Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008, Hello 2009

On this New Year's eve we all look back at the year that was...the hydro has come on in leaps and bounds and finally we feel comfortable in our "skin" and we're looking forward to an even better 2009.

To everyone that is celebrating the coming of the new year tonight...stay safe and please remember to keep your pets safe and secured in the event of fireworks being used in your neighbourhood. Should you witness the selling of fireworks in your area, please report this to the Metro police. It is illegal to sell and discharge fireworks without a permit and a fine of R2000 can be imposed.

First swims

When a dog comes to us for the first time for fitness and conditioning they get an assisted swim. This involves the therapist, Michelle, getting into the pool with the dog to show them what is expected. Often all it takes is one assisted swim and thereafter they're ready to go it alone with the guidance of a lifejacket, a lead rein, and some direction from the outside of the pool. The dogs are swum in both directions (clockwise and anti-clockwise) so as to build up their muscles symetrically.

Rehabilitation involves a more controlled swim where the affected part of the dogs body gets isolated so as to prevent the dog carrying the injury or body part that requires working.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Animal Synergy

Helen Taylor from Animal Synergy and the staff of Darshan Animal Hydro often collaborate to treat horses and dogs. Helen is a trained veterinary nurse who runs Animal Synergy and her experience with horses is much appreciated.

Helen sometimes provides laser treatments to our patients and we reciprocate by providing access to our pools, the Photizo light therapy and the Bemer 3000 Vet to her patients.

She has, on more than one occasion, climbed into the pool with either a dog or horse (fully clothed) to settle them. As you can see from the photo, Helen is not too worried about getting wet (we do not encourage this practice)

Helen can be contacted at

Info on the Bemer 3000 Vet

This info is taken from the official Bemer 3000 Vet website.
Bio-Electro-Magnetic Energy Regulation (BEMER) has an energy-regulating effect on all forms of life. The BEMER-VET system is designed to support the organism in case of illness with the required amounts of energy and substances. Improving metabolic function, and thereby also the overall Bioenergetics situation, is said to normalize functional imbalances and activate natural powers of self-healing, thus compensating for damage caused by false exertion, lack of movement and environmental contaminants. Horses are by nature eaters and runners – in other words, they are designed for motion. Just like modern man, horses – even those used for sports and leisure activities – suffer from insufficient movement or the wrong kinds of movement. Nowadays, very few people who keep horses can still take the time to give their equine friends a training regiment that fulfils their natural and necessary needs for movement.

The development of the BEMER-signal by Prof. Dr. Wolf A. Kafka can now help to compensate for these deficiencies by activating and supporting the natural processes with a physical system.

BEMER 3000 Vet for use with domestic animals and pets

+ Illnesses and malfunction of joints, back muscles and the spine
+ Fractures, dislocations, stiffness, contusions, swelling and sprains
+ Slow healing wounds and bruises, lamings, constipation/ digestion
+ Nervousness prior to sporting events/shows, decreased performance
+ Acute and chronic inflammation, tendonitus, tendovaginitis
+ Circulation and degenerative disorders involving all movement and support mechanisms, problems with hooves

How does the Bemer 3000 VET work?

Bio-Electro-Magnetic-Energy-Regulation (BEMER) provides an energy regulating signal to the damaged organism. Nutrient, oxygen absorption, and the excretion of metabolic waste are promoted. Damaged functions are normalized and self healing powers are activated. In this manner, the application of the BEMER 3000 VET counteracts injuries and helps to prevent injuries due to inappropriate strains, lack of exercise, and environmental stress.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Info on the Photizo Light therapy device

The information is taken from the Photizo website. The device is used to treat humans too and is obviously therefore a safe way to speed up healing in animals as well.

Light therapy offers a non-invasive alternative modality for rapid wound healing and provides a holistic treatment approach to many conditions. Light therapy improves circulation in affected areas thereby ensuring faster healing in wounds, traumatic injuries, and recovery post-operatively. Light therapy improves patient comfort and improves wound care, ensures less scar tissue production, post-operative complications, swelling and inflammation in treated areas. Light therapy, by improving circulation and assisting in cell repair, can lessen necrotic tissue formation in and around wounds and ensures better success with skin grafts and other surgical techniques. Owners of pets can be offered an extra service when treating wounds, conditions and in post-operative care. Better wound healing and faster recovery improves client satisfaction ensuring better success in your clinical practice.
Details on each protocol's uses
0-21 Day Wound
Wounds that can be treated with this button include:· Cuts, scratches, scrapes, blisters, surgical wounds, burns, bedsores, superficial bruising, lip wounds, mosquito- and other insect bites (reduces swelling and itching), contact dermatitis and dermatitis following radiation (cancer treatment), skin grafts and swelling in the ear canal. Suitable for treatment immediately post-operatively, as well as follow-up or step-down wound care.

