Scientists say dog owners should ditch the daily walk in favour of the doggy paddle to save their pets’ joints
Swimming can help improve dogs’ strides and treat elbow dysplasia
Hydrotherapy is particularly useful for Labradors and German Shepherds
Scientists researched the way dogs walk before and after taking a swim
Scientists have said dog owners worried about their pets’ joints should ditch daily walkies in favour of the doggy paddle.
Experts say swimming is not only great exercise for dogs, but can also help improve their strides and treat elbow dysplasia – a genetic developmental abnormality, causing pain and loss of mobility.
They say the treatment – coined ‘canine hydrotherapy’ – is particularly useful for Labrador and German Shepherd breeds, who are especially susceptible to the condition.
Mobility is a huge issue for dogs suffering from forelimb lameness, affecting their ability to live a normal happy life.
Dr Alison Wills, a researcher at Hartpury University Centre in Gloucestershire, made the discovery alongside Tate Preston, after studying Labradors.
‘Dogs with elbow dysplasia displayed an increased range of motion, stride frequency and stride length, measures of mobility in our study, after the hydrotherapy,’ she said.
Hydrotherapy was a proven benefit both for dogs with mobility problems and those without.
‘Interestingly, the healthy controls also showed significantly better stride characteristics, from the findings of this study, it does appear that swimming is good for dogs’, says Dr Wills.
The research team attached reflective markers to the dogs’ legs and used a camera to track the movement of the markers – so they were able to compare how the canine companions walked before and after taking a dip.
Dr Wills said: ‘In this study, only Labradors were examined, but as other breeds are predisposed to developing elbow dysplasia, particularly German Shepherds, it would be interesting to investigate how hydrotherapy affects the movement of different types of dogs.’
Although this is great news for Labradors, the researchers are keen to keep studying dogs of all breeds.
Dr Wills added: ‘It is hard to generalise the findings to the entire canine population due to the small sample size.
‘Dogs also come in all shapes and sizes so what works for one may not for another. Even so, most dogs still find swimming fun.’
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