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Hydrotherapy for dogs

This article explores hydrotherapy for dogs. We explain what hydrotherapy is and how it could help your dog recover from injury or illness.

hydrotherapy for dogs


What is Hydrotherapy for dogs

Put simply, hydrotherapy for dogs is regulated exercise in warm water. The water provides a resistance which helps to build and strengthen muscle. As it is non weight bearing there is no impact on the limbs. As a result of this, the exercise is gentler and stress free.

In addition, the warmth of the water stimulates blood flow which in turn leads to an increase in circulation. It also promotes and improves cardiovascular fitness. This eases stiff, painful and swollen joints, reducing pain and allowing the dog a greater range of movement.

Hydrotherapy is derived from the Greek words ‘hydor’ meaning water and ‘therapia’ meaning healing.


How hydrotherapy can help your dog

​Hydrotherapy rehabilitation is beneficial for many dogs. For instance, those who suffer from degenerative joint disease, dogs recovering from an injury, and those suffering from paralysis. Water therapy can also help dogs with fractures, hip dysplasia, limb amputation, and neurological disorders. Hydrotherapy may be especially beneficial for dogs who suffer from arthritis due to old age

canine hydrotherapy

What conditions are commonly treated

There are many ways that dogs can benefit from hydrotherapy. However, some conditions may not suite hydrotherapy. It is important to have a discussion with a vet and the therapist in advance. A vet referral will be required before treatment commences.

These are the common conditions that are treated with Canine Hydrotherapy

Common conditions

  • Arthritis
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Pre and post-operative orthopaedic conditions
  • Cruciate ligament rupture
  • Patella luxation
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Intervertebral disc rupture slipped disc
  • Spondylosis
  • Mobility problems related to age or obesity
  • Young active dogs on restricted exercise
  • Mental health and wellbeing

This list is not exhaustive, so please check with your vet or canine hydrotherapy centre if you think treatment could help your dog.


Benefits of canine Hydrotherapy

A dog that has an illness, injury or disability which prevents it from leading a normal healthy life can become depressed. So, improving mobility promotes better health all round.

By reducing levels of pain and swelling, coupled with increasing circulation and gentle exercise will assist in creating a greater sense of wellbeing. This can be fundamental to the ongoing recovery of the dog.

Not only is Hydrotherapy beneficial in helping to treat post-operative conditions but also in building muscle and tissue prior to surgery which can then assist in the speed recovery.

Medical benefits

  • Relieves pain, swelling and stiffness
  • Improves joint mobilisation and increases range of movement
  • Enhances muscle strength
  • Circulation is improved
  • Increases cardiovascular fitness
  • Re-education of gait pattern
  • Develops sensory awareness
  • Relaxes muscle spasms
  • Promotes mental well being

Other benefits include

  • ​Healthy skin and coat
  • Water can increase lymph drainage, improving the immune system and helps rid the body of toxins
  • Encourages better digestion
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Hydrotherapy can also help dogs who need to shed a few pounds, as part of an exercise programme

hydrotherapy pool



Fit4dogsUK is located in the Market town of Beverley, East Yorkshire. In a purpose built centre they provide a professional, passionate, friendly and positive experience for your dog. They have a 6m x 3m swimming pool for dogs and a state of the art dog treadmill. The dog loving team includes experienced hydrotherapists and dog trainers, insuring all dogs get the care and support they need.

The centre, which opened in October 2018, currently helps over 40 dogs per week.

canine hydrotherapy centre

Find out more at


A word from the owner

Kirsty was initially a Swimming Teacher.  Due to her passion of dogs and the healing properties of water she undertook retraining as a canine Hydrotherapist. From there she went on to create Fit4dogsuk.

Kirsty says “I love my job every day. It is so rewarding seeing the difference we make in each dog. It is not like going to work as you get to swim and cuddle dogs all day.”


A fit4dogsUK success story

German Shepherd Merlin’s injury

German Shepherd Merlin suffered two slipped discs in his spine and his owner Carol Wild feared he might never walk again.

He’d been at home on the farm and had a suspected fall. It’s still unknown what caused this to happen.

He’s always been an outdoor farm dog, led a very active life running around the farm and playing with the families two terriers. As he was such a lovely natured dog, Carol wanted to do all she could to help him.

He had a double disc extrusion. A slipped disc where the soft cushion of tissue between the bones and the spine pushes out and causes pressure on the nerves. This caused something called Para paresis which means that he was paralyzed in his hind legs and was suffering deep pain.

Why Hydrotherapy

Owner Carol had hydrotherapy herself and knew the benefits of hydrotherapy. Carol had a riding accident and shattered her femur and had to learn to walk again. She knew the benefits herself and wanted the same for Merlin.

Carol came to me on 8th December 2018 to see if hydro could help. Her main concerns included Merlin’s pain and quality of life.

Treatment plan

Weighing over 42 kg Merlin’s a large German shepherd breed. This weight made it hard for him to begin walking again. However, with our support this helped him gain his sensation and balance again. When pinching the skin on his paws he showed signs of sensation. So, we had to work on this to rebuild the pathways in his nervous system, so he could learn to walk again.

The first step was starting him on the treadmill in warm water to help his circulation. Continually supporting, by holding his paws and moving his hind legs, to re-educate him on his gait. Basically, teaching him how to walk again. The treadmill also provided massage for his front legs.

During his first session, his movement was very limited. We agreed a weekly training plan, and built time up slowly as he progressed. This was the most efficient and beneficial way of putting him on the road to recovery.

In the meantime, at home, his family were using a harness to help him walk so he could toilet and move around without dragging himself along the floor.

As each session passed, with a lot of determination from Merlin and encouragement from his owner, plus gravy bones, he slowly started to walk again and gain strength in his rear legs.

Merlin’s progress was steady and consistent and now can walk around the farm unaided.

He still comes for weekly sessions to build on his good work and increase the strength in his muscles and his co-ordination. Merlin’s fitness is building up too, and we’re currently working on improving his ability to turn.

Merlin’s progress

Merlin has been making consistent progress throughout every session. He has a determined demeanor towards getting back to his old self and a supportive owner. Throughout every session, he always improves so much for the next time.

Helping Merlin recover from his accident has been so rewarding in every way. It allows us to show our passion in our job! It has been beneficial to see how much hydrotherapy helps alongside surgery or before surgery for the best recovery. In many cases, such as Merlin’s, as nerve damage is tricky to reverse. Sensitizing their nerves again and allowing them to “find their feet” speeds up the recovery process.

We have learned many things along the way of merlin’s recovery and it has helped us progress in our knowledge in hydrotherapy.


Other services and events at Fit4dogsUK

As well as rehabilitation, Fit4dogsUK offers a range of other services such as weight loss programmes,  physiotherapy and fun & fitness classes. You can also book in for First aid for dog owners and Massage for dog owners training.


A final word from

We would like to say a big thank you to Fit4dogsUK for their help in creating this article.

Also, to atailsphotograpy for all the wonderful pictures we have included.

You might also like to read our article on how to avoid obesity in dogs


4 thoughts on “Hydrotherapy for dogs”

  1. Great article. Loved reading Merlin’s story. We took our dog for a session a few years ago to prepare him for a canal boat holiday. Not really what the service is for, but I was frightened he would fall in and panic and not be able to swim. He had a great time. I think the warm water makes it so much better for dogs. He slept for hours afterwards.

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