Canine water therapy and aquatic swimming can serve many purposes, from pure, recreational fun to post surgery rehabilitation. There are different types of pools and spa services to meet these needs. Spas may offer assisted swimming alone, self swimming where you can swim your own dog, or they may offer massage, Ttouch, acupressure, reiki, aromatherapy, etc. The facility might also have an underwater treadmill.
Before choosing a pool or therapist, think about what benefits you hope your dog will gain from swimming and/or aquatic massage. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if your dog is a candidate, and ask what type of pool is best for your dog’s specific needs.
Note – in some states a veterinary referral is needed prior to certain services, such as massage, and in some states massage can only be performed by or under direct supervision of a veterinarian. A list of requirements by state can be found on the IAAMB website, www.iaamb.org or by calling your local veterinarian or massage board and inquiring. The laws are ‘up in the air’ in this rapidly growing field of service and in the process of being defined in each State/Province.
Things to Consider
Swimming provides a non weight-bearing form of exercise. Benefits may include the following:
- Loosening tight muscles
- Increasing circulation, endurance, flexibility, range of motion, balance, coordination and muscle strength
- Decreasing swelling
- Confidence building
Conditions which may benefit from water therapy include:
- Joint injury
- Hip/elbow dysplasia
- Spinal injury
- Mobility problems
- Chronic pain
- Weight reduction
Some questions to ask about the therapist:
- What training has the person received?
- Are they licensed or certified?
- Why did they choose this line of work?
- How many hours have they spent in the pool?
- Are they trained in pet first aid, specifically first aid in the water? What is the procedure in the event of an emergency situation? Does the therapist or facility have a relationship with a nearby veterinarian? Is there veterinary care available if an emergency occurs outside of normal business hours?
- What type of evaluation is required prior to swimming your dog? Is the evaluation performed by your veterinarian, the therapist, both?
- What, if any, vaccinations are required?
Some questions to ask about the pool:
- What is the pool temperature? Pool temperature should be between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler temperatures can be better for conditioning or weight loss. Warmer temperatures can help with muscle relaxation and sooth stiff or sore joints.
- How often is the pool cleaned? What chemicals are used to clean the pool?
- How long have they been in business?
- Is the business insured?
- Ask if you can tour the facility and meet the therapist(s) prior to scheduling an appointment.
- Are customer referrals available?
Some questions you can ask yourself:
- Were all of my questions answered to my satisfaction?
- Did I feel comfortable asking questions?
- Am I comfortable putting my dog in this persons care?
Canine Water Therapy has profound effects on many levels, each therapist and each pool will offer a different ‘feeling’ or service. Explore and Inquire and Try a few different programs. Don’t be shy about asking that your dog be removed from the pool or the session if you feel uncomfortable. Remember that is is YOUR emotional safety and YOUR DOG’s emotional and physical safety that is the priority.