Hydrotherapy for Neurological Dogs: Is your Continuing Education up to Date?

by | Dec 2, 2021 | Hydrotherapy for Animals

Continuing education is an essential part of life for any professional, and becomes especially important for professionals in a highly evolving and medically orientated field such as veterinary rehabilitation and hydrotherapy. When we add the complexity of neurological conditions to the equation, continuing education becomes even more essential. 

Over the last few years, the Onlinepethealth Hydro platform has welcomed professionals from all around the world to discuss neurology and the role of hydrotherapy in the rehabilitation of neurological conditions in canines.

Let’s discuss some of the highlights from webinars within this expansive continuing education platform.

Hydrotherapy for neurological cases: Part 1, 2 and 3 with Angela Griffiths

In a three-part series, Angela Griffiths from Greyfriars discusses conditions including intervertebral disc disease, cervical vertebral instability, spondylosis, spinal trauma, neurological trauma, ischemia and degenerative myelopathy. She discusses the condition, common treatment options, considerations for hydrotherapy, cautions and precautions that need to be considered, and more.

Valuable nuggets from these lectures include:

  • Mild cases of cervical disc protrusion can present as undiagnosed, shifting forelimb lameness. Caution should be taken when the referring vet is unable to rule out cervical spinal involvement.
  • Conservative management of IVDD may require six to eight weeks of rest and controlled exercise, which excludes hydrotherapy.
  • When treating spondylosis, the stabilisation and range of motion of the lumbar spine must be considered. There are points in the progression of the disease where pain will predominate, and there will be a progressive loss of range of motion of spinal segments.
  • Always consider secondary nerve impingement as a result of spondylosis or trauma to the spine, and treat appropriately.
  • Owner support, encouragement and advice is paramount when rehabilitating a neurologically impaired patient.


Basic neurological conditions, with Matt Brunke

During the 2019 Vet Rehab Summit, Dr Matt Brunke dove into various neurological conditions, starting with the intricacies of evaluation and diagnostics, and where they lead, before diving into the different conditions we may come across in the field of rehabilitation.

Disorders of the central nervous system can be divided into degenerative, inflammatory and infectious diseases, neoplasia, injury and trauma, and vascular disorders.

Degenerative diseases discussed included:

  • Degenerative lumbosacral stenosis
  • Degeneration of motor neurons
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Spondylosis deformans
  • Atlanto-axial subluxation
  • Spina bifida
  • Hemivertebrae

Inflammatory and infectious diseases discussed included:

  • Bacterial diseases
  • Diskospondylitis
  • Rickettsial diseases
  • Fungal diseases
  • Protozoal diseases
  • Neosporosis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Parasitic diseases
  • Verminous diseases
  • Granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis

Dr Matt also discussed Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis and Polyneuropathy, including how the condition is treated and our role as hydrotherapists.


Fundamentals of hydro for neuro cases, with Ellen Martens

Ellen Martens shares the fundamentals of hydrotherapy for neurological cases in the 2019 Vet Rehab Summit, as she discusses the prominent difference between hydrotherapy and simply swimming, understanding patient selection, cautions and contraindications, and the multiple variables that guide both the decision to participate in hydrotherapy and the progression of hydrotherapy.


Hydrotherapy for specific neuro cases, Ellen Martens

This lecture follows on from the fundamentals of hydrotherapy for neurological dogs, and highlights and discusses individual pathologies and their hydrotherapy needs, considerations and treatment options.


The influence of aquatic treatment environment on neuromuscular tone, with Amie Hesbach

In this fascinating lecture, Amie Hesbach addresses some fundamental concepts and questions from a scientific perspective, drawing on the research available in the human field. She asks and answers questions such as

  • What are rehabilitation tactics and tools that we can use in the aquatic environment?
  • What are the emotional benefits of aquatic therapy for our patients?
  • What does the fight, flight, fidget or freeze response have to do with hydrotherapy?
  • What is tone, and why would we want to change it?
  • How do we change tone?
  • How can tone be increased or decreased on land and in water?


Swimming to walking, with Amie Hesbach

Amie has a passion for neuroplasticity, which shines through in this lecture discussing the journey from swimming to walking in the neurologically impaired canine patient. She discusses the differences between reflexive spinal walking and functionally independent walking, the implications of a lack of deep pain sensation, the factors affecting and surrounding a prognosis, the road to recovery, and the integral role that hydrotherapy can play in this process.


Nursing care of the neuro patient, with Kristen Hagler

Owner support and education must include education on the appropriate nursing care required for a neurologically impaired patient. For this we need an intimate understanding of what is needed, tips and tricks that can be applied to the individual, and the common pitfalls we may step into.

Kristen Hagler shares some of the common conditions a patient may suffer from as a result of paralysis, which can be avoided through proper care and nursing of the patient. These include:

  • Respiratory atelectasis
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Decubital ulcers
  • Micturition difficulties
  • Challenges with defecation
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Slowed digestion
  • Nutritional deficiencies

She discusses how each of the body systems is affected by paralysis, and how we can overcome these effects to maintain and restore health in our patients.


Maintaining your continuing education

In our field of rehabilitation and hydrotherapy, it is imperative that we never stop learning. Over time we increase the body of evidence available in our industry, open and strengthen channels of discussion and communication between professionals in our industry, and gain experience and understanding. As hydrotherapists or rehabilitation therapists treating patients on a daily basis, it is imperative that we are a part of these developments in one form or another.

Whether we participate in research, or diligently stay up to date with continuing education, or are a part of international discussion forums, we must continue to push ourselves to engage with professionals in our field, to expand our knowledge and understanding, and to be the best we can be for every patient walking through our doors. 



At Onlinepethealth, this is exactly what we aim to give you in a convenient format, through a monthly membership that gives you access to hundreds of hours of past content, including webinars, conferences, panel discussions, PDF downloads, and so much more. We offer new webinars every single month, connecting you with professionals all around the world.

If you are not yet an Onlinepethealth member, what are you waiting for? The above webinars are just a taste of what is waiting for you in our members’ portal.


Join as a FREE member and get access to a library of pre-recorded webinars, PDFs and Vet Rehab Resources

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