A Husky enjoys the water-based treadmill ….
Aquatic Paws owner Lisa Castaneda joined BestDogLife to answer questions. Aquatic Paws is an aquatic training and exercise facility for dogs and cats. See the latest post on Aquatic Paws.
Aquatic Paws’ Lisa Castaneda joined BestDogLife to answer questions about aquatic therapy for dogs.
1) What motivated you to create a facility that specializes on aquatic training for dogs?
It’s not visible to me, so I don’t know if it is possible. Beamer is the name of the dog I have behind my back. My German shepherd, Beamer, was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy. This is a progressive condition. It isn’t curable, but there are ways to improve quality of your life. Because he was 110 pounds, I had to buy him a help ’em-up harness. The two-part harness is adjustable and I wanted it to fit him as he was between an extra-large and large size. Crownsville, Maryland is the closest place I could find one. Beamer and me drove there and got him fitted with a harness. This place had two swimming pools in the ground. There was also an underwater treadmill. A massage therapist came in once a week, and I thought that was amazing. As I was leaving, I called my husband to tell him that this is what I wanted to do. I had been a nurse for many years and was beginning to feel tired. It was time to make a change. It took us about two years to open this business. We are now all thanks to my dog.
2) Your facility provides innovative services that can help dogs get comfortable in the water. We would love to know more about them.
Many people want their dogs to learn to swim. So, depending on the personality of the dog, we will usually go for the pool if it is younger. We’ll use the underwater treadmill if it’s an older dog. Two underwater treadmills are available at our facility. They consist of a treadmill in an acrylic box filled with water. The treadmill then moves with the dog. The underwater treadmill helps dogs get used to the water. It’s a form exercise. This is a great exercise option for seniors dogs and dogs who have had surgery. The treadmill can be used by the dog to help them get to know the machine.
To begin with, all my dogs are equipped with a life jacket. Positive reinforcement is all we do. We want the dog to be able to swim by itself. This works approximately 5% of time. We start them slowly if they have never been in water before. If they are unable to get in, we will get them to stand on the steps and then move them around the pool. They will soon be able to swim in a natural doggy-paddle manner. It’s a gradual progression. It takes most dogs about 10 minutes before they can take the first step. We use high-value treats to lure them in. We are always trying to get to you. Owners are as involved as they wish to be, but only as far as being at the side of the pool.
3) What injuries and conditions can aqua training help with?
My senior dogs have arthritis in their back legs, and they begin to develop muscle atrophy, muscle weakness, or even muscle wasting. They have trouble climbing up and down stairs. They are unable to stand and walk for long distances on uncarpeted floors. The underwater treadmill helps to build muscles and prevents pressure on joints. It is partially weight bearing, it is 60% non-weight bearing. It’s warm, ranging from 88 to 90 degrees. Warm water acts as a conditioner for the muscles. Warm water acts as a muscle conditioner, allowing the muscles to relax and allowing the dog to stretch the leg more easily.
Also, I have dogs who have had back surgery recently. Another large portion of the dogs that I have on the underwater treadmill is made up of dogs that have undergone TPLO surgery. This is basically ACL surgery for humans. A ligament or tendon has been torn in the dog’s hind leg. They have surgery. Most dogs will have surgery within one year if they break one of their knees. The underwater treadmill strengthens the muscles around the injury and provides additional therapy after the procedure. The underwater treadmill allows dogs to quickly rebuild damaged muscle so they can return to their normal lives faster.
4) What feedback do customers give you?
Customers think that aquatic training is a great way for dogs to be tired, either for pleasure or treatment. A seven- or eight-year old dog who has recently had surgery but feels energetic, will be happy. The treadmill underwater allows them to get some extra energy while still being safe. They won’t be running around in circles or slipping on their toes. They will be kept in a controlled environment. My dog hasn’t climbed the stairs in months. This is something I love. Recently, I was upstairs when I noticed him standing behind me. This therapy is benefiting the dog, which is something I find really satisfying.
5) Do local veterinarians and animal hospital take advantage of your facilities.
Yes. There are about 25 vets who actively refer me to dogs suffering from weight control problems. The underwater treadmill and pool are great tools for weight control. It’s great for arthritis and general movement, especially in the heat of summer. Many veterinarians have told me that it was too hot for dogs to exercise outside. But here is a place where they can exercise inside. The water will help them stay cool throughout the day. I have five to six dogs that they bring to me.
6) Do your facilities have any success stories that dogs who have received treatment at your facility are able to share with us?
So I knew you would ask me that question. I thought hard about it because almost all my dogs have been successful stories. But, there was one dog that came to me. He was a shelter dog. He was a rescue. The police took him out of the house with multiple fractures in his legs, ribs and skull. A veterinarian evaluated his wounds and determined that two of his legs might need to be amputated because of the severe breakage. They were already partially healed from the breaks. They could not be broken and set. This dog was also a puppy. He was less than a year old. He was adopted after the treatment. He can run, jump, and he didn’t need to have any amputated. His wounds were all healed well. Although he does have a slight limp when he walks around, he is otherwise a healthy dog. He did well in the pool and on the treadmill underwater.
7) How long did the rehabilitation process take for your dog?
For about five months, he was visiting me twice per week and once every week for approximately four months.
8) Do you believe that the idea of aqua training and exercise for pets is more popular in the future?
No, absolutely. It’s something that could become a main stream as people care about their pets and want them to have a happy life. This has helped many senior dogs live longer lives, sometimes even years.
9) How many years has Aquatic Paws been open and what have the results been this year?
October 1, 2016, was the opening date. We are now almost at the fourth year mark. This year has been an amazing year. Due to COVID issues, my office was closed for one month. I reopened May 1, 2010. I was unsure what to expect. A week before closing, I saw close to 100 dogs. That number began to decline in March as more people became more cautious. When I reopened my doors in May, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It’s been amazing. It’s been incredible. People are just happy to help their dogs and get them exercise. We now have over 100 appointments per week, and almost 110 appointments per week.
10) What are your plans to Aquatic Paws’ future?
We have been discussing seriously with my husband about Aquatic Paws 2 opening in a new location. We don’t know if we’re there yet, but we are ready to grow. We want to ensure that we have the right customers. Falls Church is our current location. We would like to open a second facility in a different area. That would be the next step for us.
A Q&A with Lisa Castaneda, Aquatic Paws owner Best Dog Life.