What goes into maintaining a canine hydrotherapy pool?

Sparkling clean water is something which we have always been a bit obsessed with at Bach Canine Rehab. Our water quality is hugely important to us and something we think about constantly. Having dogs (often a bit grubby from having a good time in the park!) in the pool and treadmill all day long is challenging for our filters and water management systems and managing our water forms a huge part of our jobs. So, what goes in to keeping a canine hydrotherapy pool clean?

Our water is tested in-house 3 x daily. This is to ensure chemical levels are safe – high enough to do the job of killing any bugs, but low enough to be safe to swim in. We also don’t want the clinic (and ourselves and patients!) smelling of chlorine, which can be the case if the wrong water management protocols are used.  As we test the pool 3 x a day, this allows us generally to micro-dose chlorine levels, to avoid having to put a lot of chemicals in in one go.

One of the tests we do daily is for water clarity – and we are proud to say our water is within the “ideal” range for drinking water. So even though we try to avoid our patients doing so as much as possible, our water really is clean enough to drink!

Once a month, we send a water sample off to an external lab for testing, to ensure we have no bacteria or other bugs growing. We are proud to say that we have never had a bad pool result.

The pool is hoovered twice a day, morning and night, and the treadmill is hoovered every evening, to get rid of as much hair and little bits of foliage the dogs bring in as possible and avoid them going into the filters.

On a Saturday evening, we conduct a more intensive cleaning protocol, taking the chlorine levels higher to ensure any bacteria is well and truly dealt with and running the chlorinated water through the whole system. We then rest the pool on a Sunday (hence why we close that day) to allow the chlorine to do its work and the levels to drop back to normal.

Our filters and heaters run 24/7 – they are never switched off, even if the clinic is closed. When the clinic is closed for any length of time (for example over the Christmas period) we still come in every other day to test the water levels and ensure all is as it should be.

We are proud to be geeks about our water management, and hopefully you will agree that the quality of our water demonstrates the hard work that goes into maintaining it!

Ramps – How to help your dog make the most of this mobility aid

There are a variety of mobility aids to help make day – to – day activities more comfortable and more approachable for your dog. One activity in particular that often needs addressing is how to safely help your dog in and out of the car.  Ah ha! A ramp for the car you say!  Indeed – car ramps are great pieces of kit but they need to be introduced correctly in order for dogs to feel at ease using them – time for a blog!

Our friends at CAM recently advised of a study showing that as much as 6 times your dog’s body weight could be going through their forelimbs when jumping out of a car. That is a lot of strain and impact to be put through normal structures, let alone if your dog has vulnerable joints or soft tissues.  Jumping in can also present a real challenge as your dog needs to be strong and coordinated enough for this movement – if they are weak or uncomfortable, this can be a very difficult, scary movement for them, and they are also more likely to fall and injure themselves further. So what are the alternatives?

If you have a small dog and you are capable of lifting them in and out of the car safely then excellent – job done!  However, if you have a larger dog or are not able to lift them safely, we would recommend using a ramp, probably in combination with a harness that will allow you to support your dog while they navigate the incline and decline.  When choosing a ramp, the two key factors to consider are angle and traction. The angle of the ramp needs to be not too steep – so for bigger, 4×4 style cars, a longer ramp may be needed to allow a shallow enough incline. The surface of the ramp also needs to give your dog enough traction. If the ramp surface is a bit slippery, sticking some rubber matting down can help improve this.

Many dogs who have jumped into the car for years (and maybe even been rewarded for doing so) will not understand the concept of a ramp, so they also need to be trained to use it correctly and safely. They also need to be given time to familiarise themselves with the ramp, before being asked the relatively advanced task of using it at an angle against a car boot. Our approach here (as with all tasks we ask of our dogs) is to break the challenge down into small stages, ensuring the dog is comfortable with each step before moving onto the next one. Generally, if dogs don’t do what we ask, it is because they don’t feel capable or are anxious, not because they are being deliberately obtuse!

