What is the Therapeutic Value of Water for Pets with Injuries?

Unique physical properties of water provide greater improvements in physical function of animals.  It is the ideal healing environment for exercise and therapy for those of our pets with acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions.

The fitness and rehab benefits of hydro workouts are exceptional for animals of all ages and abilities.   The true benefit of water based activity is its ability to accommodate barriers imposed by disease or injury and permit movement that may be otherwise impossible / intolerable.   At any depth the amount of the pressure exerted on all surfaces of an immersed pet is equal resulting in even pressure around all joints during UWT however the amount of pressure exerted over the entire body increases as the depth increases.  Exercise in water can supplement land rehabilitation, because our pets spend their lives on land, functional transition from water to land is important.   Buoyancy is defined as the upward thrust or force that allows a body less dense than water to float acting in the opposite direction to the force of gravity.  This means that the effects of gravity are greatly decreased and the more deeply immersed the animal is in water the less it weighs

Gravity is counterbalanced by the force of buoyancy.  When immersed to hip height your pet weighs 38% of what is weighed on land. Muscle is denser than fat, which is why heavily muscled dogs are less buoyant.

This force allows dogs to exercise without putting weight or percussive stress on the joints.  The weight of your pet is depend on the composition, size, muscular structure and depth of the water.   Animals with lower body or spinal injuries, orthopaedic conditions or physical limitations welcome the benefit of buoyancy.   Buoyancy also adds a challenge to exercise and maintains control of their body position & posture while in water.

Therapeutic value of water and buoyancy in pets

Buoyancy is defined as the upward thrust or force that allows a body less dense than water to float acting in the opposite direction to the force of gravity.   This means that the effects of gravity are greatly decreased and the more deeply immersed the animal is in water the less it weighs.  Gravity is counterbalanced by the force of buoyancy.  When immersed to hip height your pet weighs 38% of what is weighed on land.  Muscle is denser than fat, which is why heavily muscled dogs are less buoyant.  This force allows dogs to exercise without putting weight or percussive stress on the joints.  The weight of your pet is depend on the composition, size, muscular structure and depth of the water.  Animals with lower body or spinal injuries, orthopaedic conditions or physical limitations welcome the benefit of buoyancy. 

Buoyancy also adds a challenge to exercise and maintains control of their body position & posture while in water.   The animal is able to move and make use of his muscles and joints in a way that would not be possible on land due to his:

  • Poor balance
  • Lack of confidence
  • Weight bearing issues
  • Concussive forces and stress on joints
  • Slows bone density loss

Advantages of buoyancy

  • Decreases the amount of shock transmitted through the bones, joints, ligaments compared with land activities.
  • Little or no impact whilst actively weight bearing.
  • ROM is increased, joint mobility improves and contributes to dynamic flexibility.
  • Exercise with ease.

The animal is able to move and make use of his muscles and joints in a way that would not be possible on land due to his:

  • Poor balance
  • Lack of confidence
  • Weight bearing issues
  • Concussive forces and stress on joints
  • Slows bone density loss

How does the water pressure support the body?

  • The pressure of the water on the limbs and the body underwater provides a support similar to an overall support hose which helps pet’s with excessive oedema or swelling.  
  • Water has a similar effect of compression much like bandage devices.
  • Improves circulation, moves blood fluid away from swelling and enhances venous return.
  • Decreasing pain perception.
  • Allows exercise with less discomfort.
  • Helps to take the lactic acid away from the affected area.
  • Enhances cardiac function.
  • Promotes body detoxification.
  • Increases breathing capacity because the pressure of the water on the chest wall during UWT treadmill resists the muscles that expand the chest for breathing, regular water exercise strengthens these muscles, allowing them to expand the chest more efficiently which enables them too to take a greater volume of air during land activities.

The benefits of water resistance:

  • Water provides much more resistance than air, by up to 12 times and is approximately 1000 times more dense giving us more exercise in a shorter time without overly stressing the joints.
  • On land, gravity assists so that muscles are used in one direction, the resistance of water is on all planes of movement which means that the pet’s body will meet resistance in every direction of movement, so the dog is working multiple sets of muscles at the same time – this helps create a better balance btw the muscle groups so that one group does not overcome its opposing group.
  • The resistance also slows ballistic movement, which decreases the chance of injury and makes the muscles work harder.
  • The viscosity of the water provides friction to movement and drag whilst your pet moves through the water the molecules cling onto the body and also try to stick together – this also acts as proprioception stimulation. The surface tension of the water may be displaced by the chest or pick up and placement at corpus height will ensure individual limbs break the surface tension increasing neuro function and stimulate proprioception.  Intensity of the workout can be greatly altered by changing the shape, size and or speed of the moving body parts, we will enhance progress exponentially by increasing speed while maintaining surface area and range of motion The force and energy required to move through water develops bone and muscle strength as well as cardiovascular and muscular endurance.

How does Turbulance in the water enhance the effects of exercise ?

  • Turbulance creates an unstable environment encouraging the core muscles of the body to become stronger to maintain correct position and posture.
  • Exercise can be designed to work with or against turbulence, thereby increasing or decreasing intensity.
  • Brings on relaxation.

Does Warm Water support the healing process?

Thermal properties of water assist in healing.  The animals reaction to warm water causes nerves at the surface of the skin to carry impulses deep into the body.

This reaction has been found to :

  • Lessen pain sensitivity
  • Improves nerve conduction
  • Stimulate the immune system
  • Aid in lymphatic drainage
  • Increases blood circulation
  • Caloric expenditure
  • Allows for increase soft tissue elasticity

Water conducts heat approx. 25 times faster than air, our UWT water is btw 29-32 degrees which is of therapeutic value which helps relax muscles , decreases pain, muscle spasm and increases range of motion.

Blood that would be shunted to the skin for cooling is available to deliver oxygen and remove waste products from the working muscles.

Source: Pet Wellness Worx

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