Hydrotherapy means “water healing” in greek, and that’s exactly what it does – it heals a dog’s body via means of controlled exercise in warm water!
The purpose of exercising in warm water is to rehabilitate damaged/hurt joints while building strength without putting actual weight on the joints. That’s the beauty of the buoyancy effect water has!
Benefits of Hydrotherapy for dogs
Hydrotherapy for dogs has a plethora of benefits:
1) Speeds recovery process after surgery (e.g. knee surgery, fractures, amputations)
2) Easy on the joints and therefore great exercise for obese dogs
3) Slows progression of degenerative conditions (hip & elbow dysplasia, arthritis)
4) Helps dogs recover from paralysis
5) The treadmill hydrotherapy doesn’t require swimming, meaning it can also be used to treat dogs who don’t like to swim
6) Can support general fitness routine by improving balance & overall coordination
7) Great way of burning excess energy for high energy dogs
Where to take your dog for Hydrotherapy sessions
Hydrotherapy can take place in a larger, heated doggie pool, or in a small, heated pool on an underwater treadmill. Typically, hydrotherapy is offered at canine rehabilitation centers.
The CRI (Canine Rehabilitation Institute) can point you in the right direction of a therapist for your dog worldwide!
Many Pet Spas are also beginning to offer hydrotherapy services as they’re becoming a more common sight, and offer a plethora of wellness services for dogs (& cats).
I’ve taken one of my client dogs, Samoyed mix Bear, to a pet spa here in my area in NC a few times. He’s been having knee problems for a few years, and hurt his left front leg several months ago when slipping on the kitchen tile, causing a limp.
His veterinarian prescribed physical therapy, specifically hydrotherapy.
Bear’s physical therapist at Riverbark Pet Resort is trained medical professional Nikki who has been rehabilitating pets for 10 years and loves her job (go figure!).
Hydrotherapy sessions vary in length as they are customized to meet each K9 patient’s respective needs. Bear started out with 5 minutes of underwater treadmill walking, and has worked his way up to 20-25 minutes! As a result, he is doing so much better and his limp is nearly gone.
Side note: Peanut Butter has been a wonderful motivation for him to keep on walking!
When supervised by a trained medical professional, Hydrotherapy sessions are an effective, gentle means of rehabilitation. As mentioned above, it is also a wonderful way of burning excess energy in high energy breeds!
The cost for Hydrotherapy sessions will vary between pet spas and be dependent on their geographical location. Some pet insurance companies may cover a portion of the cost for physical therapy – if you’re looking into getting medical insurance for you pup, make sure to know which treatments are covered.
I wrote about my comparison of 12 different pet insurance companies a while back:
Do you have any experience with Hydrotherapy for dogs? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!
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One of my friend’s dog does hydrotherapy. He’s being doing it ever since he tore a ligament in his leg; and he loves it!
That’s awesome – does he get peanut butter for motivational reasons, too?!
I don’t think so; he loves it so much he’ll swim around and around and around with the vocal encouragement of his owners at either end of the pool!
Now that’s ideal!!
Omgosh I have seen this before! I want Maddie to try it!!
She would look sooo cute in that big tub!!! I wonder if they make smaller tubs, too?
Love the peanut butter idea. We’ve used water therapy for all of our dogs so far – it really helps keep their leg strength up after an injury or as they age.
It doesn’t surprise me to hear that you’ve used water therapy on your pups – you’re amazingly good at keeping everyone fit!
Great post! I did this with my one chessie after his acl surgery. It really helped him to heal up much faster.
Thanks Joann ~ pretty amazing what “a little” warm water can do, right?! How many sessions did your chessie have to do after his surgery?
I believe we did 8
Cool – I believe that’s how many Bear has done.
I know it is really good for dogs and I have seen dogs doing it which is quite interesting, but have never tried it. Katie might benefit from it, but she hates water and being wet, so I’m not going to force her at this point.
Maybe some peanut butter or other favorite treats could distract her from the fact that she’s getting wet?
That is so cool. Water is so healing in many ways and this is an awesome option especially for rehabilitation. Lyndsay over at http://theflynnigans.com posted about her pup getting hydrotherapy. I love that video and he looks happy for sure. PB is a good motivator for me too!!
Thanks for sharing Lyndsay’s post, Julie! Just checked it out – I think it’s pawsome that she continues to let her pup do hydrotherapy, although technically he no longer “needs” it.
Nope, no longer needs it but he has fun going, he gets excited when we ask if he wants to go swimming and the benefits are amazing. So why not. 🙂
You rock!!! I’ll have to see about having my pups try the underwater treadmill, just for fun & exercise purposes!
It helps, I’m sure, if they like water but Charlie isn’t one to go in a body of water without coaxing, so even the ones you think won’t like it may take you by surprise. 🙂 no harm in trying.