21+ Day Wound
Wounds that can be treated with this button include:· Wounds 21 days and older, ulcers (diabetic and venous), infected wounds (in combination with antibiotics, superficial bruises.Other conditions that can be treated with this button are:· Pressure wounds· Hemorrhoids (protruding)· Excema

Seroma Hematoma
· Seroma· Hemotoma· Mastitis· General swelling

Tissue Trauma
Suitable for soft-tissue injuries:· Muscle injury· Tendonitis· Damage to peripheral nerves· Sciaticus· Inflammation in soft tissues· Fasciatis· Trigger points and myalgia· Muscle spasms

· Especially useful in treating infected areas· Hot spots· Cellulitis· Gingivitis· “Snuffles” – put rubber applicator over probe and hold over nose

· Arthritic conditions (DJD)· Ruptured discs· Herniations· Prolapses· Annulus tears and protrusions· Traumatic sinovitis· Chondrotic tearing· Use following laminectomies and fusions· Fractures and osteo trauma – increases callus formation

No news is good news

Christine (the owner of the hydro) with Luna. Sharing cuddles
Gracie being prepared for her swim

Blaze getting his swimming done in style

Nothing of note has happened recently (what with it being the end of the year). We did get a large holding pen installed for those dogs that need to wait for their swim. Sometimes clients bring their entire kennel with them (up to 10 dogs at a time) and instead of the dogs waiting in their trailer for their swim they can now be comfortably accomodated in the holding pen.

I didn't get any photos of the pen because I dropped my camera into the big circular pool yesterday and it dropped the 3 metres like a stone. Luckily there were teenagers on hand to retrieve it. It has since died and I'm sure it'll never take another picture.

I'll just leave you with some older pictures taken until I can get a new camera.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Case Study on Tiny the Chihuahua

Tiny was found 4 months ago with 3 crushed vertebrae as a result of suspected animal abuse. He was rescued and placed in his new home by the Animal Ambulance. He has settled in nicely and is progressing all the time. As a result of the abuse he was paralysed in his hind quarters. You can see the wear and tear he has on the top of his feet (in the picture) from dragging his hind legs.
Tiny underwent surgery 3 weeks ago to repair the vertebrae but was still paralysed and required rehabilitation to regain mobility. His vet recommended that he swim to achieve this. After 3 bi-weekly treatments (Photizo twice a week, and swimming once a week) Tiny is able to pick himself up and walk a few steps.
The little guy is estimated to be around 4 years old. Tiny in name but giant hearted by nature.

Case Study on Colleen the Border Collie

Colleen is a 10 year old Border Collie who came to the hydro 3 weeks ago with calcification of her spine which has resulted in lameness in her left hind leg. If you look at the photo you can see the toe is turned under. She had no feeling in her foot when we first evaluated her. Colleen has been having weekly Photizo light therapy treatments and doing rehabilitative swimming as well.

Today when we tested her for feeling in her foot she felt the pressure for the first time. So exciting!!! This is after months of being lame. Michelle (the therapist) was also able to get Colleen to flatten the pad of her foot. Previously she had it turned back all the time. Hopefully this wonderfully intelligent and obedient girl can look forward to getting some function in the leg to take her through her retirement.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Public press

Reflecting over the past year (as we all do at this time of the year) we've come a long way. The hydro has developed its own personality. When we started we had a vision of how we were going to run the place and although we've maintained our dedication and compassion to clients, the way we manage the hydro is different.

We've seen many success stories at the hydro, especially of dogs recovering from injuries and surgery. I'll be posting more of these case studies soon. Our offering of conditioning and fitness has been the main growth area with the dogs that participate in the program showing remarkable results and muscle definition after just a few swimming sessions. The clients that come to us for conditioning and fitness have had positive feedback on their dog's condition in the show ring. The swimming has provided results without compromising the dog's overall wellness. They're able to get fit without the usual injuries that occur when training on land. Their joints and ligaments are saved from the constant pounding on road surfaces and injuries from stones (and other obstacles) are a thing of the past.

We also received some great press this year, and two of the articles that appeared in the newspapers were very flattering.

Some photos taken for the article in the Rapport newspaper can be viewed at (scroll down to the middle of the page):

The actual article is at:,,752-795_2364785,00.html

Another article which appeared in the City Press newspaper was just as nice:,,186-1697_2372961,00.html

We're hoping to build on our successes in 2008 and make 2009 an even better year.

