A local animal hospital has dipped into the world of aqua therapy with a new indoor pool and underwater treadmill.
Mountain Vista Veterinary Hospital has opened its Collingwood Active Pets rehabilitation and hydrotherapy centre and the staff are diving into the field of treatment that is making waves in animal medicine.
A new addition to the building includes an in-ground swimming pool for dogs who need low-impact exercise for conditioning or rehabilitation, and an underwater treadmill gives enough buoyancy to a dog to decrease the stress on joints, allowing dogs to start recovering from surgeries and/or injuries earlier.
Dr. Jennifer Dodd, one of the veterinarians at Mountain Vista, has seen the benefits of hydrotherapy in her patients, but typically had to send them out of town for the treatment.
She is glad to have a local site for pet patients.
“The impact is on comfort, but also return to normal function,” said Dodd. “It can shorten recovery time by 50 per cent in some surgeries.”
The buoyancy of water as well as the drag it creates will force an animal to use its muscles and joints appropriately (less favouring of an injured leg) and help them recover muscle strength and mobility.
In addition to the therapy sessions, dog owners are given a list of exercises to do at home to help with rehabilitation.
Hydrotherapy can also be used in older dogs with osteoarthritis by allowing them low-impact exercise and improving their range of motion. The underwater treadmill and pool can be used to help obese dogs lose weight, and help dogs with neurological diseases learn or re-learn the pattern of walking and coordination, said Dodd.
“I find it interesting how doing little things, a couple of actions, has such a profound impact on their bodies, their physiology is so unique to exercise,” said Dodd, who is in her 17th year as a vet. “This is a good way of improving outcomes, and improving pain and quality of life. It’s very easy to see the results.”
Seeing was believing for registered vet technician (RVT) Lauren Heise, whose own Newfoundlander dog went through rehab after a surgery.
“As much as I love being a general RVT, it kind of reignited a spark,” said Heise, who works in the Collingwood Active Pets centre. “To see how much of an impact it had was pretty incredible.”
She’s looking forward to helping pets with pre- and post-operative therapy, but she has a special place in her heart for senior canines.
“I like the old dogs where the aim is not about fixing, but to make them feel better,” she said.
Mountain Vista hospital manager Kristen Webb said she’s seen a shift in pet ownership from pet owners to pet parents, and veterinary medicine has changed to match the new dynamic.
“[Hydrotherapy] has been used in human medicine for ages, and it’s becoming more popular for pets,” she said. “Older or injured dogs can still be active members of the family.”
Collingwood Active Pets rehab and hydrotherapy centre opened in July and they are treating pets about three days per week right now. It is one of only a few centres of its kind in Simcoe County.
The plan for the winter is to allow appointments for open swim times in the indoor pool as exercise opportunities for dogs and their owners, said Webb.