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Pool Therapy Is the Big New Thing for Dogs in Recovery

Forget the butterfly and backstroke, these swimmers are all about the doggy paddle.

Wedged between a nail salon and a wine bar in a Maryland strip mall, there's an aquatic facility that's turning heads. K9 Aquatic Center, owned by Dominique Darcis, has over 900 regular clients, but none of them are the type of swimmers you'd expect. They're furry, swim with four legs, and are most often referred to as man's best friend. That's right, K9 Aquatic Center is all about dogs.

While the suburban facility isn't the first of its kind, the idea of using pool therapy to help dogs have fun, lose weight, and recover from injury is relatively new. Veterinary science is only recently realizing the benefits of swimming used as physical therapy for canine rehabilitation. Water serves as healthy resistance to help build muscle and burn fat. It's a low-impact, non-weight bearing workout that can help treat medical health conditions like arthritis in older dogs and help combat obesity, and best of all, dogs seem to love it.

At K9 Aquatic Center, there are five narrow lap pools complete with tiled ramps and clean water. When the canine clientele arrives for their session, they're met by a trained swim coach who guides their workout based on the dog's individual needs, whether it's joint pain, tight muscles, or to upkeep their body condition.

Most water therapy swim sessions are 30-45 minutes, and four-legged swimmers spend the time getting aquatic exercise and playing at their own pace. There are dogs that come regularly as part of weight loss plans, and others come for a few sessions while healing after injury. There are even dogs that swim simply because it's great fun and good indoor exercise, which helps in the wintertime.

As more dog owners realize the benefits of aquatic therapy for their pets, experts predict places like K9 Aquatic Center will become more popular. Dogs like Ditto, a former agility competitor that suffered a severe back injury, will have a place to safely rehabilitate. Ditto's owner, Carol DiPace, told The Washington Post that before swim therapy, Ditto couldn't move her back legs. Now she's "90 percent of herself" and enjoys her time in the pool.

Dogs of all ages, breeds, sizes, and abilities are welcome to take a dip at K9 Aquatic. All the canine swimmers are supervised by knowledgeable staff, and pet owners love watching their pups have fun in the water. Be on the lookout for a canine aquatic facility near you as the word spreads.

Would your pup benefit from swim class? Is there aqua therapy in your area? Let us know in the comments.

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