Hydrotherapy for Animals
What is Hydrotherapy and How Can It Help My Horse or Dog?
Hydrotherapy can take several forms for your animal, eg -
- Cold Water Hosing
- Hot Water Hosing
- Equine Spa
- Equine Aqua Treadmill
- 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).
Cold Water Therapy
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 in my special advice page here
Hot Waterhelps 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.
Swimmingis 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 Hydrotherapyprofessionally run 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. When looking for a hydrotherapy pool for your dog, look for a centre that has professionally trained staff (e.g. Hawksmoor) or is a member of a professional association (e.g. Canine Hydrotherapy Association). See below for more help on choosing a centre for your animal.
Equine Spasuse 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 are 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.
Choosing an animal hydrotherapy centre
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.
Own a stables/livery yard/equestrian centre & like an Equine Aqua Treadmill or Equine Spa?
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 more info on Equine Aqua Treadmills, visit the FMBS website here and for information on Equine Spa's visit the CET website
Is there any research into the effectiveness of hydrotherapy for animals?
Yes research has been conducted and published. Check out our research page for information.
Would you like information on Hydrotherapy services near you for your horse or dog? Please email us at email@example.com - we'll be pleased to try and assist!