Seniors: Getting your senior back on their paws.

Senior patients require special rehabilitation considerations as they have a high incidence of underlying chronic conditions that lead to progressive loss of mobility.  At Aqua Dog, treatment of our senior patients can be very rewarding as a patient regains function and there is a noticeable improvement in our patient’s quality of life.

At Aqua dog, the goals of rehabilitation are to minimize joint pain, improve joint mobility, increase muscle strength and stamina, and improve function. Exercise programs are designed to strengthen supporting muscles (core and back), through a variety of low-impact and mild weight bearing exercises. Concurrently, we are combating muscle atrophy (muscle loss) due to disuse.

Discussion of the underwater treadmill:

The underwater treadmill allows us to maximize our exercises, by using multiple treatment methods at once. For example, head therapy, buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure.

The warm water begins the exercises with heat therapy. This is important for warming muscles and preparing them for exercise. Heat promotes blood flow to the area increasing flexibility and decreasing muscle spasms, pain and stiffness.

The underwater treadmill allows us to utilize specific principles of aquatic therapy that provide unique benefits to our senior patients. For example, buoyancy. Buoyancy aids in rehabilitation of weak muscles and painful joints. It allows the seniors to minimize the weight that is borne on joints while maintaining an upright position during exercises. In addition, hydrostatic pressure (pressure exerted on the body by fluids), opposes the tendency for blood and inflammation to pool in joints. This reduces the tendency to develop swelling in the joints. Lastly the underwater treadmill utilizes the resistance created by water against the patient’s body that may strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular fitness.

Discussion of exercise:

Therapy of an older patient tends to follow a course of exacerbation and remission. We find it important to constantly reassess our senior patients to modify the prescribed exercises as well as the at home exercises.

When a patient is sore or exceptionally painful, we use exercises to maintain joint mobility with minimal weight bearing (swimming or leash walking). In addition, we use massage therapy to reduce pain, inhibit muscle spasms and keep muscles pliable. Heat therapy is important before any exercise is initiated. When a patient can tolerate exercise, stamina training and light strengthening is utilized. A cool down period is important following all exercises to reduce inflammation and swelling.

Treatment of senior patients is a lifelong commitment. If rehabilitation, whether it be at a rehab facility or at home, is discontinued, any benefits gained, will likely be lost once exercising and therapy is stopped. That is why at ADR, we are happy to formulate at-home-exercises to fit you and your dog’s life style.