Holiday Season

Merry Christmas to all our furry and non-furry clients. We'll see you all in the new year. The hydro has closed for the week between Christmas and New year (except for rehabilitation clients). Rehabilitation isn't something that can be put on hold while the rest of the world is on holiday.

Yesterday we made good use of the large pool at the hydro...we had Christmas day there and the kids used the pool for their entertainment.

We even had a gosling doing some hydrotherapy. He has an injured foot. Poor little thing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Summer + Swimming = FUN, FUN, FUN

Today was all about swimming for fitness and conditioning. National dog shows are coming up early in the new year and breeders and owners are keen to get their dogs in the best condition and fitness for the event.

The dogs that swam today needed no coaxing to get into the pool. The weather was hot (mid 30C) and the water very inviting and a pleasant 24C. A Rhodesian Ridgeback was eager to get in for each of his laps and didn't really want to have his rest periods inbetween. The two German Shepherds were as eager when it was their turn...they weren't even interested in getting towel dried after their swim.

It was also encouraging to see the German Shepherds get into the pool with such enthusiasm. It was only their second swim. For their first swim they weren't that keen and had to be coaxed in with liver treats and dry wors. Today they hit the pool with gusto...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Puppy Swimming

Cleo about to experience her first free swim


Donna's first swim

Puppy discussion

Yesterday we had the puppy socialisation class at the hydro. It was their first introduction to water and swimming. Reeva, the little German Shepherd was an instant taker. She loved the water and splashed and swam to her hearts content. The other puppies took a little longer to enjoy it and paniced initially when their feet were no longer on terra firma. As soon as they realised they could swim and were going to get tasty treats they didn't seem to mind it as much.

Our facilities

We are very proud of our lovely animal hydro therapy centre. It is situated in the pretty area of Drumblade which is just south of Johannesburg and Alberton in the Klipriver and Blue Saddle Ranch vicinity.

The central focus of the hydro is the optimally heated circular pool (9m diameter by 3m deep) which is used for swimming horses and dogs. There is also a heated indoor pool (4m x 3m x 1.3m) for more controlled rehabilitation swimming for dogs. All dogs are fitted with canine safety jackets to keep them safe during their swim.

We also have Photizo light therapy equipment, a Bemer 3000 Vet (electro magnetic therapy) and qualified animal masseurs. Deep tissue massage is used to stimulate nerve and muscle tissue and is beneficial when the animal is recovering from surgery and requires gentle stretching of muscles and ligaments.

Rehabilitation Swimming

Hydrotherapy is considered to be one of the most effective methods in animal rehabilitation. It provides full body exercise against resistance. The animal exercises all the same muscles as when working on land, but due to the buoyancy of the water, the movements may be done in the full range of motion with no pain and resistance. It is estimated that every stroke an animal does in the water is equivalent to 4 strokes on land.

It is a condition of the hydro that no animal may be forcibly coerced into entering either of the pools. We take our time tempting them in with treats and at no time will we place undue stress on your pet.

Swimming Programs
Rehabilitation swimming programs are developed for each individual dog based on the condition being treated. Centre staff will work with the dog in the water to stimulate the swimming process and maintain their confidence.The average rehabilitation requires about 15 swimming sessions, with each session lasting up to 30 minutes. Owners are encouraged to participate in the rehabilitation by swimming their dog with the guidance of Centre staff.
Just as swimming and other forms of hydrotherapy are universally recognized by the medical community in the treatment of humans, the same principles and therapeutic values can be applied to dogs.

By placing the dog in the weightless environment that water or swimming provides, injuries or conditions can be better treated without the pain or restricted movement associated with regular ground-based exercise programs.Swimming for dogs can be applied to a wide range of conditions, such as:

Hip dysplasia: Swimming for dogs with hip dysplasia provides an alternative form of exercise from the painful effects of ground exercise programs. Swimming provides the opportunity for a high-level workout that builds and maintains the muscle tone and strength to help avoid further deterioration of the hip joint. Swimming can be used both pre- and post-surgery in hip replacement to provide increased circulation, build up muscle and provide a firm base for recovery.

Ligament Repair: Swimming following surgery to repair torn ligaments (cruciates) provides a non-weight-bearing exercise to strengthen the repair, helping to restore natural limb movement. Swimming rebuilds lost muscle tone, provides increased circulation, and builds the dog's confidence to return to normal activities.

