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nutrition

Right diet for mom & pups for a good start

Is your dog expecting or are you waiting for your new puppy to arrive? If so, Royal Canin has developed its Birth & Growth nutritional solutions, specially formulated to make the critical period from birth to weaning safe for your dog and her puppies.

It is very important to take care of the nutritional needs of the mom dog and pups. The five key stages of nutritiontheir life together include:

Gestation (almost nine weeks before birth)

In dogs, gestation lasts around nine weeks on an average. In the first six weeks, the mother’s energy needs are not that high. However, in the last third of her pregnancy, foetal development speeds up dramatically, and her nutritional needs change; this is when she needs a food with much higher energy, protein and mineral levels – but at the same time ingestive capacities decrease. At this stage, she needs to move to Royal Canin’s Starter, a very digestible energy-dense food.

Birth

A couple of weeks before the due date, move her to a quiet place, and make sure you have everything you might need ready. By the time of delivery, she should not have gained too much extra weight (around 25 percent above her ideal weight is fine) so that the delivery itself is not too much of a strain. After delivery, feed her Starter ad lib until weaning.

Lactation (lasts 6-7 weeks after birth)

From the first hours of life, the puppies will suckle from their mother who will produce up to three times her own weight in milk over the next 6 to 7 weeks. Her milk is very rich in proteins and fats and to produce it, the mother draws reserves from her own diet. Starter provides the lactating dog with the energy and protein she needs, along with necessary nutrients such as calcium and essential fatty acids.

Weaning (starts at four weeks after birth)

Weaning starts naturally at around four weeks. The puppies’ digestive capacities have developed, the first milk teeth have come through, and milk alone no longer completely fulfills their increasing energy needs. Start off with a ‘porridge’ of Starter, and then gradually reduce the quantity of water or milk replacer until you are just feeding dry food–this is the ideal transition to solid foods.

Growth (after two months of birth)

Around two months of age, a puppy’s growth speeds up and a large-size puppy can have his weight multiplied by 70 within 15 month! Such a quick development requires to provide puppies with a well-balanced formula so that their optimal growth is ensured within the risk of putting on any extra weight. During that period, puppies’ digestive system remains immature and their natural defences are still building up, which is why a smooth transition towards the ‘Junior’ food specifically tailored according to the puppy’s size or breed is necessary.

Pets & parasites : Not a good pair!

Being a dog owner is a rewarding and pleasurable experience but it carries with responsibilities particularly with regard to pet’s health. Dogs play a major part in the family household and bring in a lot of love and life to the family; therefore they need to be fit and healthy. Worms can be a real threat and hence our pooches need to be dewormed regularly. Worms and infections

Several species of worms infest the intestines of dogs. They are named by their shapes: roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm and whipworm. Whilst in the intestines of dogs – their host – worms produce microscopic eggs which pass into the droppings. With the exception of tapeworms, it generally takes several days for the eggs to become infective for other dogs. Infection occurs after ingesting the infective stages although hookworms can penetrate the skin. Once in the dog, whipworms and tapeworms develop directly in the intestines while the hookworms and roundworms migrate through body tissues to the intestine and the cycle starts over. Pets can be infested with several parasite species simultaneously.

Symptoms of infection

Worms cause several problems like lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, anaemia and even death in some cases, if left untreated. None of the symptoms described here is exclusive to infestation by one worm type, thus making diagnosis difficult.

Roundworm infestations in dogs may cause a dull haircoat, diarrhoea and pot bellied appearance.

Hookworm infestations in dogs may cause anaemia showing lack of enthusiasm, energy and stamina along with dull haircoat and over all poor condition.

Whipworm infestations in dogs may cause gradual weight loss and diarrhoea. Severe infestations cause foetid, blood specked diarrhoea, anorexia, weight loss, abdominal pain and even anaemia and dehydration. Tapeworm infestations may cause dogs to ‘scoot’ due to anal itching.

