Tag Archives: swimming

Walking the talk

For some of my clients, I recommend that they take their dogs to hydrotherapy.  Sometimes I recommend a water treadmill and, other times, a swimming pool is better.

And with some owners, it seems they are reluctant to give it a try.  I think it is because they question whether hydrotherapy for dogs is a ‘real’ thing or they just can’t imagine their dog doing it.

Today, I took Izzy swimming for the first time.  (My previous dog, Daisy, who passed away in 2014, was a regular at the pool for almost the last two years of her life).

Here is Izzy at the Dog Swim Spa.  The lifejacket gave her support and confidence and she did very well.

We are going to make it to the pool at least 3-4 times per year and will increase the frequency of visits as she ages and depending on her physical condition.  It is good variety for her fitness regime at the moment plus these visits will serve as added enrichment.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Using therapy dogs to prepare for the Olympics

Olympic dog

The Summer Olympics in Rio are not far away and it’s a stressful time for athletes as they prepare and aim to qualify for the competition.

In the United States, the swim team is using  dogs to help manage the stress! A Havanese named Holly and a Goldendoodle named Larry are among the crew supporting the swimmers.

Read more in this New York Times article – US Swimmers Using Therapy Dogs to Relax Before Races

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doing the dog paddle

If you have ever watched your dog swim, you’ve probably noticed that intense look of concentration on their face.  Research has confirmed that swimming doesn’t come as naturally as, say,  walking, running or trotting on land.

Photo by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Photo by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Dr. Frank Fish, a professor of biology at West Chester University, set out with his colleagues to understand how real dogs perform the dog paddle.

Dr Fish found a large horse rehabilitation pool for filming eight dogs of six different breeds during swimming.  Dr Fish’s own dog was one of the study subjects.

The team analyzed the videos and found that the dogs were swimming with a gait that was similar to a familiar trot on land. When a dog trots, moving at a pace more brisk than a walk, diagonal pairs of legs move together. In swimming, the dog’s legs move in a similar fashion, but even faster than a trot, and the legs move beyond the range of motion for a trot.  (This is one reason why I recommend swimming for many – but not all – of my massage and rehab customers.)

Swimming dogs are, essentially, using a basic movement but with some modification. Also, while the movements that make up terrestrial gaits like trotting can vary from one dog breed to another, the dog paddle gait showed very little variation among the different breeds.

Dr Fish says that dogs can be used as a model for precursors to early swimming mammals.   He hopes to unravel the steps in evolution that allowed four-legged terrestrial animals to become swimming mammals like the dolphin.

In the meantime, get out there and let your dog swim.   For most dogs, it’s great exercise!

Daisy concentrates during her swim at the Dog Swim Spa

Daisy concentrates during her swim at the Dog Swim Spa

Want to know more about physical rehabilitation and whether swimming is right for your dog?  Get in touch with me by completing the information below.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source:  Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology media release

Would a raised dog feeder help my dog?

A massage client asked me this question earlier this week.   The dog in question is a Boxer (beautiful boy) who happens to be suffering from degeneration in his spine.

Although he is doing well with regular swimming, acupuncture and massage therapy, his owner knows that he is comparatively young (8) and she wants him to have a good quality of life for a long time.  So that’s when we started talking about changes she could make to his physical environment to make things less stressful for him (ramps, steps, etc.)

Would a raised feeder help my dog?

Raised feeders can be a real advantage for a dog with orthopaedic problems or arthritis.  Eating from a raised feeder helps to relieve strain on the neck and back, allowing the dog to eat without dramatically altering their posture and helping them to retain balance.

But – some studies have shown that dogs who are susceptible to bloat have an increased risk from eating from a raised feeder.  The most notable reference for this link is an article by Dr Larry Glickman in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 17, No. 10.

Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) is known by the common term ‘bloat’  and other terms such as ‘stomach torsion’ or ‘twisted stomach.’  Regardless of what name you use, the condition is life-threatening.  Dogs can die of bloat within several hours.   Even with treatment, as many as 25-33% of dogs who develop bloat will die.

In bloat, the stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and the diaphragm. The pressure on the diaphragm makes it difficult for the dog to breathe. The air-filled stomach also compresses large veins in the abdomen, preventing blood from returning to the heart.

Filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, pinching off its blood supply. This rotation is known as volvulus.  The stomach begins to die and the entire blood supply is disrupted.  A dog with this condition can deteriorate very rapidly – meaning a trip to the vet as an emergency.

Purdue University ranks Boxers as the 16th breed most susceptible to bloat (Great Danes are the highest).  So, in this case, the owner decided not to opt for a raised feeder.  Not only is her Boxer on the higher risk list, but he also is a gobbler – making quick work of his food!

This is just one example where it pays to do a little research.  An idea that seems like a good one may not be so.

Exercise for small dogs

Sometimes people forget that small dogs have different needs for their care and exercise than larger breed dogs.  Here’s some tips on how to keep your small breed dog happy and active.

  • Walking

Walking is ‘tops’ on my list for exercise for all dogs.  There are added health benefits for the dog owner, too. I recommend twice per day walks.  You need to be careful about the length of walk for small dogs because they may not be able to go as far as you can.

  • Swimming

I’m a big supporter for hydrotherapy for dogs, particularly as they age or have rehabilitation needs.  But, swimming is excellent general exercise for your small breed dog.  Check out hydrotherapy facilities in your area for information on ‘casual’ swims (therapist supervision not required).  In Christchurch, we have an excellent facility for this:  Dog Swim Spa.

  • Ball games – playing fetch

Small dogs can get quite a bit of exercise in by playing with toys and their owners.  This is great inside exercise during the winter months – provided you have a long hallway or room for your dog to play in.

  • Using the stairs

If your house has stairs or you can take your dog to work with you, using the stairs can be excellent exercise for your small breed dog.    Some breeds, such as dachshunds, should not be encouraged to do lots of stair climbing because their long spine makes them vulnerable to stress and strain injuries including slipped discs.    Be mindful of just how much effort a small dog may need to climb a stair designed for full-grown humans.  Aging dogs with arthritis should avoid stair climbing as a major source of exercise – there are better options as described above.