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Hydrotherapy for dogs in the Ribble Valley

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 February 2016

Adam and Steve in pool

Adam and Steve in pool

not Archant

Canine hydrotherapy is hugely popular among pet lovers and one of the most successful centres is in the Ribble Valley. Emily Rothery reports

Rosie's massage between swims Rosie's massage between swims

Steve Maney spends a lot of his time getting wet but it’s all in a worthy cause. As a qualified canine hydro therapist, he knows that exercising in water can be a life-saver for many dogs and most of his working days are spent in the pool, sometimes up to 11 hours.

Steve, alongside his wife Poppy, is the proud owner of Canine Health and Hydro which is situated in the beautiful Ribble Valley village of Rimington, near Clitheroe. He and his enthusiastic team work hard to help dogs, mostly referred by vets, to recover from injury and conditions such as arthritis, neurological problems, hip dysplasia and obesity.

‘There are two sides to the business – rehabilitation and also fun, fitness and prevention,’ he says. ‘For example, dogs that have had cruciate injuries, which is common, may need post-surgery treatment or they may be helped to avoid surgery through rehabilitation. On the other hand, top level performance dogs, such as security and agility competitors, will work on a fitness programme. Each dog is assessed and treated accordingly with 70 per cent of our clients staying on a maintenance plan just to keep on top of things.’

The state of the art centre boasts a large pool that is heated to 32 degrees, a water treadmill, and after swim shower and drying area. Lianne, a veterinary nurse, also offers K-Laser treatment which helps to heal wounds and can provide relief from pain and inflammation. ‘One minute of swimming can be as beneficial as a one mile run,’ she says.

Steve is currently working with Adam, a larger than life Alaskan Malamute, that recently appeared on Channel Four’s Supervet Christmas Special alongside his owner Colin Brighouse. Colin explains that Adam is the fourth dog in the world to have custom knees made, as opposed to ‘off the shelf’ joints. ‘He suffered from cruciate failure in his back legs and became the first dog to have both knees replaced within two weeks as the TV vet, Noel Fitzpatrick, was so concerned about him. Noel would normally wait at least six weeks between operations so the leg could bear weight. The operation was a success and Adam was then referred to Steve for rehabilitation. Without them Adam would surely have been put down.’

Steve explains: ‘Adam started on the treadmill and then progressed to the pool, having rehab every day. He goes back to Super Vet for assessments and we are in constant communication. Adam is doing really well and is steadily building up the strength in his back legs.’

Colin, who runs and races a team of sled dogs, watches as Steve encourages Adam in the pool. ‘He may never run with the pack but we just want him to be pain free. He’s a lovely boy and very much part of the family. Steve has made such a difference.’

Next into the pool is Rosie, a senior at nine years old, but with energy that belies her age. She is straight into the pool and paddling enthusiastically, secure in a life jacket. Rosie has osteoarthritis and Steve guides her as she undergoes her workout. Between swims Steve massages each dog. Rosie loves that too. ‘Massage is an integral part of the treatment. It allows the dogs to rest between swims, releases any muscle spasms and, as most dogs love the experience, it reduces anxieties.’

Gill Ellison, Rosie’s owner, says: ‘Although she’s a labradoodle, which are a waterdog breed, she has only taken to swimming since Steve’s treatment. I’m so pleased that she has managed to avoid surgery’.

Steve has also had success in encouraging reluctant retrieving dogs to take to the water. ‘I build up confidence and help them to override anxieties. The hot water unlocks their fears and using a ball in the pool they learn to relax and retrieve. I give the dogs a purpose because all dogs need jobs. I’ve also had success in making dogs less aggressive.’

Jill Scott has been bringing her six month old German Shepherd, Rocky, for intense rehabilitation. ‘Rocky has a growth defect which meant that the muscles in his back legs wouldn’t support him as he grew and he was house bound for six months. The pool is working wonders for him and the treadmill will strengthen his muscles more and help with walking. Steve’s passion impresses me the most and he has given me such good advice about other things which have helped Rocky. My vet is really impressed with Rocky’s progress and I love the days that we visit as my exuberant pup is so relaxed afterwards and I get some peace!’

Steve says: ‘I get a great feeling of reward when working with the dogs but a big part of my job is to advise the owners too. Some have even been in the pool with their dogs if that is what they want.’

Steve and Poppy work and live on the farm and have two young children, Daisy and Stanley. ‘We have four dogs of our own and the children are already like two little dog whisperers,’ laughs Steve.

With two qualified hydro-therapists relocating to join the centre soon and plans brewing for the future, things are looking bright for Steve and Poppy – not bad for a couple who started their business in a shed.

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