Dog owners concerned about their four-legged friends’ joints should ditch the daily walkies in favour of another form of exercise – the doggy paddle.
Scientists have revealed that swimming is not only great exercise for happy hounds, but can help improve their strides and treat elbow dysplasia – 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 particularly susceptible to the condition.
Mobility is a huge issue for dogs suffering from forelimb lameness, affecting their ability to live a normal happy, tail-waggling life.
Dr Alison Wills, a researcher at Hartpury University Centre in Gloucestershire, made discovery alongside Tate Preston, after studying Labradors.
She said: “Dogs with elbow dysplasia displayed an increased range of motion, stride frequency and stride length, measures of mobility in our study, after the hydrotherapy.”
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 pooches 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!”
By Katherine Clementine