Hydrotherapy for dogs has many benefits

Hydrotherapy for Dogs Has Many Benefits

Hydrotherapy for dogs is a form of physical therapy for dogs.

It involves the use of (warm) water to help dogs recover from injuries, improve their fitness, and manage various health conditions.

It makes sense when you know that hydrotherapy means “water healing” in greek.

The purpose of exercising in warm water is to rehabilitate damaged and/or hurt joints while building strength without putting actual weight on the joints.

That’s the beauty of the buoyancy effect of water!

Hydrotherapy for Dogs: 7 Benefits

7 Benefits of Hydrotherapy for dogs

Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you.Β 

Types of Hydrotherapy For Dogs & Their Benefits

Generally speaking, swimming is beneficial for dogs because it’s:

  • Easy on the joints. That makes it a great form of exercise for obese dogs.
  • A great way of improving balance and overall coordination.
  • Wonderful to help slow progression of degenerative conditions. For example, hip & elbow dysplasia and arthritis.
  • A great way of intensifying exercise for high energy dogs.

As far as using swimming in a therapeutic way for dogs, the following are the most common forms:

Swimming Therapy: Dogs are encouraged to swim in a controlled pool or other bodies of water. This is effective for building muscle strength and improving cardiovascular fitness.

Underwater Treadmill: Dogs walk on a submerged treadmill in a tank of warm water. This is beneficial for dogs recovering from paralysis and surgery (e.g. knee surgery, fractures, amputations) or with mobility issues.

Since treadmill hydrotherapy doesn’t require swimming, it’s often used to treat dogs who don’t like to swim.

Hydro-massage: This involves using high-pressure water jets to massage and stimulate muscles, which helps with circulation and relaxation.

Hydrotherapy For Dogs Near Me

Hydrotherapy for dogs usually takes place in a larger, heated doggie pool, or in a small, heated pool on an underwater treadmill.

Typically, you can book hydrotherapy sessions 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 for dogs in addition to a plethora of wellness services for dogs (& cats).Β 

I’ve taken one of my client dogs, Samoyed mix Bear, to a pet spa here in Central NC a few times.

He’s been having knee problems for a few years, and hurt his left front leg several months ago when he slipped on the kitchen tiles, which caused a limp.

His veterinarian prescribed physical therapy, specifically hydrotherapy for dogs.

Samoyed Bear at 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’s doing so much better and his limp is almost gone.

Side note: Peanut Butter is a wonderful motivation for him to keep on walking!

Equipment For Dog Hydrotherapy

Specialized equipment plays a crucial role in hydrotherapy for dogs as it helps to provide controlled and effective rehabilitation and exercise in a safe and monitored environment.

Here’s a closer look at some of the key specialized equipment used in hydrotherapy for dogs:

Underwater Treadmills

Function: Underwater treadmills are a common piece of equipment used in hydrotherapy for dogs. They consist of a treadmill enclosed in a water tank.

The dog walks or runs on the treadmill while the water level can be adjusted to provide buoyancy and resistance.

Benefits:

Controlled environment: The speed, water depth, and duration of the exercise can be carefully controlled, which makes it ideal for dogs recovering from surgery or with mobility issues.

Low-impact exercise: The buoyancy of the water reduces the impact on joints, which makes it easier for dogs to move and build strength without putting excessive stress on their bodies.

Gradual progression: Veterinarians and hydrotherapists can gradually increase the intensity of the exercise as the dog’s condition improves.

Water Jets and Resistance Pools

Function: Water jets are used to create resistance in the water, which makes it more challenging for dogs to move. Resistance pools or swim spas are designed to provide a controlled aquatic environment with varying levels of resistance.

Benefits:

Muscle strengthening: Water jets and resistance pools require dogs to work harder, which helps in building and toning muscles.

Cardiovascular fitness: The resistance provided by water jets can improve a dog’s cardiovascular fitness, which promotes overall health.

Rehabilitation: These tools are useful for dogs recovering from injuries or surgeries, as they can control the level of resistance and tailor exercises to the dog’s needs.

Harnesses and Buoyancy Aids

Function: Harnesses and buoyancy aids are essential for the safety and comfort of dogs during hydrotherapy sessions.

