The Benefits of Aquatics and Massage for Dogs

A new awareness is being embraced by dog lovers and veterinarians, which is the importance of soft tissue manipulation (massage) and aquatics (swimming) in the prevention of injury, and aiding in the over-all wellness of our canine friends.

Swimming is not only fun for your dog…but it also does great things for him. The water provides buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure and resistance. As a result, your dog will show improved range of motion, muscular strength and tone, while working the cardio-vascular and respiratory systems, without the impact of concussive exercise on land and the associated damage that it may cause.

It may surprise you to know that for a dog, 1 minutes’ swimming is equivalent to about 4 minutes of running, according to Dr Arleigh Reynolds, renowned Veterinary Surgeon and Canine Physiologist.

In healthy dogs, swimming should be used in conjunction with other exercise on land to ensure the dogs’ bones are kept strong by sustaining good bone density.

If your dog hasn’t swam before, taking the time to make him feel safe in the water, with his favorite treats and toys to reward his acceptance of being in the water, will help him enjoy his first experience.

As with any fitness program, you should start slowly and increase the swim exercise over time. Gradually, as their fitness improves, they will be able to swim longer with fewer rests.

The pool water should be heated so the dogs’ muscles won’t take long to “warm up” which helps relaxation and assists blood flow. It also helps to reduce muscle spasm and improve the dogs’ range of movement

For dogs with medical conditions that restrict or prohibit concussive exercise on land, swimming is very important to the dogs overall health and recovery.

Many veterinarians recommend swimming in warm water as an ideal form of therapeutic exercise for dogs.

Research indicates that swimming in warm water can help dogs, significantly decrease recovery time from surgery, injuries and decreases pain.
Veterinarians are recommending swim therapy in the rehabilitation of various dog issues such as; arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament tears, orthopedic surgery, stroke, paralysis, muscle degeneration, and pre/post- surgical conditioning.

For dogs such as search and rescue, police, drug enforcement, and seeing-eye dogs, swimming helps them improve their spirits and mental well-being.

Dogs who have been rescued or who came from an animal shelter, may have “emotional baggage”. Working with a, quiet, well-trained person in the water, helps these dogs open up and learn to trust again.

In the case of an overweight dog, it can be difficult to give him/her sufficient exercise on land without over-stressing bones and joints. Swimming provides a form of supported exercise, which will burn calories and improve the metabolic rate. Together with a good diet, swimming can help bring obese dogs to their optimum weights.

Soft tissue manipulation, or massage is widely used to release tightness, spasm and to increase the circulation of blood and lymph. The fresh oxygen and increase in nutrients brought to the tissues help the healing process. Dogs who are not mobile whether from old age, or who are recovering from surgery or injury feel and act much better after massage. Massage will loosen the tight muscles that are compensating for the injured or area of arthritis in older dogs.

Relieving small spasms and being able to detect sprains early on…is just as important as training your dog for obedience, or sports like fly-ball, frisbee and agility. Trained hands will be able to detect differences in temperature, texture, tone and tenderness. This can help prevent a small sprain from becoming a much more painful injury that could keep your dog out of competition for weeks.

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