Muscle Balance- why is it important?

Client Izzy. Photo Credit: CTV Archives

Muscle Balance
Why is it Important?
Having a fit and healthy dog is important, in the long run will not only save you money but most importantly, give your dog the best quality of life.

    Your dog’s exercise, whether it be fun and playful or more structured,   should be diversified and hits their muscles in a balanced manner. While,   having a fit dog is important, unbalanced muscle tone in any dog can lead to   injury. Engaging your dog in specific exercises working both sides of the   body  and including both core and surface muscles are key to a proper   workout.  Releasing high-tone tense muscle and working low tone muscles   can significantly help balance you dog.

 For example, many dogs tend to inadvertently load their body weight onto their front legs more than their hind legs during
activity or if they have an injury, thus the front of the torso and limbs can become stronger than their hind end. This can lead to relative weakness in the hind end of the dog, leading to a higher risk of injury.

Client Izzy is a great example of what swimming can do for well defined, balanced muscles.
Photo Credit: CTV Archives

 Swimming in a warm water therapy pool is a great way to balance muscle tone as well as build any low tone muscles. A trained hydrotherapist uses techniques to build specific muscles and increase the range of motion in your dog’s joints. With the use of therapeutic techniques and activities in the warm water, specific muscle groups, mainly those protecting key joints such as the hips and stifle (knees), can be targeted to strengthen the dog and increase their mobility and range of motion.

 Warm water therapy allows for dogs to have fun and build confidence in the water. This activity also gives relief from aches and pains, while achieving a relaxed, balanced body. Weekly therapy in the pool is a great way to maintain muscles, and stay in shape -just like the gym or cross training, long term commitment is the goal.

 Being fit, healthy and balanced is the key to your dog having a great quality of life.


Open House for Phoenix Rising Integrative Veterinary Care

Open House Sunday, January 28 12pm-2pm

Our friends at Phoenix Rising Integrative Veterinary Care are happy to announce that they are ready to host their Open House here at K9 Rehab Wellness Centre this Sunday January 28 from 12pm – 2pm

You will have the opportunity to meet with Dr Radica Raj and Marieke who is now on the staff at Phoenix Rising. Marieke is a veterinary technician from Holland and is a firm believer in integrative medicine.

Phoenix Rising Integrative Vet Care
3831 Still Creek Avenue
Burnaby, BC V5C 4E2

There will be hot beverages and doughnuts, both vegan and non-vegan

We look forward to seeing you all there!

K9 Rehab Loves to Give Back!

We love to Give Back To Dogs in Need.

Giving back is important to us. We offer regular pro-bono swims to adoptable dogs rescued from the BC SPCA Burnaby Branch.

Check out our video to see what a typical pro-bono swim looks like at our facility.

Indoor Pool vs Outdoor Pool. Is there a Difference?

The simple answer is yes, there is a huge difference between an indoor pool and an outdoor pool when it comes to canine hydrotherapy. The biggest differential point- providing a controlled environment.

An Indoor Pool Provides Consistent Warmth,

In and Out of the Water

A benefit of warm water therapy is the ability to quickly warm up the muscles. Warm muscles mean an increase in range of motion in the joints to effectively build muscle and improve the condition of your dog. Having your dog exit the water into cold temperatures causes the muscles to tighten back up causing the therapy to stop, essentially wasting the progress made in the warmth of the water.

Our heated pool deck gives warmth to our clients as they are being dried off after their swim to keep their muscles warm, allowing the therapy to continue. This also provides a comfortable environment to the parents who are watching their pooch swim. Dogs requiring further warmth are suited in our retailed chilly dog bath robes or are blow dried in our commercial drying station located near the pool entrance.

A Safe, Quiet Environment

Our indoor pool is free of interruption from noises. This is very important if your dog is anxious or has reactivity and can easily be alarmed. It is important for your dog to experience the therapy aspect in canine hydrotherapy. Having an environment free from interruptions whether it be from noise, humans, or other dogs, gives the ultimate therapeutic experience. In order for a dog to completely relax they need to know that they are in a safe environment.
What better way to relax than to feel like the pool belongs to you? 

