THIS time last year Stella and Andy Flemmings faced the heart-breaking prospect of having their beloved pet dog Tess put to sleep.
Crippled with arthritis in her back legs, the nine-year-old border collie was barely able to stand and her future looked short and bleak.
However, a last-ditch suggestion from their vet led to the Flemmings taking Tess for regular swimming sessions at the Warley Cross animal hydrotherapy centre near Beeford and the transformation has astounded the couple.
As Tess took her 100th dip in the specially heated pool this week to become the ‘most swum dog’ at the centre, Stella told the Free Press how the treatment has put the spring back into Tess’ step and has effectively saved her life.
Stella said: “It’s amazing to think that a year ago Tess could hardly walk, it was very hard at the time and we were going to have her put down.
“But since she’s been doing the swimming her legs have got so much better, she can run and walk again and is almost back to how she used to be.
“We never thought she’d see her tenth birthday, but she’ll turn ten in September and we’re over the moon at how well she’s done.”
Since being a puppy Tess enjoyed accompanying Andy to work as a groundsman at Filey Golf Club, but when the arthritis crept in she was left housebound, as Stella, of Bridlington, explained: “It happened quite slowly at first, she was just showing signs of stiffness, but by this time last year it had got really bad, to the point where we had to pick her up and take her outside if she needed the toilet.
“At first I suppose we were a bit sceptical about whether the swimming would work, but we would try anything at that point.”
Tess goes to the hydrotherapy centre twice a week and not only does she enjoy swimming in the heated pool, she also relaxes in the spa as part of her treatment.
Stella said: “She absolutely loves it, and she’s now the most swum dog at the centre!
“She is on tablets as well, but we know it’s the swimming that’s making the most difference because when we’ve tried to drop down on the sessions, she soon stiffens up again.”
Helen Masling, owner of the Warley Cross Hydrotherapy Centre, described Tess as one of their greatest success stories.
She said: “Tess has been a fantastic success with her treatment. She is getting her stubbornness back and is getting back to the old Tess, which we are absolutely delighted with.
“When she first started coming, she had what we call the ‘dead look’ in her eyes, that blank look they get when it all gets too much, but she has definitely got her zing back now.
“She occasionally goes to work with Andy again, though we have to be careful she doesn’t do too much because she just wants to run around the golf course like she used to!”
The treatment works because the heated water opens up the dogs’ blood vessels to aid circulation and relieve the pain of arthritis, whilst building up muscle tone in the affected legs.
Whereas swimming in cold water can actually make the condition worse by causing cramp and increased stiffness in arthritic joints, the warm water eases the symptoms.
Helen said: “It doesn’t actually cure arthritis but it eases pain and gives the dogs their quality of life back, which is thankfully what has happened in Tess’ case.”