Canine Water Therapy:
A Healthy Dog is a Happy Dog
by Kahlee Keane
Just short of two years ago Corinne and Darcy Deschambault
lost Bailey, affectionately called Bay, their two-and-one-half-year-old
golden retriever to cancer. During Bay’s short life
he had several surgeries; veterinarians recommended swimming
as the best therapy for his healing. Luckily, family friends
offered their swimming pool for his frequent therapeutic
exercise. Since both Corinne and Darcy are Registered Massage
Therapists they were able to work with their pet in the water,
as well as at home. “It worked wonders for him,” says
So the seed had been firmly planted for what is now Saskatoon’s
only canine aquatic centre, fittingly named Bay’s Waterpaws
Canine Aquatic Center. The ultimate goal of the centre is
to make hydrotherapy available so that dog owners can have
a more active role in their pet’s rehabilitation in
a safe environment.
Many dog owners take their pets to swim in lakes and rivers
which is great recreational fun, however in these cases there
are many drawbacks for a dog who is fragile and healing from
trauma. Walking any distance to the shoreline is stressful
and dangerous because of glass and other garbage strewn about.
It is impossible to control how much exercise the dog is
getting, particularly in a river with a current, and if your
dog gets into trouble you may not be able to rescue him or
her in time. Then there is the ever-present risk of infection.
In the safe and controlled setting of the aquatic centre
none of these dangers are present. The dogs swim in warm
water, which is kept at a therapeutic range of 30°C,
making it easy for any dog to have a relaxing yet invigorating
and fun swim.
Swimming not only increases circulation to injured areas
but also restores muscle function and range of motion. This
relaxing therapy reduces muscle spasm, pain and swelling,
and promotes lasting healing.
I wanted to know exactly how a swim session is conducted
and Corinne happily guided me through one. Most sessions
run for forty-five minutes and are restricted to one dog
at a time unless there are two dogs within a family. The
therapist leashes the dog and they walk up a ramp to a pool
that is 12 feet wide, 24 feet long, and 4 feet deep. During
this time the therapist gets to know the dog and when the
animal is ready the leash and collar (with the owner’s
permission) are removed. Then both therapist and dog enter
the pool together.
The dog swims as the therapist monitors energy levels so
the dog does not get stressed. When the session is over the
dog is led out of the water with its leash to be towel-dried
on the deck area. If it is cold outside or the owner wants
the dog to be completely dry, it is led to the grooming area
where it is rinsed, shampooed, and dried before being returned
to the owner. At this time any of the owner’s questions
are answered and another appointment is scheduled if needed.
Advice and instructions for home therapy are given so the
owners can be actively involved in their pet’s recovery.
During the swim session the dog may have an underwater massage
to augment its natural movements. “We will be doing
specific exercises in the water to encourage the dog to strengthen
weakened areas. Fetching is also utilized to keep the dog’s
mind interested. If they aren’t interested mentally
they won’t respond physically, so owners are invited
to join in by encouraging their dog and maybe throwing a
few toys into the pool,” says Corinne. During the entire
session the dog’s heart rate and breathing are thoroughly
monitored by the therapist so that the animal does not over-exert.
Sessions vary according to the dog’s needs with the
average session lasting three quarters of an hour. This allows
for a warm up before swimming, pool exercising, massage,
and then a “cool down” period.
Frequency of sessions is different for every dog depending
greatly on the therapist’s observations and on what
their attending veterinarian suggests. There is an underwater
camera that records the movement of the dog’s limbs;
in this way the dog’s progress is thoroughly monitored.
Swim sessions vary from $25 to $60 depending on the pet’s
needs. This includes a trained therapist, underwater massage
(if required), a rinse and/or wash, drying, treats, and of
course, lots of fun!
Any dog attending for rehabilitation must have a veterinarian’s
referral and up-to-date vaccinations. The dog owners are
also required to sign a form stating they are not aware of
any health problems in their dog.
Recreational and puppy learn-to-swim sessions are available,
as well as therapy sessions for overweight dogs, which help
prevent trauma and assist them in losing weight. Show dogs
and canine athletes, who always need to be in top physical
condition in order to do their best in competition, keep
their bodies agile and muscles strong by working out in the
pool; with the added bonus of being free of any risk of injury
because it is a controlled environment.
Whether you are bringing your dog back to health, keeping
it physically fit, teaching it how to swim, or just giving
it the best of treats, then Bay’s Waterpaws is open
Bay’s Waterpaws Canine Aquatic Center is located at
3010E Arlington Avenue in Saskatoon. You can book a session
for your pet by calling (306) 373-PAWS. The pool is open
Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and Saturday 10:00 am
to 6:00 pm.
Kahlee Keane, Root Woman,
is an eco-herbalist and educator with a deep interest in
the protection of the wild medicinal
plants. Kahlee’s field guide, The Standing People,
contains over 300 colour photographs and information on over
150 medicinal plants of the Prairie Provinces. To order the
book send $29.95 plus $5 postage to Kahlee at Box 28035,
Saskatoon, SK S7M 5V8. To contact her email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.connect.to/rootwoman.