At K9 Rehab, we take everything into consideration to give you and your pet the ultimate spa experience, right down to the lighting. It is important to have good lighting during a hydrotherapy session as the therapist needs to accurately observe your dog in the pool without obstruction. Great lighting means our hydro-therapists can note the slightest abnormality, therefore adjusting accordingly to achieve proper swim style to build muscle back into correct formation.

Indoor hydrotherapy pools provide consistent warmth both in and out of the pool. The environment is controlled to be free of distractions, noise, and other dogs. An indoor pool provides the space for dogs and owners to feel relaxation, solitude, and safety.
At K9 Rehab we strive to provide a comfortable, professional hydrotherapy experience.

What is your dog’s collar doing to their neck?


Don’t let your dog’s collar be a pain in their neck.  

  We’ve all seen it. Most of us have probably done it too. The dog is pulling forward and we’re pulling backwards trying to get them to stop. Sometimes we give a quick yank on their leash to try and correct their behavior, then we hear that sound- a sharp cough from the pressure of the collar pulling back on their throat. 

Now imagine this. You’re in a good ol’fashion game of tug-o-war. Your opponent has their rope secured to a harness strapped to their upper body, while your rope is attached to a collar around your neck. How long do you think you would be able to tolerate the pressure around your neck, or worse, endure pain? Our neck is fragile and vulnerable to damage, just like our dog’s.


The Neck is a VITAL part of a dog’s anatomy. The neck houses:

  • vertebrae of spine
  • veins & arteries 
  • thyroid gland
  • nerves that carry signals throughout the body

 Collar Pulling Risks:

  • coughing 
  • headaches
  • issues with sight
  • damage to trachea & thyroid
  • neck injury
  • spine injury
  • induce respiratory issues

Prevention Methods for Neck Injury:

  • use a well fitted harness, like the freedom-no-pull harness. 
  • help train your dog to walk loosely on leash. This comes down to basic training. Talk to your dog trainer about how to loose-leash walk with your dog.
  • gently massage your dog’s neck to alleviate any discomfort they may have. 
  • Seek a professional: book an appointment with a canine chiropractor or animal massage therapist.
  • provide your furry friend a pillow or cushion to help support their neck while they are sleeping.

Opting to use a well-fitted harness instead of a collar to walk your dog is a simple preventative method to save your dog from injury. We are fortunate to have a variety of harnesses out there now, it will be easy to find one to fit any dog’s needs.

Visit us for your freedom-no-pull harness!

-K9 Rehab.


Five Reasons Why Dogs Love to Swim

Five Reasons Why Dogs

Love to Swim


             Dogs love to run, chase, and fetch. But what about swimming?
 We have all seen those big dogs swimming in the lakes, ponds, and oceans.
 We have also all seen the owners of these dogs fighting to get them out of the water only   for the dogs to run back in. Though it is not only big dogs who love the water! The love   for swimming is not only for the big dogs, but dogs of all sizes. Here are five reasons why
 your dog loves the water. 



     That’s right, just likes us our pets love the weightlessness of being in the water. The buoyancy of the water diminishes the effects of gravity allowing the body to be supported in the water. Swimming is a great exercise as it places less stress on joints, bones and muscles, and increases independence of movement. Dogs are able to move more freely in the water, enabling weightless exercise they cannot achieve with being on land. 



It is common for one to think that dog breeds such as Retrievers, Spaniels, and
Newfoundlands are innate water lovers. While there are dog breeds that are
genetically built to be better swimmers than others, a dog’s love for water comes from positive association. Similar to children, dogs need to know they are safe and can trust their ability to swim in the water before they can enjoy the fun of swimming. This couldn’t be any more apparent than when you see a bichon frise swimming out to fetch a toy while a Labrador stays wading in the water. 



     The most obvious reasons why dogs love to swim is exercise! Once a dog knows how to swim they become naturals and adapt very quickly. This low-impact exercise does wonders for your dog. The resistance of the water activates muscles to work harder while giving the feeling of being weightless. It is the perfect exercise for your dog to get a good work-out while protecting their joints. Guaranteed your dog will sleep like a log after a good swim session.



