Swimming for Dogs – Therapy and Fun
It’s a fact that people have used water for therapy and rejuvenation for centuries and beyond. Many therapy regimes use pools as a low impact exercise for healing so why not for dogs too? Most dogs love to swim, I know mine are like fish in the water! 😀
Since the 1990s, Linda Brown has been hosting public dog swims at her two indoor pools, one large pool and one lap pool. Owners take their dogs swimming for rehabilitation or exercise.
“It’s a very healthy thing for them to do. It’s a miracle how dogs recover” from their injuries, said Brown, 62.
There seem to be no reliable figures on how many doggie pools there are in Chester County, or anywhere else, but there does seem to be agreement that swimming is good for dogs.
As 10 dogs frolicked in and out of the water at Brown’s pool last Tuesday morning, chasing toys and each other, the canines seemed to enjoy their aquatherapy session.
Margie Saulino, 33, of Collegeville, brings her two dogs, Tex and Penny, swimming about three times a week. She adopted Tex from what she now believes to be a Lancaster puppy mill. His back left leg is shorter than his right leg. He has hip dysplasia, a degenerative joint disease. Her vet had suggested taking the German shepherd swimming in a creek, but Tex kept slipping on the rocks, Saulino said.
After swimming at Brown’s pools for three months, Tex walks without falling down and he doesn’t cry when it rains, as he used to. “He’s got a new lease on life,” she said.
Another dog named Buddy, a golden retriever, was being led on his leash as he swam four laps around the pool. A month ago, he had been hit by a car and one leg had to be rebuilt with nine pins and a plate. Owner Natasha Larimer, 38, drives from Philadelphia to take her dog swimming.
She heard about the pools from her uncle Jim Mueller, who lives in Bucktown. Mueller started taking his black Labrador Findlay swimming there after he had surgery on his knee three years ago. Findlay is rehabilitated enough that he can again catch Cheerios flicked off the breakfast table, which earned Findlay fame on America’s Funniest Home Videos a few years ago.
These days, Mueller takes Findlay to the lap pool for exercise, or to “dejuice,” as Brown puts it.
Brown cleans her pools daily so that she herself can go swimming regularly. There’s also a Jacuzzi in the back, but that’s just for humans.
Another Chester County public dog pool is at Maui Meadow Farms in West Chester. Dogs are guided by ropes around the 150-foot-long, U-shaped lap pool. Horses also swim there for aquatherapy.
Canine Partners for Life, a Cochranville organization that trains dogs to assist disabled people, has sent its dogs swimming at Maui Meadow. “Swimming is great therapy for dogs, just as it is for humans,” said Darlene Sullivan, executive director.
In February, the West Chester Veterinarian Medical Center added a pool and an underwater treadmill to its rehabilitation center. Animals wear life vests and are accompanied into the pool by a vet or vet practitioner.
“For years, I knew that swimming was advantageous for animals. The whole idea of hydrotherapy is to get them into a condition of being pain-free and have increased mobility. It improves their quality of life,” said Willie K.E. Weichelt, the veterinarian who heads the clinic.
Weichelt said most dogs are natural swimmers, rather than being taught by parents. Some dogs are bred to be better swimmers. For example, the Chesapeake Bay retriever and Labrador retriever are bred to retrieve ducks and geese, even in frigid waters.
Zalewski said swimming is about the only exercise Buddy can do now. He can’t walk for miles anymore and he’ll eventually be paralyzed.
She added: “Swimming is really important for him. He’s nuts for it.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
What an excellent program! If you know of any in your area I’d love to hear about.Â This would be something great to get out and make more widely known.
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