Canine Hydrotherapy and laser Case Study – Police Dog Barti

Dogs, Hydrotherapy, Kelly Walmsley, Therapies

History – Retired police dog, sustained a disabling injury whilst on duty in Feb 2013. The exact origin of his injury is unknown as he was investigating a warehouse and returned to his handler with the injury.

He was treated by The Royal School of Veterinary Studies and they diagnosed a deep laceration latero-caudal metatarsus to the right hind leg. It was cleaned and stapled at the time to help heal the injury. Barti later developed further lameness which led to his medical retirement. He was then re homed with his initial puppy trainer for his retirement where he lived out the next few years in good health, until his owner noticed a gradual decline in his mobility/stability.

Initial assessment

He was presented to me on 04/01/2018 and on examination his right hind leg was quite lame with di-minished weight bearing due to his previous injury. His left front leg had severe wearing to his weight bearing digits (he was unable to complete any road walks). He was also lame on this leg. On top of these 2 significant   problems he had developed muscle spasms and tightness in his lower back and shoulders. All of which was making him very uncomfortable.

Initial techniques used

I initially performed some light stretches and class IV laser treatment on his affected areas. This was tolerated well and I arranged with his owner a further 5 laser sessions over the next 3 weeks. His owner reported she could see gradual improvements and his laser sessions moved to weekly and then every 10 days.

Laser treatment was initially chosen as it is an effective drug-free form of pain relief that also reduces inflammation and swelling in the affected area. It is used to specifically target into the joint or tissue you have opted to treat. The therapeutic light emitted from the laser improves microcirculation in the damaged tissue delivering oxygen, vital sugars, proteins, and salts while removing wastes.

7 weeks after Bart’s initial appointment with me he had his first hydrotherapy session on the underwater treadmill, as after discussion with his owner we felt now his pain was under control it was time to build back his muscle mass.

Introducing canine hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy was chosen to achieve the goal of increasing muscle mass as this is the most effective treatment for this. It uses the properties of the water hydrostatic pressure, resistance, buoyancy, viscosity, cohesion and water temperature to work together to achieve the optimal environment to promote muscle growth and strengthening.

Barti attended a hydrotherapy session once a week for 10 weeks and his strength improved with each session once he became familiar with the treadmill. Prior to Barti’s first session, his measurements were taken and we videoed his first session so that this could be repeated at his 10th session and then used for comparison.

Start Measurements – front left leg 27cm, front right leg 23cm, rear left leg 49cm, rear right leg 48cm, waist 65cm.

End Measurements – front left leg 29cm, front right leg 28cm, rear left leg 54cm, rear right leg 55cm, waist 69cm.

N.B. The video footage also showed considerable improvement in Barti’s walking pattern.

The results

Throughout his hydrotherapy Barti has had laser treatment every other week, and due to the considerable improvement, we have started to move Barti to a maintenance hydrotherapy and laser pro-gramme. Starting at every other week, with the hope he will be able to progress to 4-6 weekly sessions for both.


Kelly Walmsley started her business after deciding to turn her interests into something more. She was looking into various types of rehabilitation when one of her beloved Newfoundlands got diagnosed with both elbow and hip dysplasia, and she wanted to find a preventative treatment rather than heading straight down the route of analgesia and surgical intervention. To date, they have managed to avoid any surgery with a combination of canine hydrotherapy, exercise and massage therapy.

You can contact her at Kernow Paws Rehabilitation and on Facebook.











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