Last Wednesday saw us taking Zack for his very first hydrotherapy session. Hubby and I have been increasingly concerned by the limp he developed a year ago that has not improved. He has also been plagued by gammy back legs and stumbling over nothing at all. We have tried him on a few natural remedies, such as Yumove Advance for Dogs, but still his stiff joints are causing him difficulties when rising and general discomfort. More recently, we have heard him groaning a lot in his sleep which is rather terrifying for his concerned owners!
A week before the floods in Keswick, we took Zack to our vet in that market town for a general health check and also to discuss with him again the benefits or not of hydrotherapy. Our vet is nothing but not realistic: he explained that Zack is now an elderly dog, equivalent to 80 human years in age; naturally, he would experience the aches and pains and health issues that any 80-year old might experience. Hydrotherapy would help Zack but it would not cure him. I explained that I wanted Zack to increase the muscle strength in his legs as he has experienced muscle loss from not exercising as much since becoming a little lame. Zack was given a once over by the vet and we were told to help Zack lose some weight which would naturally help his joints as they would not be bearing as much body weight. Then, it was off to the hydrotherapist for Zack’s first swim.
I must confess that whilst I was excited at the prospect of trying a treatment that might enable Zack to move more freely eventually, Hubby was a bag of nerves, although he hid it well. Both of us were aware that Zack might become stressed but the vet had listened to his heart and confirmed that it was beating strongly. By the time we had driven the 45 minutes to get to the hydrotherapy pool, all I wanted was for Zack to enjoy the session. I promised Hubby that if our 4-legged boy was to balk at it and become terribly stressed, then we would leave.
Now, Zack has never swum before. We rescued him when he was just eight months of age, and since then, he has never shown any inclination to go near any body of water except to slake his thirst, perhaps, when we are walking by a lake in the beautiful Lake District National Park that we call home.
The hydrotherapist began by doing a physical check of our dog, and then he washed the lower part of Zack’s body with warm water before putting a life vest on the boy. Next, he led the dog, slowly and carefully up the steps and ramps into the pool. First, Zack’s feet were immersed in the water. After some minutes, he was encouraged to walk a couple of steps lower down the ramp. And so it went, until, finally, the hydrotherapist held on to Zack’s life vest and urged him into the water.
I think our boy floundered a little to begin with. I had thought that all dogs know how to swim. It turns out that they may not all know how to do this elegantly – and Zack managed to get his nose into the water. Not nice! The hydrotherapist swam Zack in a tight loop to begin with just so that Zack could get a feel of the exercise. One loop, and Zack was urged back onto a submerged platform where he could rest. Heavy panting showed he was stressed. On the second round, Zack knew not to dip his nose in the water. Then, another rest. And again for another four more circles. By this time, our boy was beginning to flag and his hind legs were tired enough for him to want to sit, rather than to stand, on the resting platform.
Then, it was one last round where Zack would leave the resting platform in order to swim to the ramp that would enable him to leave the pool. It was terrifying for both Hubby and me when we saw Zack coming out of the pool – his hind legs had given way and his heavy waterlogged coat did not help! The hydrotherapist had to help him tackle the ramps and steps by using the strap on the life vest to support him. Back at the shower area, and Zack was able to regain his feet in less than five minutes. The resilience of his spirit was wonderful to see!
Once Zack had been showered, he was led to the drying room, where a blow-dry awaited. With his dense coat, our boy was never going to be totally dry before we were to take our leave. In fact, he was damp for the next 24 hours or so despite efforts to towel dry and blow-dry his hair at home. I have now ordered a fleece jumper that should wick the water from his coat, which I hope will reach us before we take him to his next session this week.
Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’
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Telephone: 015394 43440