For introducing a ramp, we would recommend the following steps:

  • Place the ramp flat on the ground at home or in the garden and let your dog sniff and investigate it. Praise and reward them when they approach it and sniff. Place treats on the ramp for them to snaffle up.
  • Once they are comfortable around the ramp, use treats to lure your dog to place their paws on it and gradually build up to them walking along the ramp, whilst it is still lying flat on the floor. Do this with them in a harness and lead as well and practice walking up and down it.
  • Then try exactly the same thing, but with the ramp on a low incline, such as raised on a step. Supporting your dog on the harness, encourage them to walk up the ramp and praise and treat them for doing so. Ensure you practice the decline too!
  • Slowly increase the angle of the ramp, remembering to always praise your dog, support them with the harness and only increase the angle of the incline when they are fully confident.
  • Finally, place the ramp against the car. Your dog may still be conditioned to jump into the car, so ensure the ramp is ready and you have your treats, supportive harness and lure so that you can encourage them up the ramp instead. Sometimes it can be helpful to have someone standing on the other side of the ramp, to direct them up it safely. Use lots of praise and reward here – and if your dog still seems reluctant, you may have to go back a step to a shallower incline before trying again.

Investing the time to introduce a car ramp successfully will really pay dividends for you and your dog when they can finally use it safely and comfortably and will avoid any nasty injuries (for either of you!) if they continue to try to jump, or you try to lift them unsafely. It will also mean you can keep taking your dog out on adventures with you for much longer!

If you would like further advice or support with this issue or anything else, do get in touch.


Electrotherapies: Another tool in our kit

Many people who bring their dogs to see us are unfamiliar with one big element of our toolkit – the electrotherapies we use (also referred to as electrophysical agents, or EPAs).  We often get asked what they are and how they work….so we thought….time for a blog!!

We use both pulsed electromagnetic field therapy and Class 3b laser therapy regularly with the majority of our canine clients. The efficacy of both is backed by peer-reviewed research papers, we see the results with our patients and they are indispensable parts of our treatment plans. So – briefly – what are they and how do they work?

Class 3b laser therapy is the most common class of laser used in therapeutic treatments. It has a high enough output (up to 500mW) to affect tissue structures at a cellular level but carries less risk to cause skin and tissue damage than the higher output of a class 4 laser (anything over 500mW). Laser therapy works by stimulating the body’s natural healing processes to optimise tissue repair. The light energy from the laser is absorbed by the cell mitochondria, and creates a cascade of responses which promotes healing, helps increase circulation, reduces inflammation, improves oxygen delivery, reduces pain and improves the immune cell response. The laser is applied directly to the area of the body we are wanting to treat. It is effective in treating arthritis, promoting skin repair (we often use it over surgery incision sites or wounds), reducing muscle spasms and trigger points and improving neurological function, among other benefits. We use Omega Laser Systems here in clinic, one of the top range Class 3b laser therapy machines available – https://www.omegalaser.co.uk/

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) is applied via pads which contain a coil, which an electrical current is passed through. The magnetic pulse created by the pads, when placed in contact with the body, induces electrical currents which stimulate cell repair and promote the body’s natural healing processes to kick into action. It is particularly effective at stimulating bone repair, reducing pain and stimulating neurons. For these reasons we often use PEMF for post-orthopaedic surgery, neurological and arthritic patients.

Both Class 3b laser and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy are painless to receive and many of our canine patients find the procedure very soothing. Initially, dogs can be wary of the equipment until they are familiar with it, which is why we introduce them slowly and within the dog’s comfort limits, as with everything we do!

The above is an incredibly brief and generalised summary of complex cellular processes and changes but overall – what do our electrotherapies do? Reduce pain and promote healing, in a non-invasive way!

HEP and CYC!

Canine rehabilitation is a process that takes place both in the clinic but also, and very importantly, in the home.  The clinic sessions themselves are a chance for us to evaluate your dog and then provide appropriate physio and hydro treatment.  However, what happens in between sessions is vital for the success of any rehab case.  This part of the rehab involves appropriate home management, including the amount and type of exercise, adjustments around the home to make it a safe and accessible environment, and ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight.

