Healing Heart Sanctuary



Services  |  Water Therapy

Laura & volunteer rehabbing Sheba

Laura & volunteer rehabbing Sheba


Laura rehabbing Precious

Laura rehabbing Precious
Photo credit: Molly Wald


Itty getting treatment

Itty getting treatment


Water Therapy is one of the best rehabilitation tools available. You get all the benefits of exercise while being weightless.

If recovering from injury or surgery, old age or being overweight, swimming is a great way to go. All the animals (mostly dogs) that swim here at Healing HEART Sanctuary have been approved by a veterinarian to do so. The last thing you want to do is to is make a situation worse; our recommendation to all is that if your pet has a problem, injury, or disability, please confer with your veterinarian before just jumping into a swimming pool.

Since Healing HEART Sanctuary was started, there are now water therapy centers for pets all across the country. After speaking with your vet, we recommend you look locally for a water therapy center for animals. If there are no centers in your area and you have access to a pool, please consult with your veterinarian or call a water therapy center to get guidance on what and how to best swim with your injured or disabled pet before starting any therapy yourself.

Here Are a Few Things to Watch For.
The common “doggie paddle” is the most inefficient style of swimming there is. With this style of swimming, you get a lot of exercise in an extremely short period of time. The common conversion rate is 1 minute of swimming for a dog is equal to 1 mile on land. If your dog can barely make it around the block once, please don’t expect them to swim for an hour straight. Your dog will need to work up to that. You should also be in the water right along your animal; however watch for nails.

As an example, Executive Director Laura Bradshaw has had older dogs with heart conditions that have come to the sanctuary to swim and they’ve spent 10 minutes or so in the pool with probably only 10 seconds of actual swim time. It all depends on the individual dog’s heart rate, physical issues, and comfort level being in the water.

Contrary to popular belief not all dogs like water or know how to swim well. Sure, they may not drown but Laura has had to teach quite a few dogs how to swim in a relaxed manner, without panic swimming. Dog life vests can be purchased for not too much money and can make a big difference in the effort exerted on an old or injured body.

Pools, In General
The water needs to be warm, even up to 90 degrees. If it’s too cold, it will be counterproductive to the animal’s therapy.

If you don’t have an in-ground pool, above-ground pools are just as good (if heated well); just be careful getting your injured pet up and down from the pool height.

Laura also likes kiddie pools, the ones with a blow up ring around the top (depending on the height of your pet). The inflated top is gentle on their necks and the arched side wall means they won’t beat their feet up on the side, or rip the side for that matter. Heating is the only problem here, though Laura has had good luck with using a solar cover to add heat if the sun is strong enough in your area. The pools also usually come with a little filter to keep it clean; though you may have to do some extra work here too.

Bathtubs are a great source for water therapy for small pets, just watch your back! Leaning over while holding a panicked or heavy pet can cause you to need water therapy. If you’re able to go in with them, great; if not, you might consider another way to affect water therapy.

A woman that was not in an area with a pool, let alone a pet therapy center, needed water therapy for her Dachshund. So we worked out an idea for her dog to swim in a tub. A dog life vest was still recommended as it gave the owner something to hold on to in case the dog got too wiggly.

In her particular case bending over a bathtub would not have worked either, as the woman’s own back was not in the greatest shape. A Rubbermaid, or similar, tub on a small table in her shower, or in the yard, was what was eventually created. It was placed at the right height she could easily put water in and let water out while not bending over herself. Since her dog was small enough she could also use a large cooler, which since insulated, would hold the heat in, and then when done she could just open the plug at the bottom for draining.

As long as your pet has been seen by your vet and water therapy is recommended, Healing HEART Sanctuary can help out with your pet's water therapy needs, weather permitting.

If you’re in the area and your animal needs the type of assistance we can provide, please contact Healing HEART Sanctuary for rates and schedule.

As a reminder, please confer with your vet or someone knowledgeable before just jumping in to the pool with your pet.

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