When someone recently asked me to write this article on the health benefits of canine hydrotherapy, my mind tried to embrace what that article would actually say…. as water therapy is so much deeper than what people usually think. To me, it was as if someone had just asked me to write about the size of outer space… i.e. vast… endless… almost too big for words…. But I’ll give it a try – – –
The main reason why most people seek out canine hydrotherapy is usually to help the physical body of their dog in some fashion so we’ll start there.
The Physical Benefits of Canine Hydrotherapy
The benefits of swimming and moving in water on the physical body are well known and have been used for centuries. Because of the increased resistance to movement, a 5 minute swim is equivalent to about a 5 mile run. The buoyancy of water supports and lessons stress on the joints, encourages freer movement and provides a safe environment for exercise.
A client will seek canine hydrotherapy for reasons that include geriatrics and arthritis, paralysis and other mobility issues, pre and post surgical rehabilitation, injury prevention and rehabilitation, helping obesity, dysplasia, increasing body awareness, balance, and coordination and to just plain help fitness and muscle tone.
Water both stimulates and relaxes and can affect all systems of the body on the physical level.
This system speaks of our skin, the largest organ of the body which wraps and protects our entire being. Water increases circulation which can help skin and coat condition and can help stimulate all the touch receptors.
Water increases relaxation which can help pain and spasms. When moving in water, the resistance is 15 – 20 times that of moving in air so muscles are being used without the stresses of weight bearing. An efficient and safe way to exercise and build muscle.
Water can calm and sooth the nervous system, decrease stress. Water can stimulate the sensations of joint position and re-establish sensation channels.
Warm water can increase body temperature, causing blood vessels to dilate and increase circulation and detoxification, delivering nutrients and oxygen and carrying away wastes. Buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure counters the effects of gravity, increases return from lower extremities, increases blood volume centralization. Soft tissue is compressed which increases circulation, lymph movement, oxygen in the blood and respiration.
Water can increase metabolic functions and hormones which regulate many processes in the body.
Water can increase lymph drainage, decrease inflammation and improve the immune system.
Water can increase the depth of respiration through pressure on the lungs. Providing oxygen and disposing of carbon dioxide.
Water can increase smooth muscle activity (digestion) which provides nutrients to cells and eliminates through the feces.
Water can increase blood flow through the kidneys (which filters the blood), ridding the body of toxins (including anesthetic) and removing waste products. This process can help regulate and balance water and electrolytes in the body.
Water and its stimulating effects on the body can help enhance the role of hormones which influence all other systems of the body.
The skeletal system supports the body and moves one in space via a framework, it also protects internal organs. Water can decrease inflammation, increase circulation and in its safe and supportive ways, increase range of motion as the non-gravity environment can enhance stretches and movement.