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
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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