Making pets worm-free

Ensuring a pet worm-free is not as simple as administering only one treatment. Reinfestation with worms can begin immediately after the animal has been treated. This occurs in two ways – when the animal ‘picks up’ new worms from the contaminated environment and when worm larvae already acquired mature in an animal’s intestine. The latter occurs because the body offers some protection from the medicines to the larvae that have migrated beyond the digestive tract.

The solution is to follow a control programme by which, egg output by adult worms can be largely eliminated and reinfestation from contaminated areas minimized.

Deworming in pups

Immature worms present in the body tissue of female dogs can cause infestation of round worm in unborn puppies during pregnancy or infestation of hookworm in newborn pups via milk.

Pups can be seriously affected by immature worms before infestations are detectable by the presence of worm eggs in pup’s faeces, so it is often essential to commence early treatment.

Worms developing from pre-natal (before birth) and colostrum (first milk) infestations can be present in the gut of the pup one week after birth & may take further 2-3 weeks to develop. Dosing every two weeks from 6 to 12 weeks of age is recommended.

Deworming in pregnant dogs

Immature worms in the body tissue of pregnant dogs may develop and infect unborn pups with roundworms during pregnancy or newborn pups with hookworm during lactation. During pregnancy, additional infestations in the female dog can be prevented by ensuring that the environment is not contaminated and high standards of hygiene is adopted.

During pregnancy and lactation, the female dog’s naturally acquired resistance to worms is reduced. This allows larvae to resume development in such dogs. All female dogs should be wormed prior to mating and before whelping and then every three months to reduce environmental contamination and infestations.

Deworming in adult dogs

Adult dogs need to be dewormed every three months after they are six months of age. A veterinarian should be consulted for deworming, especially where the situation may be deemed high risk and conducive to worm outbreaks (where hygiene is poor, where the dog population is high or where the climate is tropical, humid or with high rainfall).

Particular circumstances do occur when a pet should be wormed in addition to these programmes as:

 

  • Newly acquired pup – regardless of history
  • Boarding kennels
  • Dogs passing worms in faeces
  • Presence of tapeworm segments (rice grain)

It is a wise move to have a faecal sample checked by your veterinarian before carrying a regular worming programme and pets should be weighed before treatment to ensure accurate dosage.

Worms and humans

Certain types of worms that affect dogs can also have a detrimental effect upon humans, although this is relatively uncommon. Roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms can occasionally be a health hazard for people. Infection occurs simply by swallowing the eggs or larvae and naturally this is most likely with young children who are playing with puppies or who are in a soiled environment. The hydatid tapeworm can also affect people, which can be a problem in areas where infected offal is fed to dogs.

So please remember that regular worming is essential to your pet’s good health and part of being a responsible pet parent. Always choose a worming treatment that is effective and makes deworming easy for your pet as lot many different options are available in the market today.

Always consult your veterinarian for correct treatment option for your dog.

(Dr Vishal Surve, M.V.Sc, Pharmacology & Toxicology, is Product Executive at Petcare Animal Health, PROVIMI.)

dog health

Pooch vaccination Key to good health

The age-old adage goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure.’ Periodic vaccinations in dogs help them create immunity against a range of infectious diseases. Let’s be aware of the various vaccines available for our pooches

What is vaccination?

Vaccination is the process of preventing diseases by creating immunity in the animal. It also reduces the dog healthamount of pharmaceutical treatments (such as antibiotics) used to control established diseases and, in many instances, has prevented long-term suffering and death.

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are the health products that trigger protective immune responses (defence cells in the body) in pets and prepare them to fight future infections from disease causing agents, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.

What are the types of vaccines?

Modified Live Vaccines (MLV): Modified live vaccines contain a weakened strain of the disease causing agent. Weakening of the agent is typically accomplished by chemical means or by genetic engineering. These vaccines replicate within the host, thus increasing the amount of material available for provoking an immune response without inducing clinical illness. This provocation primes the immune system to mount a vigorous response, if the disease-causing agent is ever introduced to the animal. Further, the immunity provided by a modified-live vaccine develops rather swiftly and since they mimic infection with the actual disease agent, it provides the best immune response.

