Benefits of Rehabilitation for Arthritic Dogs
As dogs live longer, arthritis is becoming more of a health issue. Managing everyday activities like getting up and down stairs, getting up from the floor or getting into the car can become difficult. This can progress to constant pain due to joint deterioration. Physical rehabilitation can help with managing this pain, maintaining muscle strength and joint health in the arthritic dog.
There are two factors rehabilitation therapists look at when managing arthritic clients:
1. Joint Biomechanics and Function - A joint moving as freely as possible and with normal mechanics is not as prone to boney and cartilage changes and is less painful.
2. Muscle Strength - Muscle strength is important for adequate support of the joint structures.
Gentle range of motion for arthritic clients is crucial. If the range of motion is restricted, the joint can't move normally, causing stress on the cartilage. Stretches without force help to increase the joint flexibility and stimulate synovial fluid (joint oil) production, therefore reducing pain.
Maintaining muscle strength is very important. How is it possible to do without stressing the joint? Exercise in water! Hydrotherapy, either swimming or walking in an underwater treadmill, will make a dog much more comfortable. In water, the stress on the joints is reduced, the water resistance increases strength and gentle joint motion occurs. The dogs have a good time playing in the water and they don't even realize they are exercising.
Swimming is non-weight bearing exercise. Swimming causes beneficial range of motion in the front limbs and gentle movement in the knees and hips. The water resistance increases muscle strength.
Non-swimmers enjoy the underwater treadmill. Wading in the water, the joint stress is reduced by 60% but it is 65% more effort to move through the water than on land. The water resistance is beneficial for strengthening and lifting the legs increases range of motion.
There is also a psychological benefit of pain-free exercise. This occurs because dogs like to be active and to be able to do so without hurting makes them feel better. Owners report the dogs are livelier, more playful and energetic at home.