Dogs can benefit from hydrotherapy in a variety of ways. By utilizing the buoyancy and resistance of the water, pets can exercise in the underwater treadmill with very little stress on their joints. The low impact exercise allows conditioning and strengthening to skeletal muscles and core musculature and also improves cardiovascular status. Hydrotherapy exercise also eases aches & pains, relaxes muscles, improves blood circulation, lymphatic drainage and reduces painful inflammation. 

The underwater treadmill (UWTM) allows tight control over the exercise with emphasis on working all four limbs and the core musculature. The water temperature, water depth, and speed of the underwater treadmill are all precisely set and individualized according to the needs of the pet.

For pets with disabilities, injuries or recovering from surgery, hydrotherapy is typically combined with other physical therapy modalities to improve the pets’ underlying condition as a component of their rehabilitation program. The treatments may include therapeutic laser, electrical neuromuscular stimulation, acupuncture, medical massage, therapeutic joint manipulation, ultrasound therapy, myofascial trigger point release and various therapeutic exercises.

For weight loss, hydrotherapy combined with dietary guidelines can quickly reduce body fat and increase more desirable lean muscle mass, which can be further enhanced by home exercise between sessions.

For canine athletes, hydrotherapy is an additional tool to condition and to build endurance for their particular sports. The underwater treadmill parameters are modified to provide sufficient challenge to improve cardiovascular condition and enhance endurance while reducing stress on sensitive joints. When added to cross-training and drills directed more specifically to their sport, the resulting improvements are often quite impressive.

While we think of hydrotherapy as a treatment for dogs, be aware that cats, rabbits, and other species have received hydrotherapy with quite positive results.

Conditions that respond well to Hydrotherapy include:

  • Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
  • Cruciate Ligament Injuries (post-op and conservative therapy)
  • Injury Recovery – soft tissue, orthopedic, neurological
  • Arthritis & Age-related disabilities
  • Degenerative Myelopathy
  • Neurological Disorders including Ruptured Disk (post-op and conservative therapy)
  • Conditioning for Sport, Athletic Competition
  • Weight Reduction & Management (increase lean body mass)