How Hydrotherapy Is Making a Significant Impact On Retired Working K9s
By: Heidi Bottom | February 18, 2021
Paws of Honor has teamed up with Aquatic Paws (located in Falls Church, Virginia) to provide rehabilitation therapy for retired working K9s in our veterinary care program through the use of hydrotherapy. This invaluable opportunity was made possible by an incredibly generous donation from the Nichols family to help these retired K9 heroes have access to the absolute best care possible.
Aquatic Paws is a state of the art facility specializing in canine aquatic training and exercise. Founded by Lisa and Bill Castaneda in 2016, Aquatic Paws was devised after their own dog, Beamer, was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy in 2013. After researching medications and alternative therapies, Lisa trained to become a Canine Massage practitioner. However, there was no facility available locally where she could safely take her dog for swim therapy. Aquatic Paws was created out of this need. Since then, they have provided a beneficial service to dogs (and their owners) from learning how to swim and exercise needs to rehabilitation and comfort. Prior to opening Aquatic Paws, Lisa was a registered nurse of 23 years. Lisa’s husband, Bill, is a retired Navy veteran who, in addition to being a government contractor, helps Lisa to manage the business.
The average retirement age of a military or law enforcement working dog is between 9 and 11 years old. These are not your average pets. These K9s work and train with their handlers on a daily basis in specialties such as narcotics detection, explosives detection, and patrol and apprehension. They work shifts of 8-12 hours a day and much of their work includes jumping in and out of vehicles and/or boats, running and jumping over obstacles, as well as working in harsh weather conditions and hazardous situations. As a result of this physically demanding work they do, these K9s sustain more injuries, wear and tear and illness than a normal pet would.
Hydrotherapy can play a vital role in the rehabilitation process for a retired K9. It is extremely beneficial when they are recovering fromback and ligament injuries, post-surgical procedures, and neurological issues. It also aids in increased flexibility and range of motion, increasing muscle mass and strengthening tendons, improving cardiovascular and respiratory function, as well as overall pain relief. We have seen the impact it has made with K9 Osman. If you are not familiar with K9 Osman, he is a retired Explosive Detection K9 in the Paws of Honor program. In November 2020 he suffered a herniated disc in his neck, rendering him unable to walk. After surgery and a couple months of physical therapy, including hydrotherapy, K9 Osman was back on his feet and walking again! We have also seen the impact in some of our other retired K9s, like K9s Senna, Dan and Uu2, who are all benefiting from hydrotherapy.
The benefits of hydrotherapy provide both buoyancy and resistance, which in turn provides a way to strengthen and condition muscles and increase endurance with little or no impact to joints. The warm water (typically heated around 80-85 degrees) helps to dilate blood vessels while also keeping joints and muscles limber, alleviating aches and pains and aiding in the recovery process.
Aquatic Paws offers two underwater treadmills, which provide low impact exercise therapy and a large pool with hydro jets that provides no-impact exercise therapy. The treadmills are partial weight bearing (about 60% non-weight bearing) and help with muscle atrophy,arthritis and rehabilitation from injuries and/or surgery. These treadmills offer controlled speed and the depth of the water, typically about chest level, helps provide more balance and stability. Sessions are a maximum of 20 minutes and are electronically monitored to record the progress over time. Both speed and time are increased as the dog gets stronger. The pool offers a no-impact, cardiovascular form of exercise and is great for dogs that are experienced swimmersor just learning to swim. The hydro jets can be used to provide an increased resistance workout. Benefits of the pool include weight loss and rehabilitation; it’s also perfect for a dog that has an abundance of energy to burn. Often times, a dog will start off in the treadmill and then graduate to the pool once they are strong or confident enough to do so. All dogs wear a life jacket and get one-on-one personal attention, including treats and encouragement, during their sessions to make it a more paws-itive experience!
Thanks to Aquatic Paws and the Nichols family, K9s in the Paws of Honor veterinary care program, who are located in the Northern Virginia (and surrounding D.C. and Maryland areas), are able to benefit greatly from this service and are receiving the quality of life they deserve in their retired years!
Colleen Lum, LVT, CCRA, (June 2016), Hydrotherapy: Swimming or Underwater Treadmill?
Retrieved from Pawsitive Steps Rehab https://www.pawsitivestepsrehab.com/blog/hydrotherapy-pool-underwater-treadmill
Jean Bauhaus. (2020, March). Hydrotherapy for Dogs: A Growing Trend in Canine Physical Therapy.
Retrieved from American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/hydrotherapy-for-dogs-growing-trend-in-canine-physical-therapy
Canine Hydrotherapy Association. (ND). Hydrotherapy For Dogs
Retrieved from https://www.caninearthritisandjoint.com/hydrotherapy-for-dogs.html