Category

Swimming

Q&A: Canine Swimming

Why should pet parents consider trying aquatic exercise for their dog? What are some of the main benefits?

Swimming is beneficial for just about everyone. It provides non-weight bearing exercise that improves fitness at every level. Swimming promotes blood and lymph circulation and reduces pain globally.

If a dog doesn’t know how to swim, is that a problem? What if they have a fear of water? 

Though most dogs have an instinctive swimming response, we assume that they need to develop some swimming skills and we go through a series of small steps to promote confidence and competent swimming. Many dogs are afraid of a body of water with no bottom if they don’t have any experience – this fear can be a life-saver for the dog. If you are not a competent swimmer, going beyond where you can touch the bottom could result in drowning. Even dogs bred for the water need a supervised beginning: their enthusiasm sometimes outstrips their skill level! We start them off teaching some “here is the bottom” exercises, with supported swimming one direction toward the owner, and build on that. Very few dogs stay afraid of the water as long as their swim experience is carefully nurtured. For a few elderly dogs, a floatation vest provides buoyancy and safety for those who can’t swim fast enough to stay high in the water. For the overstimulated, a life vest can provide security and calming, but we don’t often use vests for long. Our “puppy package” is designed to allow puppies to develop confidence and learn to swim in 4 short sessions no more than a week apart. Most of the time, puppies are swimming well at the end of those 4 sessions.

How, in particular, does swimming help dogs with issues such as arthritis and joint pain? 

Our facility provides warm water assisted swimming. Formal therapy is done at medical facilities, supervised directly by a veterinarian, often with a water treadmill. We operate with veterinarian input for each dog, and provide structured swimming experiences.

The inflammation involved in arthritis and accompanying joint pain is relieved by warm water and by movement. Starting slowly, as the muscles start to be able to do their jobs better, and the joints are better able to produce joint fluid because they are moving better, the health of the joints improves. Muscles and tendons and ligaments are stronger, and pain is reduced.

Because it is non weight bearing, swimming allows compromised joints to move more normally, improving both the quantity of information and the quality of communication of all systems with the nervous system. For dogs who have any joint issues, this aspect can be the key to improved health and function of all body systems.

What are some of the exercises/movements done in the water for the dog?

Most of our swimmers swim a variation on laps in the water. For those who like toys we customize retrieving activities, and incorporate any limitations or goals into their sessions. Some dogs aren’t interested in toys so we teach them to swim with us, a version of “synchronized swimming” for dogs. Rest periods are incorporated, and these get shorter as dogs get fitter. For the very old, we often float them out to the end of the pool and they swim back 1/2 lap to their people at the edge of the pool. Balance is achieved by making sure that dogs are using both sides of their bodies equally in terms of making turns and the direction of laps. At The Puddle, swimming is very much a family activity and everyone is encouraged to cheer and help the process along (though only swim coaches are in the water) Dogs do much better when their people are involved.

On average, how long can/should a dog swim? (Be it time in the pool for a session or how many days/weeks/months certain recoveries take).

Swim sessions are 30 minutes at The Puddle. Depending on the condition of the dog, actual swimming time per session may be almost all of the 30 minutes or less than 10 minutes, with lots of floating (also very good for the body). We start dogs off on the low end if they are pre-surgical or post surgical, if they have injuries they are recovering from, if they are obese or unfit an any way. We monitor heart rate to determine when to rest. With regular swimming, dogs improve amazingly quickly, but if there is not close attention to the rate at which muscles can recover, harm may be done.

For those who have had orthopedic surgery, adherence to home care rules and exercises is a major influence on how well dogs do in our swim program. We consider 6 weeks pre- and post- surgical to be an ideal start. More swims post-surgical are beneficial in most cases. We’d like them to swim until there is no difference between the muscles on left and right sides.

For the elderly and aging, swimming for life is our recommendation. Our experience is that swimming can add years to the happy, productive life of older dogs. One of our dogs was very creaky at 1yr old, taking anti-inflammatiories and with all the medical support available including chiropractic, acupuncture and massage. His pain level would have ended his life pretty soon. He started swimming once a week and lived to be almost 17. Hard to believe.

Swimming is excellent recreation for almost any dog. There are very few “safe” places for dogs to swim, and some dogs don’t do well in a group of dogs, as at a dog park. Many dogs just don’t have a good place to let off steam. A high percentage of dogs that are “unmanageable” who are surrendered to shelters just are not getting enough exercise. Through our “Share the Care” community program we raise funds and provide services for local rescue groups pre-adoption, and some of those dogs have been transformed by weekly swimming from nervous, fearful, unstable individuals into confident, “let me at it!” swimmers with their former fears of people and new situations a thing of the past.

Are there any risks involved, for instance is the chlorine bad for them?

Every pool is different. Our pool has UV sanitation with a salt generator for the immediate disinfection issues of what comes in with dogs. It’s mild and no dogs or humans have had difficulty with it. There are a few pools with only ozone sanitation, but as with human pools, there needs to be some sanitation process for the immediate issues: UV treated water is totally clean when it comes into the pool, but dogs are not so clean!