Inactivated Vaccines (Killed): Inactivated vaccines contain killed disease causing agents. Since the agent is killed, it is much more stable and has a longer shelf life, there is no possibility that they will revert to a virulent form, and they never spread from the vaccinated host to other animals. They are also safe for use in pregnant animals (a developing fetus may be susceptible to damage by some of the disease agents, even though attenuated, present in modified live vaccines (MLV)). Although more than a single dose of vaccine is always required and the duration of immunity is generally shorter.

Why is vaccination important?

Vaccination is the most effective method of preventing infectious diseases, in particular viral infections which can lead to serious illness and even death. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against a number of diseases so that the dog or cat is protected from various organisms in the environment. Even though some diseases have become uncommon, vaccination is still highly recommended because serious disease-causing agents continue to be present in the environment. By vaccinating, we are not only protecting our pets’ health but also our family’s health as well. Today, no one should ever overlook the potential of zoonotic diseases (that is, those diseases transmissible from animals to humans) such as rabies. So, pets should be vaccinated to protect them from many highly contagious and deadly diseases.

What is the age of vaccination?

Puppies receive antibodies and important nutrients from their mothers’ milk when they are still nursing. They ingest the maternal antibodies contained in the mothers’ milk as early as during the first few hours of birth. The antibodies help protect them from infectious diseases until they are able to produce their own antibodies or their own immune system is more mature. This means that once they are weaned, this passive form of protection is lost. And it is at this point in their life that a vaccination programme should be started. Puppies and kittens require a series of vaccinations during their first four months of life. At approximately six (6) to eight (8) weeks of age, puppies need to receive their first vaccination. Approximately four weeks later, that is, at ten (10) weeks to three months old, a second vaccination should be given. These first two vaccinations will provide protection for a while (short term) from many life threatening diseases that your pet may come into contact with. They are therefore referred to as temporary vaccinations. A third and final vaccination, which lasts longer (a year), is given at fourteen (14) weeks to four months of age. In most cases, a vaccination protocol of three inoculations will suffice, but a vaccination schedule of four inoculations, starting at 6 weeks and ending at 16 weeks, does work better. Vaccination for rabies is administered from three months when maternal immunity has disappeared completely. Annual re-vaccinations (boosters) are then recommended to keep your pet healthy.

Vaccination Schedule
Disease agent
Puppy doses < 16 weeks
Adult doses > 16 weeks
Re-vaccination
Distemper
1 dose at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks & 12-14 weeks of age
1 dose
Annually
Parvovirus
1 dose at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks & 12-14 weeks of age
2 doses 3-4 weeks apart
Annually
Adenovirus-Hepatitis
1 dose at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks & 12-14 weeks of age
1 dose if MLV 2 doses 2-4 weeks apart if KV (Killed Vaccine)
Annually
Parainfluenza
1 dose at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks & 12-14 weeks of age
1 dose
Annually
Rabies
1 dose as early as 3 months of age
1 dose
1-3 years or as required by your state law
Leptospira (Not recommended in small dogs)
1 dose at 12 weeks & second dose at 14-16 weeks of age
2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart
Annually as needed
Bordetella Bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough)
1 dose at 6-8 weeks & 10-12 weeks *Also can give 1 dose intranasal at 3 weeks of age
2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart
Annually as needed
Coronavirus
1 dose at 6 weeks of age, then every 2-4 weeks until 12 weeks of age
1 dose if MLV 2 doses, 2 weeks apart if KV or use only if needed
Annually as needed

Which are the diseases for which vaccination is recommended?

  1. DHLPPi/C: This is a combo vaccination that covers numerous diseases with one injection.D-Distemper: An airborne viral disease of the lungs, intestines and brain. Distemper is a nasty virus that is highly contagious, occurs worldwide, and at one time was the leading cause of death in puppies. Young puppies are more susceptible to the virus than adult dogs. You may see signs of an upper respiratory infection with high fever, the dog may also have neurological signs. This disease is often fatal.H-Hepatitis or Adenovirus-A viral disease of the liver, which is spread by contact with the urine and faeces of infected animals. The virus causes liver and kidney damage, animals who survive may have chronic illness. Symptoms include but are not limited to: fever, lethargy, anorexia, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhoea.L-Leptospirosis: A bacterial disease of the urinary tract. This disease affects the liver and kidneys and is deadly. Animals with this disease are contagious to other animals and humans. A positive dog should be isolated and the caregiver should wear protective clothing and gloves. The disease is spread through contact with urine of infected animals. Dogs with leptospirosis may show signs of lethargy, dehydration, jaundice, and fever.P-Parvovirus: A viral disease of the intestines. This virus attacks the intestinal tract and causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Parvo is highly contagious, dogs contract the virus through contact with infected animals stool. Without treatment, dogs become dehydrated and weak and often die. This virus is very common and puppies who are not properly vaccinated are often afflicted. Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers seem to be at greater risk from parvo.

    Pi-Parainfluenza: It is a viral infectious bronchitis. This is a virus that causes an upper respiratory infection. Dogs usually contract the disease through contact with nasal secretions of infected dogs.

    C-Corona virus: a viral disease of the intestines. This virus attacks the intestinal system similar to parvovirus. Infected dogs suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea and dehydration. Keep your pet vaccinated and your yard clean to protect your pet from this viral disease.

  2. Rabies: A viral disease fatal to humans and other animals. Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system. There is no known cure for rabies, to confirm a case the brain tissue must be examined. Symptoms generally include behaviour change, difficulty swallowing, hypersalivation, depression – stupor, and hind limb paralysis. The disease is spread through the saliva of infected animals and can be transmitted through a bite or an open wound. Vaccinated pets who are exposed to rabies should be re-vaccinated and observed for 90 days; un-vaccinated pets exposed to rabies should be given post bite vaccination course and kept isolated for six months.
  3. Bordetella: This is an upper respiratory infection also known as kennel cough. This infection is usually not fatal but is a pain to get rid of. The infection can spread quickly through boarding and grooming facilities and any place dogs congregate. The vaccination can be in the form of a nasal spray or injection. The injection form will need a booster in one month. Your veterinarian can help you decide if this vaccination is necessary for your dog.
  4. Lyme Disease: This is a tick borne illness. If you live in a wooded area and have a large number of positive Lyme disease cases in your area, you should consider this vaccine for your dogs. Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and loss of appetite. The deer tick must stay attached to your dog for one to two days in order to transmit the illness, so checking your dog daily for ticks will help prevent Lyme disease. Also use a good tick preventative like Tick Collars, sprays, tick bath and anthelmintic shampoos.
  5. Giardia: Giardia is a parasite that lives in the intestines and can be passed into the environment through the stools of infected animals. Dogs become infected with giardia by drinking contaminated water. Humans can also be infected. At risk dogs would be those who live primarily outdoors, hunting dogs, or dogs who may come in contact with ponds or creeks. This vaccine needs to be boosted three weeks after the initial dose and then given annually.

If you are a responsible pet parent, do get your pet vaccinated at required intervals.

(Dr. S.S. Patil is Ph.D. Scholar at Centre of Advanced Studies in Animal Nutrition, K.B. Korel is a Ph.D. Scholar at Division of Animal Nutrition while P.P. Mirajkar is M.V.Sc Scholar at Division of LES at Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar)


Don’ts of vaccination

  • Don’t vaccinate when your pooch is under stress as corticosteriods that release during stress inhibit lymphocyte metabolism and cell growth.
  • Don’t vaccinate your pooch within 2 weeks of surgery as anesthetics are immunosuppressive.
  • Don’t vaccinate your pup before 6 weeks of age. MLV vaccine can cause encephalitis in pups less than 4 weeks.
  • Don’t administer multiple virus vaccines to dogs in multiple animal households. Virus shedding can create increased virus particles in the environment.
  • Don’t vaccinate sick animals or those who have been exposed to disease.
  • Don’t vaccinate if your pooch is undergoing glucocorticoid therapy.
  • Don’t administer drugs, flea preventive, heartworm preventive or wormers.
  • Don’t give any vaccines to a female dog who is “in season”, pregnant or lactating.
  • Don’t vaccinate if your dog is suffering from tumors, heart or kidney disease.

(Dr. S.S. Patil is Ph.D. Scholar at Centre of Advanced Studies in Animal Nutrition, K.B. Korel is a Ph.D. Scholar at Division of Animal Nutrition while P.P. Mirajkar is M.V.Sc Scholar at Division of LES at Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar)

Exercise: say yes to good health

Regular exercise is essential to your dog. Giving your dog a good walk or run regularly provides him with an opportunity for experiencing new stimuli and meeting other dogs – which will help him develop into a contented and well-adjusted dog. Exercise will also keep his weight down, which is important because obesity is a major health problem in dogs. And besides that, dogs usually love their exercise!

The basics of a good exercise

  • Your dog needs to exercise every day, all year round.
  • To exercise your dog outdoors, use a static collar, rather than a so-called “choke” collar, and always supervise his exercise. Don’t simply put him outside for the day while you’re out.
  • Like most dogs, your dog’s idea of heaven is to run free. But if you’re near a road or if he’s likely to run away, you should keep him on a leash and under control.
  • Both you and your dog will enjoy your exercise time together more if he’s well trained. At a minimum, he should understand and respond to the ‘heel’, ‘down’ and ‘come’ commands.
  • To let your dog run free, find an area that is safe, such as a park with a specially designated area, and make sure he comes when you call him.
  • Wherever you go, always be sure to clean up after your dog.
  • Part of your walk should be over hard ground because this helps keep his nails short.

Safety first If you are planning to start a more vigorous exercise programme with your dog, or if he is overweight and you want him to get more exercise, be careful not to overdo it at first. Take him to see the vet for a check-up and ask for advice. The key here is to start slowly. Look for signs of fatigue and stop when you see them.

While you are running or walking in well-padded shoes, remember that your dog is essentially barefoot, so you should regularly check his paws. Run him on grass or dirt as much as possible and, in cold weather, wash and dry his paws after you’ve been out if there’s salt on the sidewalks or road.

Exercise as per breed and age

Your dog’s breed, size and age all factor into his exercise requirements. It doesn’t necessarily follow that larger dogs need more exercise. Dogs who were bred to work generally need more exercise than lap dogs. Ask your breeder or vet about how much exercise your dog should be getting.

Puppies don’t need to be encouraged to exercise. However, you have to be careful not to over-exercise them because their bones aren’t very strong. The rule is to exercise them a little, and often. Middle-aged dogs may need more encouragement. It’s up to you to make sure he gets regular exercise through his middle years, which will help keep him to his proper weight.

Older dogs need exercise, too. If you have an older dog, take him for shorter and more frequent walks. It will help keep his joints and circulation moving and give him the opportunity to relieve himself – which he may need to do more often as he ages. Never force him to exercise beyond his capabilities and don’t take him out in extreme weather conditions. Be aware that an older dog may tire more easily than he used to, and that his eyesight and sense of smell may be deteriorating. Your older dog can easily become disoriented if separated from you, so make sure you watch him closely.

Running together for health and fun

Running with your dog is a fun and healthy thing for you to do together. If you’re just starting to run with your dog, however, don’t overdo it. Start slowly and build up your endurance together. For your sake, make sure your dog knows the “heel” command, which will keep him running steadily behind your left leg. This will prevent any confusion about who’s in charge of the route.

Routine in holidays

During holidays, people often let both their own routine and their dog’s routine slip. As you indulge in holiday foods, resist the temptation to feed your dog table scraps. Eating table scraps can contribute to digestive and weight problems. Stick to a normal feeding routine, and make sure you take your dog out regularly – if not as often as usual. Remember, regular exercise is one of the best ways to keep your dog healthy and happy.

Treats: a way to good health

Treats become a way for owners to interact with their pets beyond their main meal. Dr. Pradeep Rana answeres Faqs on treats from a vet’s perspective

The benefits of treats towards a dog’s health are immense. Treats not only form a means for interaction but many dogs who suffer from debilitation are recommended treats that consist a lot of vitamins and proteins. The basic source of treats varies but they mostly contain nutrition and flavour or are raw hides. Problems like suffering from weakness and calcium deficiency in pups can be resolved by giving the correct amount of supplements in form of treats. Dogs normally do not like the taste of medicine and many owners have to resort to force-feeding their pets. Here, treats play a very vital role.
Q : What are the benefits of treats?
Dr. Rana : Treats benefit in more ways than one. Mostly treats help in building antioxidant, chondroprotective and oral/dental efficacy.
Antioxidants come in treats, which contain Vitamins C and E. They help to build immune system which is very important to fight diseases in dogs and help in better reaction to canine medicines. They also help build high level of energy.
Chondroprotective is beneficial for joints since they have high level of glucosamine and chondroitin. This is found naturally in chicken, beef and eggs. Joint and bones requirements are different. Joint treats are made to lubricate joints in old dogs who suffer from joint pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin helps to make the cartilage in the joint whereas bones treats are rich in calcium, which is an important requirement in growing pups for forming healthy strong bones and teeth. On an average, a dog loses glycogen, electrolytes and antioxidants like humans, which lead to fatigue and exhaustions especially during summers. Carbohydrates, electrolytes and Vitamin E and C found in treats can optimise stamina by replacing the added nutrition in his body.
A normal Indian household have dogs on home-cooked diet which are soft food giving rise to many dental/oral problems, which give rise to gingivitis, foul smell which then lead to digestive problems. Hence dental bones and chews is a ‘must’ recommended for dogs.
Q : What are the nutritional benefits of treats?
Dr. Rana : The nutritional benefits go like this. For bones, calcium and vitamins are important. For eyes, treats must contain Vitamin A while for a healthy coat, the treat should be rich in oil and fats containment. Dental tartar leads to many liver problems, hence dental treats and treats that are low in carbs should be given till the problem is solved.
Q : What kind of treats are good for dogs?
Dr. Rana : Treats should not be changed often, unless the requirement of the dog changes. If the pet is suited to a certain treat or likes it, much variation or experiment should never be done. Treats are present in a large variation but what the owner should look at in terms of treating for health benefits should be as per the requirements of the dog. If you have a pup, give him treats for protein, if he’s a debilities old dog, give him soft treats for joints. Similarly, dogs suffering from bad oral hygiene should be given dental treats.
Q : What ingredients are mostly found in treats?
Dr. Rana : Chicken, cr de protein, crude fat, crude fibre, grounded rice, soyabean
meal, grounded oats, barley, corn syrup, glycerine,
gelatin, edible fatty acids,
dry cheese, molasses,
artificial flavours, minerals, vitamins, supplements, biotin supplements, sodium, etc.
Q : What indigents should an owner look at before buying treats?
Dr. Rana : Calcium, minerals and other requirements in a healthy canine are made more palatable with chicken and other flavours are added to make dogs like and have them. A treat should always be given in certain fix amount or else
it will definitely lead to overweight or obese pets since treats are rich in proteins and fats. A treat containing high carbohydrates tends to make a dog put on weight. You should always look for a treat that is easy to digest. Pets react to total calorie consumption so that should always be kept in mind. Totally calorie consumption given to the pet works as : Daily diet = Food + treat + supplements.
If the nutritional requirements of the dogs are kept in mind, then this cycle shall never give rise to overweight pets.
Q : What ingredients in form of treats could be harmful to pets?
Dr. Rana : Chocolates are a big mistake. Treats in small quantity are good. A biscuit is better than “roti” since they might start replacing it with their normal diet. Natural vegetables treats like veggies or fruits can be given in very small amount like half a piece of apple. Some dogs can be allergic to certain food like milk or meat, hence all owners should read carefully before giving a new treat to the pet. Look out for the content chart to avoid any unnecessary casualties. Allergy information are also given on the packet of the treat most of the time.
Q : What are the feeding recommendations?
Dr. Rana : Depends on the treat, instructions are given on the packet itself. Small treats can be given 2-3 per 10-lbs. of body weight per day.
Treats were earlier based solely on hard baked biscuits. But as more and more variety are available, a responsible owner should understand the connection between nutrition and health. Benefit of treat on nutrition is to add the missing ‘factor’.
(Dr. Pradeep Rana is a well- renowned vet in Delhi. He has
his veterinary degree from College of Vet Sciences, Hebbal, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. He is an expert in solving queries and curing pets.)

