Advantage of Hydrotherapy

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy means “water healing" in Greek.

The buoyant sensation of weightlessness and the calming resistance of water offers small animals a painless and safe physical passive exercise.

Hydrotherapy is a water treatment to rehabilitate and improve an animal’s function and overall quality of life in a heated, sanitised pool. Hydrotherapy in conjunction with veterinary treatment can significantly improve the quality and rate of healing following surgery or traumatic injury.

Hydrotherapy allows non-weight bearing exercise, which removes any pressure on joints that would be present in other forms of exercise.This means that the animal does not experience pain while exercising, thus encouraging movement.

Circulation to deep muscle structures is increased significantly in water.A study by Petrofsky et al1 (undated) provides evidence that human hydrotherapy can cause clinically significant increases in circulation through skeletal muscle and small increases through the skin as well as causing an increase in muscle relaxation.

Cold water causes constriction of the blood vessels near the skin and to the superficial muscles which then restricts the flow of blood. This causes the muscles to be less efficient, therefore pools are heated between 26-32 degrees.


Hydrotherapy can have many positive effects:

  • Increased cardiovascular fitness
  • Pain relief
  • Reduction of swelling
  • Reduction of stiffness
  • Increased mental stimulation
  • Muscle strength
  • Range of movement
  • Joint mobilisation
  • Improved gait pattern
  • Prevention of secondary complications
  • Improved quality of life

Hydrotherapy provides a non-weight bearing environment that can help reduce pain and swelling following surgery or injury. It enables the small animal to move freely in the water increasing the circulation and reducing stiffness.

Due to the temperature of the water (between 26 – 32 degrees), the warm water increases the circulation of the blood to the muscles, increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients and flushes away any waste products.

Pain and swelling are often reduced due to the hydrostatic pressure and has an anti-inflammatory effect.This can lead to an increased range of movement in the water and a reduction in pain.

Improved circulation reduces swelling around the injured area and enhances healing.

Swimming tones most of the major muscle groups and improves the general overall fitness of the dog which is vital for stability. Movement in the water is more difficult due to the resistance of the water. Encouraging pain-free limb movement against the resistance of water improves muscle bulk and muscle wastage will decrease.

The heart must work harder to meet the increased demand for nutrients by all the muscles which are being worked. For most dogs, a short swim is a challenging work out but the buoyancy of the water and the fact they cannot injure themselves makes Hydrotherapy a safe and effective form of exercise.

In addition to the medical benefits of hydrotherapy, it can also be used to improve the quality of life for dogs needing cage rest and/or lead only walking while recovering from injury/medical conditions.

Large breed puppies often need exercise restriction until their growth plates have fully developed.Hydrotherapy is an option for exercise without damaging their joints.

A pre and post treatment health check is essential to enable individual programmes to be created for each dog.The programmes will vary depending on age, breed, condition and veterinary history.Only one dog should be in the pool at any given time.

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