Dogs become bored very easily, any dog owner can attest to this. Swimming is not only a great form of physical stimulation but also is great for a dog’s mental well-being. While swimming a dog modifies their walking movement from a trot, to a paddle. Many of us started our first swimming lesson learning what is called the ‘doggy paddle.’ Although a dog swimming looks as natural as a fish in water, there is more focus on what their body is doing than we realize. Much like us, their brain is assessing the activity and the surroundings while they are swimming. With the brain and the body working at the same time, the increase in focus and drive keeps the dog engaged in this fun activity.


5. FUN! 

The fifth, final, and most simple reason why dogs love to swim is because it is fun! Dogs who love swimming are like kids in a swimming pool, it’s hard to get them out. One minute of swimming is equivalent to four minutes of land exercise. The feeling of being weightless while getting a full body workout is hard to beat.

Not only is swimming fun for dogs, it also provides pain relief from arthritis, inflammation, and mobility issues. At our warm water, salt-based pool your dog can enjoy the fun benefits of swimming all year round in a safe controlled environment.

-K9 Rehab Wellness Centre





This Christmas give your beloved dog a gift of wellness, exercise, and fun. For a limited time, K9 Rehab is offering 5 package hydrotherapy swims, originally priced at $310.45,  for only $275.00! Offer ends on December 31, 2017.


Injury and Post Surgical Recovery Therapies

Leni - Labrador Retriever

Having a sick dog is one the worst things. You have taken your pet through the process of surgical correction for an injury or orthopedic or soft tissue ailment and they have survived and come out the other side and had the stiches removed – what next. They have survived surgery and now the road to recovery begins.   Your pet will need to recover strength,  muscle mass, balance, range of motion and general well-being.

K9 Rehab staff are experienced  professionals with certification  in small animal rehabilitation massage therapy, diploma qualified canine hydro-therapists with studies with experience in functional rehabilitation and  pet first aid.

Once your veterinarian has deemed your dog past the initial healing phase of their recovery and has agreed to the use of physical therapies to help your dog regain strength and mobility a treatment plan will need to be developed. Your dog’s treatment will focus on improving muscle strength, physical conditioning, addressing dietary changes to improve body conditioning and health. Our activities are designed to engage your dog’s brain in addition to his body.  Fun activities that  serve two purposes are important, building muscles while engaging a dog’s mind can really make a difference in their will to get better. Professionals know how to address both mind and body and keep the therapy sessions to a length that helps the animal without over-stressing or boring them.  Quality of work and setting the proper amount of sessions is also important, K9-rehab will liaze with your Veterinarian to develop session protocols and discuss therapy exercises which best address your dog’s needs and progress.

Canine Recovery Therapies

We will select from a variety of therapeutic exercises to help your pet regain strength, endurance and balance. A qualified therapist will evaluate your dog using gait analysis, range of motion tests, and body measurements  to  assess your dog’s current physical condition and based upon that develop a plan of action to strengthen weakened limbs and mark progress. The Treament Plan may include some or all of the following therapies:

  • Canine swim therapy allows the dog to work muscles in a non-weight bearing environment  while the hydrostatic pressure of the water helps to reduce swelling  most importantly the water encourages muscle use and a greater range of motion.
  • Strength and balance exercises – using therapy equipment such as wobble boards, cavaletti poles and therapy balls may be used to help engage muscles the dog does not necessarily want to use after surgery.  Dogs often need proper encouragement to start using a previously compromised limb.
  • Rehabilitation massage therapy –  helps engage underutilized muscles, gets blood flowing to the area of the injury and reduces swelling through lymphatic draining.

K9-rehab will help your pet regain their strength, mobility and well being.

greyfriars-logonorthwest-logo1injury and post surgical recovery therapies

Ms. A. McDonald Dip CH, SARMT

  • Diploma in Canine Hydrotherapy from Greyfriars UK
  • First Aid for Small Animals from Greyfriars UK.
  • Certificate in Small Animal Foundation Massage Therapy (level 1) from North West School of Animal Massage
  • Certificate in Small Animal Rehabilitation Massage Therapy (level 3) from North West School of Animal Massage
  • Walked Paws Dog Walking 101 – Business and Equipment Module And Sabrina’s link is

Why did I become a canine hydrotherapist?

