A dog having a hydrotherapy session

Hydrotherapy for dogs: what is canine hydrotherapy and how does it work?

What is canine hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy uses water to treat or relieve illness or injury. It works effectively for us humans, and it can work for your dog, too. Canine hydrotherapy provides a relaxed way for your dog to take part in supportive and controlled swimming exercise that can ease aches, pains and stiffness, and help the body recover from injury.

How does hydrotherapy work?

Canine hydrotherapy can be pool based or treadmill based. Pools allow the dogs to swim as we would in a swimming pool however, with underwater treadmills, the dogs walk on the treadmill whilst being supported or resisted by the water depending on the type of exercise that is needed for the treatment protocol. Once a hydrotherapy professional has taken your dog’s measurements, and discussed his/her medical history with you, your dog will be introduced to short session of hydrotherapy. Subsequent sessions can last longer, as your dog becomes accustomed to the exercise.

Exercising in water can support your dog’s limbs, joints and muscles in a way that everyday exercise can’t. Because your dog can then effectively be weightless, this controlled exercise can stimulate and exercise your dog’s joints and muscles with less of the stress or pain that can be caused by regular exercise.

“Canine hydrotherapy can ease aches, pains and stiffness, and help the body recover from injury.” 

Can hydrotherapy help my dog? 

Hydrotherapy has been proven to help dogs in the following circumstances:

  • Dogs recovering from nerve damage or muscle injury 
  • Obese or overweight dogs 
  • Dogs with arthritis or dysplasia
  • Dogs recovering from surgery especially joint or spine surgery
  • Older dogs that find outdoor exercise too rigorous or tiring
  • Dogs that have suffered neurological insults 
  • Dogs that n2eed increased fitness and muscle tone

Choosing a canine hydrotherapy practitioner

Though practitioners don’t have to qualify to become a canine hydrotherapist, most are self-regulated by the UK-based Canine Hydrotherapy Association (CHA).

Do your research before booking a trial hydrotherapy session. Ask friends and colleagues – and, of course, your local vet – for recommendations if you haven’t tried canine hydrotherapy before. 

Once you’ve narrowed your search down to one or two options, it’s a good idea to visit in person, to check the quality of the facilities, the insurance cover provided, the credibility and professionalism of the staff, and their treatment recommendations for your dog.

Advice on hydrotherapy for dogs

For expert advice on canine hydrotherapy, ask your local vet if he or she can recommend a hydrotherapy practitioner in your area. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.

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