We help your pets who are physically challenged, painful or uncomfortable, using professional veterinary care, physical rehabilitation and hydrotherapy, to improve your pet’s quality of life and to provide you with peace of mind.

 Dear Friends and Colleagues
 Before we could blink, we are at the end of February. It has been a whirlwind of a month. Animal Health and Hydro Benoni experienced the busiest January in the history of January’s. Well done!!!

This month, Gütte celebrated her 25th birthday. We wish her a year filled with love, joy, happiness, and prosperity.
Dr Tanya’s nephew bought chocolate and cake spoils for the ladies at AHAH Benoni on Valentine’s Day. They were absolutely delicious. Thank you so much for the spoils. 

We would like to welcome Dr Dani who has joined us as a Rehabilitation Veterinary Intern.

Dr Tanya and her students had their hydrotherapy practical at the beginning of February, held at AHAH Benoni. There was a lot of fun and learning, with a lot of splishing and splashing.
 Bianca is available on certain afternoons at Pierre Van Ryneveld Veterinary Clinic for appointments and treatments. Please contact AHAH
Pretoria to book your session
In this month’s newsletter, we look at what swimming at home with your companion entails. From the introduction to having fun with your companion in the pool. 

Swimming Your Companion at Home

With summer still in full swing and temperatures that are in the high 30’s and low 40’s, many of us will be spending time outside around a pool or dam, weather permitting, of course… This means that our companions will be spending time around bodies of water too. Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs can swim, and a lot of them don’t actually enjoy swimming. Enabling our companions to make this decision for themselves, by safely introducing them to water, is a vital learning curve in their lives, and it shapes our companions feelings about water for the rest of their lives. If our companions have access to, or could potentially have access to, any deep body of water, it is vital that they are shown the basics of how to swim, and how to safely exit the water.Working in a field that uses hydrotherapy every single day, I’ve heard many people say that their puppy was thrown or bumped into water and has been petrified since. Understandably so, these guys truly are petrified and run away at the sight of a pool. If we think  about what that puppy experiences and the association at such a young age, we can understand why a water phobia develops. In our experience, with some patience, guidance, and gentle encouragement, most of these companions can be converted to quite enjoying water. 

The very first place to start, whether your companion is young or old, is with reassurance and trust. If you are picking your dog up and throwing them into the pool, they are never going to trust you, and they are never going to enjoy being in water. So, start slowly, encourage your companion to be around the body of water, and encourage and praise any interest in, or movement towards, the water. This may require a few sessions of desensitizing a really scared dog. Using treats and toys can also make a big difference. Most pools require your companion to climb down onto the step. This would be one part that I would encourage you to pick up or help your companion in, until they have learned how to get in by themselves. For bigger dogs, and for pools with a step, allow them to just stand on the step and experience being in the water. If they want to get out, allow them to. For the little dogs who cannot stand, I would encourage you to be in the pool with them and just hold them in your arms, or allow them to sit on your lap. Remember to praise, make a big fuss so they know they are doing well.We always advocate the use of life jackets for dogs when swimming. Especially for our weak or compromised companions. The life jacket provides a sense of stability, which in turn makes your companion feel more comfortable and confident in the water. I’m sure you’ve all seen the panic in a dog’s eyes when they are struggling to stay afloat, and one just has to imagine what that must feel like in order to understand why the use of a life jacket can be so beneficial.

When encouraging your companion to move off the step or go deeper where they will actually have to swim, we always encourage you to be in the pool with them. This allows you to be right there if things go wrong, and it provides some degree of comfort to your companion. It also allows you to guide your companion back towards the step or way out. If there is one thing you achieve out of attempting to encourage your companion to swim, if there is only one time you ever get your companion in the pool, make the main aim to show your companion where the step or exit is. This is vital, and could potentially prevent an accident should your companion fall in, or be knocked in. They must always know where to get out, and they must always be able to somehow get out. What works best during the first introduction is to encourage your companion to swim half a length, or make a small circle, then allow them back to the step, or back into your arms. This can be repeated a few more times before allowing them to get out. Don’t forget to praise or treat your companion. It should be fun and positive. This process can be repeated over the next few days. These next few sessions should give you a good idea as to whether your companion is a fan of swimming or not. They may start jumping in by themselves, or sitting on the step, or they may run and hide every time you look at the pool. We cannot force them to like swimming, and some dogs, like people, will never be converted.Another important note about swimming is to remember that it is an intensive exercise. There is a great deal of physical and cardiovascular strength required to swim. For this reason, it is best to seek professional advice before swimming a weak, compromised, very young, or old companion. There are many medical conditions where swimming is contraindicated. Rehabilitation and hydrotherapy centers offer the perfect environment in which your companion can be assessed to be swimming fit or not, and they can be safely introduced to swimming. Generally, one or two sessions are needed in which your companion will be introduced to swimming, and you will be given advice and guidance on how to swim your companion at home. Or for those who do not have access to a warm pool in winter, it is a way to maintain your companion through the cold months.So, before throwing or forcing your companion into the pool this summer, just remember what a scary experience it would be for them. There are safe and positive ways to give your companion the opportunity to decide whether they enjoy this swimming thing or not.