We discovered canine hydrotherapy shortly after our Dachshund Greta ruptured a disc in her spine nearly two years ago. For dogs who are injured or disabled, water can do wonders to encourage supported movement, lessen joint strain, stimulate circulation, and relieve pain.
Hydrotherapy is so effective that our veterinary surgeon instructed us to embark on a daily routine beginning the day after Greta's back surgery (without submerging her incision, though). We were able to use our home bathtub since she's a small dog, and the purpose of our first sessions was mainly to relieve swelling and provide her with pain relief and physical comfort. Once her incision healed, we were able to fill the tub with more water and allow Greta to experience buoyancy. Within three months, our little patient began to take her first post-surgery steps in the tub! To encourage her mobility, Michael and I used green beans and other treats to lure her from one end of the tub to the other. Eventually Greta began to do some limited walking outside the tub, but we still try to get her into the water several times each week, mainly to help her maintain muscle tone and keep her skin in good shape.
For larger pups, there are an increasing number of canine hydrotherapy centers around the country. Many of them are equipped with underwater treadmills and trained therapists who offer massage and assisted swimming (dogs typically wear life jackets). Click here for a list of providers who are registered with the Association of Canine Water Therapy.
If you have a small dog (or a large bathtub!), and you're interested in trying hydrotherapy at home, check out these guides for more information: