A local veterinary hospital has dabbled in the world of aquatherapy with a new indoor pool and underwater treadmill.
Mountain Vista Veterinary Hospital has opened its Collingwood Active Pets Rehabilitation and Hydrotherapy Center and 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 pool for dogs that need low-impact exercise for conditioning or rehabilitation, and an underwater treadmill gives a dog enough buoyancy to reduce stress on joints, allowing dogs to start recovering from surgeries and/or injuries sooner.
Dr. Jennifer Dodd, one of Mountain Vista’s veterinarians, saw the benefits of hydrotherapy in her patients, but usually had to send them out of town for treatment.
She is happy to have a local site for pets.
“The impact is on comfort, but also on returning to normal function,” Dodd said. “It can shorten recovery time by 50% in some surgeries.”
The buoyancy of the water along with the drag it creates will force an animal to use its muscles and joints appropriately (less favorable to an injured leg) and help it recover muscle strength and mobility.
Along with 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 conditions learn or relearn gait pattern and coordination, Dodd said.
“I find it interesting how doing little things, a few actions, has such a profound impact on their body, their physiology is so unique to exercise,” said Dodd, who is in his 17th year as a than veterinarian. “It’s a good way to improve outcomes and improve pain and quality of life. It’s very easy to see the results.
Seeing was believing for Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) Lauren Heise, whose own Newfoundland dog underwent rehab after surgery.
“As much as I love being a general RVT, it kind of reignited a spark,” said Heise, who works at the Collingwood Active Pets center. “To see how much of an impact it had was pretty amazing.”
She looks forward to helping pets with pre- and post-op therapy, but she has a special place in her heart for senior dogs.
“I like old dogs where the goal is not to fix it, but to make them feel better,” she said.
Mountain Vista Hospital Director Kristen Webb said she has seen a shift in pet ownership from pet owners to pet parents, and that veterinary medicine had changed to match the new dynamic.
“[Hydrotherapy] has been used in human medicine for ages and is becoming increasingly popular for pets,” she said. “Older or injured dogs can still be active members of the family.”
The Collingwood Active Pets Rehabilitation and Hydrotherapy Center opened in July and currently treats pets approximately three days a week. It is one of the few such centers in Simcoe County.
The plan for the winter is to allow appointments for free swimming hours in the indoor pool as exercise opportunities for dogs and their owners, Webb said.