Hydrotherapy:swimming into good health

Just as with people, hydrotherapy can be used for dogs after an injury or surgical procedure, or for chronic conditions, to help regain strength and mobility. It has been proven to speed recovery time from surgery, improve function and minimize complications. Early intervention may help them recover more quickly and completely. There is a growing consensus among veterinarians and pet owners in the United States and Europe, that a little exercise in water can be very beneficial in improving the health and quality of life for dogs. Whether young and bursting with health and energy, old and feeling sore or stiff from arthritis, or recovering from injury or surgery, hydrotherapy has something in store for almost all dogs.

What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy, sometimes also called aquatic or swim therapy, is a complimentary treatment that is coming to popularity. It is a form of active assisted exercise that includes the use of a swimming pool, underwater treadmill, or therapy spa to engage an animal in swimming activities. The health benefits of active assisted hydrotherapy have been studied extensively and are now recognized by modern veterinary surgeons around the world. Aquatic exercise is purposely advised for increasing muscle strength, balance and stamina, and is essentially a part of many rehabilitation programmes.

What are its benefits?

According to Dr. Jeffrey Norton, Surgery Resident at VCA/All Care Animal Referral Center in Fountain Valley, California, USA, hydrotherapy has numerous goals and benefits, including the restoration of muscle function in the post-operative period. The decision to initiate hydrotherapy is based on the patient’s tolerance, the clinical judgment of the veterinarian, and the availability of physical rehabilitation facilities. Restoration of muscle function following surgery is critical. Water provides more resistance than air; and due to the additional support, the likelihood of further injury during exercise is reduced. However, this is a new field which is yet to be well-regulated. Apart from swimming, underwater treadmill also has its benefits to offer. As the water in a treadmill lifts 60% of the dog’s weight off its feet, while still allowing the feet to touch the ground, dogs move normally and are not frightened. This reduces the chance of injury due to thrashing and hyperextension, as it sometimes happens in a regular pool, especially to dogs who have just had surgery. Moving against the resistance of the water strengthens muscles and improves balance and coordination.

Other benefits include decreasing pain and facilitating healing of injured and inflamed tissues, preventing further disuse and atrophy of affected muscles, improving strength and function of weak or paralysed limbs, besides facilitating weight loss and improving general overall condition. Hydrotherapy also relieves pain and stiffness caused by arthritis and provides positive psychological effects for both the dog and the owner.

What kind of exercises does it offer?

Hydrotherapy facilities currently can offer hydrotherapy rehabilitation, which include swimming, massage for exercise, underwater treadmill, and conditioning purposes.

What are the factors to be considered in hydrotherapy?

The function of a treadmill varies with design. There are specific designs for dogs, rather than one adapted from a human or horse treadmill. Adapted treadmills can cause injury or death to weak dogs. The extreme turbulence in horse or human treadmill could prove hazardous for dogs.

Other factors like suitable water temperature, depth of the pool, noise level, chlorine level, etc should be equally considered. And most importantly, an expert should be attending the dog while the exercise goes on. Hydrotherapy providers should be clean, well-informed, insured and have a valid business license. Following certain guidelines will help dogs enjoy the benefits that swimming and hydrotherapy offer.

(Judy Teresa Pogreba is the Founder and President of See Spot Swim, Inc?–?a canine hydrotherapy, rehabilitation and conditioning center in USA. More information can be had from www.seespotswim.com. And further details on underwater treadmills can be obtained from www.animalrehab.co.uk or www.ferno.com)