Swimming and physiotherapy for rehabilitation and fitness

The benefits of swimming for dogs are very similar to those for humans. You may be surprised to know that it is be­lieved that for a dog a 5 minute swim is equi­va­lent to a 5 mile walk.

Swimming has the be­ne­fit of achieving this level of work on the muscles, improving strength and tone, and working the car­dio­vascular system and respiratory systems, without the impact of unsupported exercise, and the associated damage that can cause. It involves the use of almost all the muscles required for movement, without the concussive stress of walking or run­ning. But because water resistance is greater than air resistance, the muscles have to work harder. The water in the pool is heated to 28*C, as this helps relaxation and assists blood flow to the muscles and joints. It also helps reduce muscle spasm and improve the dog’s range of motion. Warm water is more comfortable for your dog, making swimming in a hydro pool much more en­joy­able. Initially some dogs are apprehensive of this new environment, but as they get used to it they come to enjoy it. They begin to work harder and start to receive greater benefits. Initially a dog may only swim for a few minutes, but as their fitness improve they will be able to swim for much longer.

For many dogs with medical conditions, which means restricted or prohibited land exercise, swim­ming is essential. In many conditions that require surgery, it is important to build up the supporting muscles beforehand. After the operation, when exercise is limited, swimming can speed up the recovery time and return to normal fitness.

Obesity is a common problem in our pet dogs. It drastically increases the chances of a number of medical problems, such as heart and lung diffi­cul­ties, joint and muscle problems, skin disease and liver failure. Swimming is excellent for weight loss by providing supported exercise, enabling good use of muscles, and improving the metabolic rate. It can be difficult to give an over-weight dog enough exercise on land without putting too much stress on the joints, therefore swimming is an excellent method of supplementing the dog's exercise.

With fit dogs, swimming can be used to supple­ment their exercise, improving strength and stami­na. If the dog’s muscles are strong and toned it helps to protect them against injuries that may be sustained during normal exercise and play - or more demanding activities such as agility work. Swimming should be used in conjunction with nor­mal exercise to ensure their bones are kept strong and prepared for hard ground. Once they are used to the pool and its surrounding areas most dogs really enjoy this form of exercise.