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Hydrotherapy Explained

Hydrotherapy is the use of water to provide therapeutic effects. The use of heated water (in a hydrotherapy pool) to help with musculoskeletal and neural rehabilitation,

What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy (sometimes called aquatic therapy) uses the principles of water to allow exercise and to alter exercise intensity. Increased buoyancy (opposite to gravity) allows for more exercise than is permitted on land. Increased temperature and hydrostatic pressure promote increases in circulation and flexibility and decreases in swelling. Increasing speed, turbulence and surface area can all be used to increase exercise difficulty.

A Canine hydrotherapy pool is a swimming pool specifically designed for providing Canine hydrotherapy treatments. The main difference is the increase in temperature. A Canine hydrotherapy pool is heated to around 30 degrees Celsius. This allows for the patient to fully relax (and not tense up in cold water), promotes pain relief and encourages blood circulation.

A hydrotherapy pool should be rectangular in shape and should be easily accessible and have a low gradient ramp.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy can be very useful in treating many different types of soft tissue and bone injury as well as neuromuscular conditions such as muscular atrophy.

The benefits of hydrotherapy include:

  • Pain relief & reduce joints inflammation

  • Reduction in muscle spasm.

  • Increased joint range of motion.

  • Strengthening of weak muscles.

  • Increased blood circulation.

  • Improvement of balance and co-ordination.

  • Re-education of paralysed muscles.

Because of the buoyancy of the water, hydrotherapy allows many individuals to exercise, where they wouldn't be able to on land. The effect of this increased buoyancy and decreased gravitational force means that there is less stress on weight bearing joints such as the elbows, stifles and hips and many movements can be performed in water before they would be possible on land.

Uses of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy may be useful in the following conditions:

  • Developmental Conditions such as Hip and Elbow Dysplasia/ Patella Luxation etc

  • Degenerative Conditions such as Osteoarthritis/ Degenerative Joint Disease/ Spondylosis etc

  • Pre & Post Surgical Cases such as Femoral Head and Neck Excision/ Arthroscopy/ Cranial Cruciate Rupture etc

  • Neurological Conditions such as Degenerative Myelopathy/ Spinal Stenosis/ Degenerative Disc Disease/ Fibro-Cartilaginous Embolism etc

All Canine hydrotherapy treatments MUST be referred by Veterinarians and carried out only by certified Canine hydrotherapist.


In certain circumstances, hydrotherapy is not recommended.

  • Inflammation - acute injuries where redness and heat are still present are not recommended for hydrotherapy treatment.

  • Fever - whole body warming is not recommended if a temperature is present.

  • Heart disease - increased blood flow may place stress on the heart.

  • Vascular conditions - Increased circulation is not advised.

  • Kidney problems.

  • Cancer.

  • Hemorrhage.

Forms of hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy can include anything from floating in the water and simply benefiting from the increased temperature and relaxation properties, to full on, intense swimming exercise sessions. The form of hydrotherapy used will depend entirely on the individual and their level of fitness and conditions.

Check out our Hydrotherapy programs and other swim programs for your dogs.

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