A number of conditions in dogs, such as arthritis or obesity, may be aggravated by, or may show slow or no improvement as a result of weight bearing exercise. An example of one such condition is hip dysplasia, which is most common in medium to large purebred dogs, such as German Shepherds, Labradors or Golden Retrievers. Correct pre-, as well as post-operative care and the effective treatment of other painful chronic conditions in animals, is also crucial to a successful recovery process, which may sometimes be difficult to manage through conventional rehabilitation procedures, especially when the animal in question is weak, overweight or in extreme pain.
Water has long been known to be highly effective in assisting with spinal and orthopaedic recovery as the buoyancy supports the patient and reduces impact on painful joints, while offering resistance to build and maintain muscle mass. The Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria offers a rehabilitation service that helps animals immobilised by injury, disease or post-operative restrictions to regain as much mobility as possible. The Onderstepoort Animal Rehabilitation Service (OARS) offers intensive, one-on-one treatment for small animals that have undergone orthopaedic and neurological surgery, as well as animals with other conditions that cause pain and restrict mobility. The service works mainly with dogs that have had spinal surgery or other orthopaedic and neurological interventions, as well as geriatric dogs suffering from arthritis. The treatments available at the OARS can also help obese animals to lose weight by means of controlled cardiovascular training.