There are indeed risks. We encourage anyone looking for a swim facility to observe carefully the way that dogs are handled, the skill and training level of the staff, the “feel” of the facility. In our opinion, staff need to be in the water doing nothing but paying attention to your dog. There needs to be an immediate “oneness” established between the swim coach and your dog in order for your dog to trust them and feel safe. The coach should be trained in how to handle the dog while in the water under all circumstances. This is not an easy task with a frightened dog in the pool for the first time. Dog owners need to be paying very close attention as well, they know their dog better than anyone. Very close observation is needed to ensure that your dog is safe. Do not compromise or make excuses – facilities should be clean, well managed and well supervised.

 

Beth Taylor, LMT, CVMRT

The Puddle – Pet AquaFitness & Nutrition

1948 Gyorr Ave. South Elgin, IL 60177

630-883-0700

The Loop and the Puddle: Expert Interview with Beth Taylor

Nov 19, 2014

Pet care professionals who use the Loop are a passionate and knowledgeable bunch, and Beth Taylor of The Puddle Aquafitness and Nutrition in South Elgin, Illinois is no exception. Beth has been recommending the Loop to the Puddle’s aquafitness clients for a long time, and she also excels in the realm of canine nutrition. Assisi Animal Health was able to ask her about the use of the Loop with her clients. Tune in next week, as well, for a guest blog from Beth about what everyone should know about pet nutrition.

Can you give me a background on what you do at the Puddle?

The Puddle is a facility that integrates most of my interests. I wrote a couple books on food and nutrition, on fresh food diets for dogs and cats, and I’ve been involved in the initial stages of commercial raw diets for dogs, I worked with an animal chiropractor [Carl DeStefano DC] for ten years. I became a licensed massage therapist and completed the massage and rehabilitation program at The Healing Oasis.

My vet was always searching for a retail store to direct her clients to that carried finer-brand foods. Her sister took on the project of opening one and added the bonus services of swimming and massage. I had experienced the positive results of swimming dogs first hand. It was a perfect fit for all of us. I started swimming one of my dogs about ten years ago. He was 11 at the time and he was getting very tippy. Swimming him once a week at a facility like what we’re doing now kept him going until he was almost 17. So I’m a real fan of swimming.

The front of the store is a small food section which is designed to provide rotation in both dry food and frozen food – it’s not a lot of products. We really try to focus on education to remove road blocks to health. We have a drop-in dog wash, and we have the pool. The pool covers everything from teaching puppies to swim to conditioning for geriatrics. We provide pre- and post-surgical services, and we have massage and bodywork for humans and pets. I do a lot of massage in the water.

Oh, wow, you have massage for humans, too? That’s fantastic.

Yes. In order to do the CVMRT program with Dr. Rivera at The Healing Oasis I had to be a certified massage therapist, and that was a very interesting education. Some people will have an appointment for their dogs, and themselves.

If there were one thing you wish all your clients could know, what would it be?

You’re in charge of your animal’s health. Not anyone else. I see so many people just accepting what they’re told with no critical thinking, never asking questions, not doing their own research. They’re afraid to make waves. Their health suffers, and the health of their animal suffers because they’re not willing or not brave enough to speak up, or they have accepted the idea that someone else knows better than they do how to take care of themselves or their animals.

What kind of issues do you most often treat?

Pain and decreased function. That can be young dogs and old dogs, for many reasons. Almost everybody we see thinks that pain is inevitable and that lack of function is just the way it’s supposed to be. They don’t realize that their own bodies and their dogs’ bodies are not defective. What’s wrong is the diet we provide and how we’re living our lives. We need to be active, and we need to eat real food. And if we do those things, a lot of the problems we have will just fall away. For whatever’s left, we have good tools.

Do you have a hard time getting people to understand that pain doesn’t have to exist?

Yes. People don’t notice pain in their animals, don’t see it, don’t recognize it, and don’t realize that what their animals eat and how they live has anything to do with the pain that they feel. They think, “Well, I’ve got wear and tear in my knee, I’ve got arthritis in my knee, and therefore it’s going to hurt. Same for the dog.”

I’ve seen people with their third dog with the same problems finally getting it. “Yes, if I help my dog live an active life, if I feed him good food, sure we’ll have aging issues, but they won’t be anything like if I weren’t being proactive.” They start to get the picture, but it’s often a slow process.

What has been your experience with the use of the Loop in your practice?

Nothing but good. My main challenge has been explaining it to people. ‘Okay, people. I’m telling you, this will reduce pain and improve healing – all you have to do is sit down with your dog three or four times a day.’ And they sometimes say, ‘Well, that’s too hard. I’ll just give him this drug.’ It’s a constant education process.

I know how well it works because I got the unit while I was in school and I used it myself. My friend and I were there together, and she had just bashed herself into the side of a door. She had a giant bruise coming down her arm. We put the Loop on the bottom of her arm, and then we forgot about it – until the next day when the bottom of her arm looked beautiful, and the top of her arm looked terrible. The bruise was mostly gone on the bottom of her arm.

