As qualified Hydrotherapists, we have a duty of care towards out patients; this is referenced within the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 – CHA Code of Practice. This duty of care means that we should do everything within our limitations to protect the patients in our care as outlined in the Five Freedoms or Five Animal Needs.
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom to express normal behaviour
Arguments for the use of multiple dog swimming exist and state that it can ‘motivate’ the patient. However, if a patient is receiving hydrotherapy as part of a rehabilitation programme, this ‘motivation’ will almost certainly have detrimental effects on the patients healing tissues.
For example an animal referred post operatively after a cruciate repair procedure would be in a degree of pain. Our aim should be to design a session where optimum movement is achieved without over-extension or flexion of joints – in particular with the joint that has undergone surgery. If other patients where present during this session, particularly within the hydrotherapy pool, the patient outcome may be compromised. The result may be that we see over exaggerated joint ROM, meaning that the patient may experience pain, discomfort or further injury either immediately or post hydrotherapy session. During multiple dog swimming there is also a possibility that the patients present may overexert themselves, again resulting in further pain, discomfort or injury occurring. The presence of multiple patients may increase the risk of stress. The body’s natural response to stressful situations is to produce adrenaline and with this comes the possibility of stress-induce analgesia, the blockage of pain pathways in the body. This can result in the over-performance of the patient, again risking exacerbation of the condition(s) and compromising the respiratory and cardio-vascular systems. Stress also has detrimental effects on the canine immune system, which may in turn, cause further or enhanced complications such as contracting infections. Current research on cortisol/creatinine levels has been conducted on stress in patient’s peri-operatively that supports this.
No other professionals within the wider multi-disciplinary team, that we as Hydrotherapists work within, perform treatments on multiple patients at any one time or conduct group sessions where patient treatment is carried out.
As a current Hydrotherapy Training Centre – we can only be responsible for individuals during delivery and assessment of the qualification. Our hope would be that we have educated our learners in reasonable acceptable practice when working within the Hydrotherapy industry and that they have gained the underpinning knowledge necessary to work professionally when treating patients. Unfortunately we cannot be responsible for how they choose to practice post qualification and we are aware that some Centres will still opt to treat multiple patients at the same time to maximise profits.
Stuart Greenfield (Reviewed by Tim Sparrow BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MRCVS (2013) Managing stressed canine patients: practical techniques Veterinary Nursing Times January 2013
Cooper B, Mullineaux E and Turner L (2011). BSAVA Textbook of Veterinary Nursing 5th Edition, BSAVA, Gloucester, UK.
Carlo Siracusa DVM MS PhD DACVB DECAWBM (2009). Perioperative stress in dogs undergoing elective surgery.
Hewson C J (2008). Welfare in practice 3: how to recognise stress in your patients, Proceedings of WSAVA Congress, Dublin.