Love the peanut butter on the front door. Genius 🙂
Have a great Monday Hun xo
Exactly my thoughts. HA, yes, the peanut butter definitely worked great for Bear – he’s a dedicated slave to his stomach 😉
Thanks, Lindsay, have a fab Monday as well!
Our other dog, Baxter, we call Timmy Trash Can. His hunger and belly rules above all. LOL. Charlie lives for his liver treats in the tank. It’s just so much fun, I’m literally smiling the whole time.
Thanks lady 😉 xo
BOL for Timmy Trash Can – nice nickname ;-)) Him & Missy seem to be in the same club…Now I can’t wait to find out if we can book hydrotherapy sessions just for fitness reasons with Riverbark/I don’t see why not, but still have to find out. I’d be smiling the whole time, too!!!
Cheers & tail wags from our pack to yours! Xo
I have so many nick names for the boys it’s too funny.
Might as well ask, what’s the worst they say, no? It’s a great way for them to exercise. Charlie literally can’t keep his eyes open after therapy. Even this morning I had to get him up and carry him to the kitchen to eat… Spoiled, not at all. 😉 hahaha
Much love to your pack and hugs to you girl. xoxo
HA, oh yes, a tired dog is a good dog 😉 Whenever the pups go swimming (usually in the late afternoon), they fall asleep in the car on the way home, eat dinner, and then are out for the night!
Sending tail wags & hugs your way 🙂 XO
I have nothing but positive things to say about hydrotherapy. We initially got our boy into it post-ACL/meniscus surgery and we’ve just continued with it and we’re not 5 months post-op. We figure it’s great for his joint, it’s exercise (zero impact on his joints), he LOVES it and for the amount of times we go, we buy an unlimited monthly pass and go twice a week and it costs about 17 bucks a visit, and we feel for that and all the benefits, it’s peanuts and worth the cost. Also, with our crap winters, it’ll be good for Charlie so he doesn’t slip and risk injuring his leg. 🙂
Loved reading this, thank you.
Wow, $17 for a session, that’s nothing!! I’d be buying a monthly pass at that value, too. I’ll have to find out pricing from Riverbark. Their 30 min swim sessions in the big doggie pool are $25 per dog; they do offer monthly passes for $250 (12 sessions) or $480 (24 sessions).
It’s definitely awesome that Charlie still gets to do his Hydrotherapy. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us!!
The place we go to is an emergency and referral clinic and they have two hydrotherapy tanks, along with a pool. We were referred by our vet to this amazing facility and they assessed Charlie, concluded that the hydrotherapy would’ve helped him to a certain degree but it wouldn’t resolve the ligament tear, so we opted to not waste our time with seeing how hydrotherapy went BEFORE surgery, invested that into his surgery and then 2 weeks post-op, we started him with one session a week I think it was and he had exercise time with the techs, doing cavalettis, work on the balance ball, manual exercises.. He completed six of those sessions and we determined that he would benefit greatly by continuing with it – that’s where they saw the most success for post-op patients – people that kept up with the hydrotherapy noticed HUGE improvements versus patients that only completed the 6 post-op included hydro sessions. Included in the cost of the surgery is 6 sessions with a tech and doing hydrotherapy, which we thought was AMAZING.
The facility has a pool and two hydro tanks, along with a hoist/crane thing that can lift the big dogs or dogs that are paralyzed.
Typically the pool is used for fore-limb injuries and the two tanks are used for spinal and back-limb injuries. One tank is always reserved for the rehabilitation portion of the clinic and one is always for their hydrotherapy program, for people that have had their pets in for surgery or have been fitness-assessed of some sort and we are required to do 6 sessions with a technician and then following those six sessions, we could purchase monthly passes and we are free to come in and operate the tanks on our own. There are techs always there to lend a hand and we’ve developed beautiful relationships with all of them, the vet clinic owners (both husband and wife vets) come in to see the dogs now and again, and we all look forward to seeing the regulars that we see every visit. It’s a really great experience and I really don’t see us stopping the therapy so long as Charlie benefits from it AND enjoys it. And at that cost, how can you go wrong?! Sorry for the long diatribe here. 🙂
HA, no worries, I love hearing doggie stories from my readers 🙂 How cool is it that you can now come in whenever you want and operate the tanks on your own! Your clinic sounds so welcoming and like one big family.
🙂 I’ll post a picture later today but last night we took our other doc with us and he likes going because it means he gets free treats for doing nada! Lol
I saw the post on Facebook!!
I love the water so I can’t imagine hydrotherapy would feel anything but good.
I think it’s fabulous that we’re seeing more options for this kind of care for dogs.
I do, too. I love hearing from people whose dogs or friend’s dogs have had acupuncture sessions or chiropractic adjustments.