This is a real case history provided by Neville and Marion Allen of the Canine Fitness Centre. Published with permission from Amber’s owner.
Hydrotherapy: Amber’s Story
Amber used to chase wallabies. She didn’t ever catch them, but every time she saw one, she’d optimistically bound after them, feathery gold tail the only thing visible above the long grass.
One day, while trotting back, tongue lolling, she suddenly yelped and started limping. That was her first torn cruciate ligament. She already had some arthritis in a front paw, but that hadn’t stopped her from running. The torn ligament did – particularly when she tore another one a year later.
After surgery, the ligaments seemed to take a long time to heal, and she kept limping. The vet recommended I take her to hydrotherapy. I had no idea what was involved, but I hated seeing her looking so uncomfortable, so I thought I’d give it a try.
I knew it was going to be tricky, because Amber doesn’t like water. She certainly looked very alarmed when she was placed into a swimming pool in a harness. Why was I trying to drown her? And why, when she was swimming so hard, wasn’t she getting anywhere? (elastic ropes)
On the other hand, she enjoyed the water treadmill right from the start. She considers it to be hers now and becomes quite annoyed when there’s another dog in it. Over time, she even became quite relaxed about paddling in the swimming pool.
Amber has been going to hydrotherapy for years. Friends and family are surprised that we keep taking her, but the difference is amazing. If she has to miss her sessions for more than two weeks, she starts to limp.
We’ve witnessed some dramatic improvements for others, too. We’ve seen dogs carried in, seemingly paralysed in the back and legs, only to see them walking unaided in the treadmill a few weeks later, looking quite proud of themselves. Marion, who owns the ‘Canine Fitness Centre’, where we go, has an unflappable competence that makes everything run very smoothly and miracles seem normal.
We’ve met dogs of all sizes there – right up to wolfhounds, which can just about touch the bottom of the swimming pool. There’s a hoist to lift the heavy dogs into the pool, but Amber has never had to put up with that indignity. She is lifted in and out, as befits the princess she considers herself to be.
To anyone who has a four-legged family member having trouble walking, I can only refer you to the picture on this post and point out that Amber is thirteen years old, and has had major problems with three-quarters of her legs. No-one seeing her bouncing along the beach would know it.
She doesn’t chase wallabies now – mainly because she can’t hear them or see them too well any more – but she walks better than I do. (Marion has offered to let me in the treadmill as well, but I haven’t taken her up on in it yet.)