Benefits:

Buoyancy support: Buoyancy aids like dog life jackets or vests help dogs stay afloat, especially if they are not strong swimmers or have limited mobility.

Missy & Buzz Swimming At Riverbark's Indoor Doggie Pool

Control and stability: Dog lifting harnesses provide support and control over the dog’s movements in the water, which ensures they maintain the correct posture and alignment during exercises.

Confidence-building: These aids can help nervous or anxious dogs feel more secure in the water.

Hydrotherapy For Dogs Cost

The cost for Hydrotherapy sessions varies between pet spas and depends on their geographical location.

Good to know: Some pet insurance companies cover a portion of the cost for physical therapy.

So if you’re looking into getting medical insurance for you pup, make sure to know which treatments are covered.

Hydrotherapy for Dogs: Bottom Line

Overall, hydrotherapy for dogs can be a valuable addition to a dog’s healthcare regimen, helping them recover from injuries, manage chronic conditions, and maintain their overall health and well-being under the guidance of professionals like Nikki.

Always consult with a veterinarian before you start any hydrotherapy program for your dog.

As mentioned above, it’s also a great way of burning excess energy in high energy breeds and a gently way of exercise for obese and arthritic dogs!

Do you have any experience with hydrotherapy for dogs? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below this blog post!

Related Reading

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.


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32 responses to “Hydrotherapy for Dogs Has Many Benefits”

  1. Earl Lover Avatar

    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!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      That’s awesome – does he get peanut butter for motivational reasons, too?!

      1. Earl Lover Avatar

        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!

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          Now that’s ideal!!

  2. MilitaryWifeandPugLife Avatar

    Omgosh I have seen this before! I want Maddie to try it!!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      She would look sooo cute in that big tub!!! I wonder if they make smaller tubs, too?

  3. Kate Obrien Avatar
    Kate Obrien

    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.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      It doesn’t surprise me to hear that you’ve used water therapy on your pups – you’re amazingly good at keeping everyone fit!

  4. joann stancer Avatar
    joann stancer

    Great post! I did this with my one chessie after his acl surgery. It really helped him to heal up much faster.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thanks Joann ~ pretty amazing what “a little” warm water can do, right?! How many sessions did your chessie have to do after his surgery?

      1. joann stancer Avatar
        joann stancer

        I believe we did 8

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          Cool – I believe that’s how many Bear has done.

  5. Emma Avatar
    Emma

    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.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Maybe some peanut butter or other favorite treats could distract her from the fact that she’s getting wet?

  6. Julie Smith Avatar
    Julie Smith

    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!!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      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.

      1. Lindsay // The Flynnigans Avatar

        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. πŸ™‚

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          You rock!!! I’ll have to see about having my pups try the underwater treadmill, just for fun & exercise purposes!

          1. Lindsay // The Flynnigans Avatar

            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. πŸ™‚ no harm in trying.
            Love the peanut butter on the front door. Genius πŸ™‚
            Have a great Monday Hun xo

          2. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

            Exactly my thoughts. HA, yes, the peanut butter definitely worked great for Bear – he’s a dedicated slave to his stomach πŸ˜‰
            Thanks, Lindsay, have a fab Monday as well!

          3. Lindsay // The Flynnigans Avatar

            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 πŸ˜‰ xo

          4. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

            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

          5. Lindsay // The Flynnigans Avatar

            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. πŸ˜‰ hahaha

            Much love to your pack and hugs to you girl. xoxo

          6. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

            HA, oh yes, a tired dog is a good dog πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ™‚ XO

  7. Lindsay // The Flynnigans Avatar

    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. πŸ™‚
    Loved reading this, thank you.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      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!!

      1. Lindsay // The Flynnigans Avatar

        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. πŸ™‚

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          HA, no worries, I love hearing doggie stories from my readers πŸ™‚ 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.

          1. Lindsay // The Flynnigans Avatar

            πŸ™‚ 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

          2. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

            I saw the post on Facebook!!

  8. Pamela | Something Wagging Avatar

    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.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      I do, too. I love hearing from people whose dogs or friend’s dogs have had acupuncture sessions or chiropractic adjustments.

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