completely weightless and enjoys showing us how well he can move. Hydrotherapy provides him with mental stimulation and exercise is a controlled manner where he isn’t likely to over work or flare up his arthritis.
The pool is more suited to Bailey than the treadmill as it he is weightless and the buoyancy of the water helps support his joints. The hydrostatic pressure of the water also helps reduce any swelling in his joints, which can benefit him for a prolonged time. He is currently coming for fortnightly sessions and finds he gains a lot of stimulation from coming and loves the gravy bones at the end.
Max came to us as a 12 year old that had never swam before. His veterinarian had mentioned that he had arthritis developing in his hips and elbows. His family are very supportive of all Max’s treatments and thought hydrotherapy might be a good step in the right direction. On his initial assessment he was a little nervous but we decided to try him in the pool to see if his hind limbs would stretch out nicely and give him the freedom to move in a weightless environment. During his first 2 sessions he was weary and only performed short amounts in the pool as we built his confidence and technique. He soon realised he enjoyed the freedom the pool gave him. With the help of our octopus toy he now barks to get into the pool and managed to swim with excellent hind limb movement.
He has recently been diagnosed with renal issues however this hasn’t stopped him Mum from coming to weekly hydrotherapy sessions now that they see what benefit he gets from the treatment. We plan on continuing on the pool with Max not only because of the enjoyment he gets but also because of all the added health benefits such as:
- Buoyancy – No pressure on his sore joints
- Exercise- keeps his heart healthy
- Resistance – Works him harder in a shorter space of time than on land maintaining muscle mass
- Mental stimulation – Older dogs often struggle to adapt to reduced exercise so this provides the perfect opportunity to play and enjoy themselves.