Rhyse Karelian Bear Dog

I have had the honor of being a best friend to my now deceased dog Rhyse. He was a Karelian bear dog which resembles a large Border collie cross Lab and lived to be 18 years old. For all the years we were together I always thought that Rhyse was a Border collie cross and trained him as such, he worked with sheep, did some agility and even tried flyball. It wasn’t until I attended my first practicum at North West School of Animal Massage that I met another Karelian bear dog and took it as a sign I had been directed to my true calling, my Rhyse was with me in spirit.

Rhyse was my shadow, my companion, my hiking buddy, my protector (we actually met up with a few bears on our travels which he protected me from), he was a faithful friend.

Unfortunately Rhyse was taken from me when he was around 6 years old and those years apart he experienced a broken heart because we were apart, loneliness with little exercise or proper care. Thankfully we were brought together again when he was 13 years old, overweight, poor health, no longer the energetic healthy pup he once was. He now had a calmer senior demeanor, and was a true senior dog with all the aches and pains that come with a neglected overweight older dog. I worked hard to recondition him to give him a better quality of life, he was given high quality food, vet check ups and treatment, conditioning for his sore muscles starting with walks and progressing till he was hiking over 5 kms per day and most of the time running he was so happy. Watching the transformation I knew I wanted to help other dogs have the best quality of life they could have by conditioning and helping them through injury rehabilitation.

canine hydrotherapistI heard about swim therapy for dogs on a hike one day and instantly knew this was my purpose! Hydrotherapy was how I could help dogs who needed to get into shape, rehabilitation therapy for injuries and post-surgical care to recondition weak injured muscles and even float therapy for very senior dogs that just need to rest their muscles in the therapeutic warm water environment. As I researched everything I could on the subject I found that there were many different types of hydrotherapy education being offered from basic fitness conditioning to very qualified diploma programs including anatomy, kinesiology, orthopedic conditions with extensive theory and hands on practical sessions. My goal was to get the best education possible and add in elements that I knew would help such as the rehabilitative massage therapy certification. I volunteered at a local canine hydrotherapy pool and loved every minute. I met wonderful new friends and experienced swim sessions with different dogs with injuries or conditions that I saw hydrotherapy worked very well to improve and give the dogs a better quality of life. I even helped teach a puppy how to learn to swim which was absolutely necessary because the breed isn’t known for being a good swimmer and his family was moving to waterfront property. One of my favorite dogs to swim are the tripods, these dogs need special attention and I love giving them, confidence, a non-impact environment to help balance the muscles and treat the compensating limbs for a more conditioned, pain free exercise option.

The full education I wanted took two years to complete, which is more than your average hydrotherapist. Some individuals choose the holistic therapy education which is more of a passive conditioning swim therapy in my opinion. Some individuals choose to do the first level which is certification, a good base for canine hydrotherapy. I chose to educate myself with the best level possible, a diploma in canine hydrotherapy and certification in canine rehabilitation massage therapy. I want to help all dogs, the hard cases such as post-surgical and neurological conditions require special attention and a calm purposeful swim session and the fitness swims for overweight and senior dogs. Knowing orthopedic conditions, contraindictions for injuries and proper swim protocol is very important and it was important for me to gain the knowledge so that each dog I was swimming is safely protected as best as possible from further injury or stresses.

I saw the benefit of massage in the warm water environment where I could use the hydrostatic pressure of the water to help move inflammation out of an injury area, release tension from sore tight muscles and having a floating dog takes the pressure off the injury site allowing me to work a limb and gain a better range of motion. Implementing massage with hydrotherapy sessions has shown to help injuries improve much quicker and to a higher level of healing than just swimming or create rest alone.

I love working with dogs to help give them the best quality of life possible. Hydrotherapy and massage therapy can be incorporated with your veterinarian care to create a full treatment program and achieve optimal results for your dog.

greyfriars-logonorthwest-logo1canine hydrotherapist

Ms. A. McDonald Dip CH, SARMT

  • Diploma in Canine Hydrotherapy from Greyfriars UK
  • First Aid for Small Animals from Greyfriars UK.
  • Certificate in Small Animal Foundation Massage Therapy (level 1) from North West School of Animal Massage
  • Certificate in Small Animal Rehabilitation Massage Therapy (level 3) from North West School of Animal Massage
  • Walked Paws Dog Walking 101 – Business and Equipment Module And Sabrina’s link is