Why should I bring my pet to Willows for Hydrotherapy?

At Willows our team of three Veterinary Physiotherapists are experts in harnessing the key properties of water to alleviate discomfort, promote mobility and provide wide-ranging patient benefits.

Willows is home to one of the UK’s only recessed underwater treadmills. Our recessed hydrotherapy treadmill provides ease of access for patients without the need for them to ascend or descend a ramp when entering the treadmill. With the use of a GoPro camera and a large screen display our team can clearly capture gait analysis live during the hydrotherapy session.

Our rehabilitation team work closely with Willows’ multidisciplinary team of Specialists including Orthopaedics and Neurology to provide gold-standard care for patients and clients alike.


What is Canine Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy harnesses the physical properties of water to relieve discomfort and promote physical wellbeing. Performed in an underwater treadmill or a swimming pool hydrotherapy supports in the recovery from injury, surgery as well as chronic conditions such as arthritis.

Hydrotherapy is a form of non-weight bearing exercise. This means that less stress is placed on the joints of a patient, allowing for easier movement and a greater range of motion for those in pain.


Physical Properties of Water:

Buoyancy: This is the upward exerted force onto an object when immersed in the water, this reduces the weight going through the limbs and makes movement easier.

Hydrostatic pressure: Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure exerted onto the body when submerged in water. It can have a positive effect on swelling and oedema (a build-up of fluid).

Resistance: Moving against the resistance of water can be used for cardiovascular training and to strengthen muscles. When resistance is combined with buoyancy, a patient may feel more stable and may be able to stand, even if they can’t on land.

Cohesion: Water molecules tend to adhere to each other creating a greater resistance, this is greater on the surface of the water

Specific Gravity: The ratio of body weight compared to the ratio of water; this helps with buoyancy.

Temperature: The underwater treadmill is kept between 28-32 degrees Celsius. The heat of the water helps to reduce swelling and inflammation, increases blood flow, and promotes muscle relaxation.


What are the Physiotherapy Treatments Available?

Rehabilitation after orthopaedic surgery: Hydrotherapy can be extremely beneficial for patients who have undergone a wide range of orthopaedic treatments including:

  • Fractures
  • Cruciate ligament disease or injury
  • Hip replacement
  • Femoral head and neck excision
  • Arthroscopy.

Neurological Rehabilitation: For patients who have been diagnosed with a neurological condition, hydrotherapy can hugely support in enabling easier movement and a greater range of motion for those in pain, including:

  • Spinal surgery
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Fibrocartilaginous embolism
  • Polyradiculoneuritis.

Muscle building and improved joint function: Hydrotherapy is an excellent form of therapy for patients who need to build muscle and improve joint function including those suffering from:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Spondylosis.

Furthermore, hydrotherapy is also very effective in enhancing general conditioning including weight management, mobility of elderly pets, sporting and working animals.


What are the Benefits of Hydrotherapy and an Underwater Treadmill?

The properties of the water, the skills of the Veterinary Physiotherapist and the underwater treadmill itself facilitate a multitude of benefits for patients.

The use of varying water levels enables the treadmill to be adjusted to suit the needs of the patient allowing the comfortable range of motion of any affected joint(s) to be increased; enabling the patient to achieve better movement.

The resistance provided by the water, increases the strength of the muscles surrounding any affected joint(s) or injured area(s) due to the degree of weight going through the limbs.

An underwater treadmill, aids in retraining a normal walking pattern for patients who have lost the ability to walk on land. Any compensatory movement patterns can be addressed and improved by techniques employed by the Veterinary Physiotherapist throughout the session.

Dogs often feel more relaxed when they can touch the floor in an underwater treadmill and so are less likely to panic.


What can I Expect if my Pet has Hydrotherapy?

The first session or two will be an introduction to hydrotherapy for the patient. It is a completely new experience, and it is important that the patient is as comfortable as possible to gain the most out of the hydrotherapy sessions.

Through the very best support and care, patients of all ages and temperaments can become accustomed to the hydrotherapy experience.

Our expert team do all they can to ensure that it is as positive an experience as possible.

Your Veterinary Physiotherapist will guide the hydrotherapy process and advise on how many sessions the patient may require and how regularly they should be seen. This is based on the condition(s) they are presenting with and how they are progressing through their rehabilitation journey.