Often it also involves a therapeutic exercise programme, set by us for you to carry out at home with your dog, and designed specifically with your dog’s particular challenges and compromises in mind. The exercises help re-engage functional movement patterns and improve body awareness, posture and limb loading. They also address and help to stimulate muscle groups which might have been affected by pathology. Carrying out these exercises can be a great bonding experience for you and your dog and make a huge difference to the progression and success of any rehab or conditioning programme. However, these exercises need to be carried out carefully and correctly, in order to reap the benefits. Memorising exactly what the exercises are, and how to train them safely, can be a challenge. This is particularly true in our Covid world, where many owners are still not present with their dogs for the treatment sessions, so the opportunity to demonstrate and practice exercises in clinic can be limited.

In collaboration with our colleagues at Canine Rebalance and Flexidog Therapy, we are hugely proud to be able to bring to our clients “Conditioning your Canine”, an online platform developed to assist with this key element of the rehab process and to make working through your dog’s conditioning exercises fun, safe and effective. We can register our owners with their own portal where they can log on and view their bespoke exercise programme in video format.  Each video shows the equipment required, the key areas of the body that will be working and has a scoring system to help show how challenging the exercise is.  The task is demonstrated and then broken down in to stages with helpful training tips and things to look out for.  Via their portal, owners can also access the Foundations document, which provides a wealth of information to help get the most out of the home exercise programme.

We are very excited to be able to provide this additional resource to our owner clients as part of the service provided at Bach Canine Rehab.  And we hope you and your dog will enjoy it too!


Remote Consultations: How does it work?

Covid-19 has thrown a lot of different challenges at all sorts of businesses and we were no exception!  It forced us to think about different ways to try and support our owners and their dogs when we were not able to see them in clinic.  As a result, we developed a new service of remote consultations via phone or Zoom. With physiotherapy and hydrotherapy being very much a “hands-on” treatment this may seem like a bit of a non-starter.  However, we have found that we can build up a really good picture of how a dog is doing with their clinical notes, veterinary referral, some video footage provided by their owner and good old chat about how their dog manages day to day.  Having completed a number of these over the past few weeks, we are thrilled to say that we have had some great feedback and positive changes in the dogs in response to our advice regarding home adjustments, appropriate exercise regimes and home physio exercises we have recommended.

So how does it work?  Once we have the dog’s referral and clinical notes from their vet, we provide instructions on what sort of video footage would be helpful to see in advance of the consultation.  From these videos we can assess the dog’s ability to load their limbs and potentially how they compensate for areas that are uncomfortable or restricted.  We can do a visual assessment of muscle mass and development to start identifying areas that may be weak or other areas that may be overdeveloped.  We evaluate all the footage prior to having the consultation so we have started to build a picture of how the dog is managing in terms of comfort and mobility.

On the call or Zoom consultation, we will ask questions about the dog’s daily routine and discuss anything their owners notice they struggle with.  In combination with the vet’s clinical notes, we can also answer questions about the dog’s diagnosis and discuss basic nutrition and body condition.

Once we have gathered all this information, we can start to make suggestions for things that can be done to help improve the dog’s comfort and mobility. This can include small changes in the home environment, to make it as mobility friendly as possible. There may be activities which would be better avoided, and we can make suggestions for alternatives that are potentially less demanding on the musculoskeletal system. We can provide support and advice on exercise levels, and how to recognise signs of fatigue or discomfort.

Finally, if appropriate, we will make suggestions of physio exercises that can be completed at home.  These are basic exercises that can be safely recommended having done this level of assessment but can be very effective to start improving things like limb loading patterns, muscle recruitment and posture.  They often involve minimal equipment or items readily available in the home.

Further to all this, we provide resources based on the information and feedback we have discussed.  This may include more information about the dog’s condition, support groups, useful websites or blogs and, if we have recommended getting hold of any other equipment, where you can source these.

We are working on rebuilding the number of appointments we can offer per day whilst still maintaining social distancing and necessary sanitisation protocols.  Having not been able to book any new clients since lockdown in March we currently have a bit of a waiting list for appointments in clinic.  However, we hope that by providing remote consultations we will be able to support some of those clients that we are not able to book in clinic straight away and get their dogs started on the road to improved mobility and comfort.

If you have any queries about our remote consultation service, please do get in touch by phone or email and we will be very happy to talk through the options available.