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Hydrotherapy can take several forms for your animal, eg -
Cold water hosing is useful in treating new injuries such as - a kick, bruise or bump or where you can feel heat at the point of injury. The cold water helps to reduce inflammation and thus reduces the level of pain that your horse (or dog) may experience. Ice may be used also (there are numerous icepacks available for animals) - however, these should be used with care as if applied for too long ice can damage the tissues, (use approximately for 15 minutes at 2 hourly intervals).
If your horse or dog has an open wound, only apply cold therapy until the swelling subsides or the formation of tissue to close the wound may be retarded. For best results cold water therapy is beneficial on new injuries.
Get more information on cryotherapy for horses here
Hot water helps to increase the blood flow to the site of injury. However, you should not apply heat to an injury which is still warm to the touch - this means that inflammation is present and applying more heat could worsen the inflammation and cause more pain to the animal.
Swimming is increasing in popularity for both the treatment and fittening of horses and dogs. Animal swimming pools are generally either circular or long and straight in appearance with the handler either standing in the middle (of a circular pool) or walking alongside a long pool to ensure that the animal is completely safe at all times.
Swimming helps to challenge the musculoskeletal system without concussing the injury however, as horses are not naturally strong swimmers it is important not to overdo any swimming therapy - one reason being that swimming does exert pressure on the chest which is unnatural for horses. Equine swimming is popular though with the rehabilitation and fitness of racehorses as swimming is a strenuous exercise and also is great resistance training for a sound horse. Swimming should be considered as 1 element of a fitness programme as concussion on limbs is a natural part of the healing process and should not be avoided completely.
Canine hydrotherapy centres often supply buoyancy aids for your dog, so that s/he can enjoy their swim safely! The swimming pool will usually be specially designed and with water at a temperature that is comfortable for your dog.
If you're worried whether your dog will be able to get in/out of the pool easily - many pools have specially adapted hoists, to enable your dog to get safely in/out of the pool - important for dogs who may have mobility problems.
Equine Spas use the beneficial effects of sea water to promote healing of leg injuries (e.g. ligament/tendon/joint problems, etc) in horses. Cold salinated water combined with the spa's bubbles are used in a specially designed spa. The horse simply stands inside the spa unit (which isn't unlike a small trailer - without the roof!) and the water is then added. The bubbles have a massaging effect and the salinated water can have a 'poulticing' effect drawing out any fluid. Due to the low temperature used in an equine spa, it is essential that the major muscle groups are not submerged, otherwise the horse may suffer from hypothermia - therefore equine spa is only suitable for treating leg conditions (below the hock). Unlike swimming or aqua treadmills, equine spa is not used for exercise.
Equine Aqua Treadmills - Temperature controlled water is used that is also deep enough for the horse to be partially supported through floatation, whilst still allowing the horse contact with the treadmill. Aqua treadmills provide the horse with a natural form of exercise, which can be helpful in the recovery from injury. However, Aqua treadmills should not be used in the acute stage of an injury (this is a significant difference with the equine spa). One of the benefits of Aqua treadmills is that they allow the horse to use similar muscles to what it would use in 'ground training' - this contrasts with traditional swimming, where different muscle groups are used. Photograph courtesy of Moulton College Equine Therapy Centre.Many equine hydrotherapy centres also offer livery or training facilities, so using hydrotherapy facilities can be part of a rehabilitation or training programme.
Hydrotherapy has many uses and benefits however, as with all complementary therapies you should consult your veterinary surgeon first so that hydrotherapy is used as part of a complete rehabilitation programme for your horse or dog.
It is always a good idea to visit a hydrotherapy centre first, before your animal commences a treatment programme. By visiting first you can check the facilities, ask about the staff's qualification and training, their insurance cover, plus what the water quality is. Also, it is important to discuss your horse or dog's condition and treatment programme. Some hydrotherapy centres are accredited by associations such as the Canine Hydrotherapy Association or the Association of Canine Water Therapy, which is worth checking too.
Over recent years, due to the benefits of hydrotherapy becoming more widely known, many stables - private and professional, have obtained their own spa's and aqua treadmills.
For details of a Hydrotherapy service near you for your horse or dog - please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org, as we maybe to help.
Those practicioners and organisations in green have links direct to their own website - simply click on their name to be transferred to their site. Or contact them via any postal address and/or telephone number listed.