I have a 14-year-old Golden who uses it regularly. He’s a lot more mobile with it than without it. He swims every week and gets massage every week, but still, the Assisi on that hip joint is really helping him out.

Anything that can be put into the hands of clients that makes them proactive members of the team is going to make a treatment program more effective. Laser is great, but you’ve got to go [to the vet’s office] and do it. You can send people home with the Loop and they’ll have something they can do at home that moves things along a lot further and faster.

I had one client with a German Shepherd with all the typical problems – bad guts, bad skin, very painful in the hips. About six years old, and looked like an 11-year-old. She bought a Loop, used it for a week like I’d told her to, maybe twice a day, and she brought it back and said, ‘It doesn’t work.’ I said, ‘Tell me about it.’ She said, ‘Well, he WAS up and running around a lot more about four hours after we did it, but then he felt bad again!’

Okay – so what you’re telling me is, it worked. And you saw immediate results. ‘Well, yes, but he’s on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and steroids and he’ll be fine.’ So I’m still working on her!

If we can figure out a way to get over that hump – you know, ‘What if you didn’t have to use those drugs, or if they could be reduced? Those drugs are going to harm your dog.’ People look at me blankly. It seems hard for them to even consider – “But my veterinarian prescribed the drugs.”

I find it’s the same in nutrition education. It can take a long time for concepts to sink in.

You say that some of your clients are hesitant to try the Loop – do you think that’s because it’s not a conventional treatment in pill form?

Yes, and I think it’s the perception that once you’re broken, you can’t get fixed. My mom has arthritis in her hands, and I know of at least five activities she can do sitting in a chair that would make it better, but she doesn’t do them. Many of us are like that. Bucking the trend of how people think about their bodies and their lives is quite a challenge. It’s global, we’re not just talking about Pulsed Signal Magnetic Therapy (tPEMF). You have to question authority and be willing to live your life differently. In this case, it means taking the time to sit down with your animal a few times a day and push a button. Seems doable.

Beth serves as the Puddle’s nutrition advisor, bodywork director and swim coach. She has been intensively involved in health, training, and wellness for animals and people all her adult life. In 1994, Beth began teaching dog training and producing education seminars on dog training and nutrition. Researching fresh food diets for dogs led to her work with Steve’s Real Food for Pets as regional manager and veterinary consultant. She taught retailers and veterinarians how to use fresh food diets and provided support for them nationwide. This work led to the writing and publication of See Spot Live Longer with Steve Brown.

Beth has worked in the practice of Carl DeStefano, DC, assisting him in his chiropractic work, and assisting the practice of Dena Jersild, DVM. Beth has produced seminars with Karen Becker, DVM on health topics, and co-wrote the very popular Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats, now in its 4th printing.

Beth’s extensive education in bodywork modalities for animals includes Acupressure, Tui na, jin shin jyutsu, Triggerpoint Myotherapy, Cranio-sacral Therapy, several Myofascial techniques, Reiki, and Qigong. She is certified in Acupressure through the AAMT and has completed all coursework at Tallgrass Animal Institute. Beth is certified in Spring Forest Qi Gong I and II, EFT level I and II, Reiki I and II, and is a Licensed Massage Therapist. She is also certified in massage and rehabilitation by the Healing Oasis in Sturdevant, WI. Beth is a graduate of La Paw Spa’s Aquatic Training Program Level One & Two and is certified in Canine CPR and First Aid. She is also a member of the Association of Canine Water Therapy (ACWT) and the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork (IAAMB).

– See more at: http://www.assisianimalhealth.com/blog/2014/11/loop-and-puddle-expert-interview-beth-taylor/#sthash.unOywAdn.hYkKOm54.dpuf

The benefits of “prehab” swimming

The best time to get your dog comfortable in the water is BEFORE surgery!

Many dogs come to us for fitness and rehab after a surgical procedure and are learning about swimming for the first time. They are not at their best. They’ve been restricted and frustrated for weeks even if their humans have done their absolute best to take care of them. Things aren’t working quite right, and they may be in pain. They’re a little worried about their bodies!

Learning something new can be stressful, even if it’s a good stress. Optimal results in the pool depend on giving the nervous system only what it can handle and no more. If we can eliminate the “new thing” piece from the experience of rehabilitating an injured or repaired part, we can be many steps ahead in the healing process by not activating the hormones of fear.

If your dog gets comfortable in the pool before surgery, they come to an activity they are familiar with, a place they feel safe, and the outcome is much improved.

An added and not infrequent benefit is that those who do “prehab” are in better shape for their surgery and recover faster. Non-weight bearing exercise allows a dog to use their muscles in more appropriate ways than has been possible for those with chronic or acute problems

Help your dog have a better post-surgical experience! We have rehab packages that can be used pre or post surgery. Come in and visit!

Beth Taylor, LMT, CVMRT
The Puddle
bt@thepuddleaquafitness.com