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Volume 10 Issue 5
January/February 2005

Canine Water Therapy:
A Healthy Dog is a Happy Dog

Carob: First Rate Food!

Adventures with Chi – Life Energy
Sound-making and Drawing

Flower Essences
A Natural Way to Relieve Emotional Imbalances

Why Am I Here? . . . Discovering Your Purpose


Canine Water Therapy:
A Healthy Dog is a Happy Dog

Kahlee Keaneby 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 Corinne.

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 to you.

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: rootwoman@sasktel.net or visit www.connect.to/rootwoman.


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