Spinal disk/nerve damage: Swimming, following surgery, stabilization or repair of the disk can increase the speed of recovery, providing increased circulation (oxygen) to the limbs and to the damaged area. Where paralysis is evident, swimming will promote movement of the limbs and increased nerve synapse and regeneration.

Arthritis: The non-weight-bearing environment of swimming provides the dog with a pain-free exercise routine. The full range of motion obtainable in the weightlessness of water allows joints to move more freely and muscles to stretch and become more flexible than being constrained in the limited motion provided by painful ground exercises.

Paralysis: The benefits of swimming in paralysis depends on the cause of the paralysis, the extent of nerve damage and the time elapsed since paralysis occurred. The earlier swimming can be started, the better prognosis for return of nerve function and limb movement.

Muscle atrophy: Muscle atrophy occurs when the limb is inactive or immobilized. Swimming can start re-building muscle mass in as little as three or four sessions. The full range of motion of the swimming stroke allows tight, contracted muscles, tendons and ligaments to stretch out and become supple and flexible once again. We are currently treating a chihuahua called Tiny for post-operative paralysis. Tiny sustained serious spinal injury when abused by his previous owner and was paralysed in his hind quarters. After two treatments with Photizo light therapy and swimming, Tiny has regained some movement in his hind legs. We expect a major improvement over the coming weeks (pictures coming soon).

Weight reduction: Swimming in conjunction with a proper diet will help remove those excess pounds, tone up the muscles and cardiovascular system and give you a healthier and happier dog.

Post surgery: Swimming, before or following surgical procedures, can speed recovery in many cases and avoid or minimize some of the complications that can develop such as:
· Restricted movement or use following joint surgery, i.e. Cruciate ligament repair/replacement, OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans), hip replacement etc.
· Adhesions (scarring)
· Muscle loss (atrophy)
· Arthritis

Skye case study

Skye was referred by her vet for grade 4 hip dysplasia. She has dysplasia in her elbows too. Skye is not your typical golden labrador. She hates swimming! After unsuccessfully getting her to relax in her initial swimming sessions we reverted to massage therapy and Photizo light therapy for pain relief and stretching. She gets very excited when she comes to the hydro for all her "loving".
Skye is now much more comfortable and her vet is amazed at her progress and how active she is.

German Shepherds

We have many German Shepherds who come to the hydro for fitness and endurance training before breed show days. Typically, if people think of swimming for animals, it is generally associated with rehabilitation and therapy. Swimming can be applied to any breed to provide a controlled exercise routine that will:
o increase stamina;
o tone up and build muscle;
o reduce fat;
o increase agility and performance;
o strengthen limbs;
o Increase confidence.
Being able to swim in laps and keep track of the time and distance enables a structured program to be developed and followed that maximizes the benefits that swimming provides.

A program is developed that gradually increases, in time and distance, the amount swum. Each time the dog swims, the distance is increased, broken up with rest periods, that maximizes the physiological changes taking place in the exercising animal. This is similar to interval training used by performance athletes to reach top physical condition. We structure programs that consider the breed, initial physical condition and normal exercise routine, how well the dog swims and frequency of swimming. For maximum benefit and fastest results, we recommend swimming at least three times a week.For retrieving breeds, the session can be a combination of controlled laps and retrieving or all retrieving, depending on the fitness level of the dog and the desired end results.

Duncan Case Study

Duncan is a handsome mixed breed who was rescued from a rubbish dump and adopted by his current owners. He had surgery on his left hip for hip dysplasia which caused muscle atrophy. He is in post-operative rehabilitation for muscle building and strengthening. Duncan swims weekly and has Photizo light therapy.

Coco Case Study

Coco was referred by her vet for swimming for cartilage build up (OCD) in her left shoulder. She loves her swimming and has progressed nicely. Coco was treated with Photizo® Light Therapy and free swimming weekly.

Case Study on Bonnie

Bonnie was involved in a vicious dog attack and had extensive damage to the skin on her torso. She was given Photizo Light therapy to speed up the healing process. Over the course of a month Bonnie went from this:

During treatment:

To this:

Background on the Hydro

Early in 2007 Christine Shackleford decided that she would like to provide a holistic hydrotherapy treatment centre for animals specifically with joint and muscular problems. Her own dogs had joint problems (hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament tearing etc). A lot of research was done on optimal water temperatures, the size and depth of the pools, water sanitisation, massage therapy, light therapy etc.

A year later the hydro is an established therapy centre with dedicated staff whose objective is to provide a stress free environment for post-operative rehabilitation, fitness and endurance training and long term pain control.