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The Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Dogs

Dog swims in the pool with a toy

Written by The Halo Team

November 2, 2023

Hydrotherapy, or aquatic therapy, has been used to treat human injuries and diseases for centuries. However, dog hydrotherapy is a more recent development that’s gained traction since the underwater treadmill was introduced.

Simply put, dogs can get sick or injured, too, and water therapy can be just as effective in healing them as it is for humans. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of hydrotherapy for dogs and what to expect if you decide water rehabilitation services are right for your furry friend’s health.

What Is Canine Hydrotherapy?

Canine hydrotherapy is a type of dog physical therapy that uses water for therapeutic means, such as improving your dog’s health. Humans have been using swim therapy to treat health conditions since before the Roman Empire because it provides buoyancy and resistance to strengthen muscles and build endurance without placing too much stress on joints.

Water therapy for dogs works in a similar way. Dog hydrotherapy sessions involve either swimming or walking in water in a controlled environment under the supervision of a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner. The water’s buoyancy can help dogs build muscle mass and endurance, while its hydrostatic pressure can soothe and ease joint movement.

The underwater treadmill is one of the most popular methods of hydrotherapy dog rehab, but other types of treatment are also available. For instance, depending on their condition, some dogs may benefit more from whirlpool immersion or swimming pool exercises.

Key Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Dogs

Canine hydrotherapy is a low-impact exercise that reduces stress on your dog’s joints and limbs, allowing it to participate in a fun activity while overcoming an injury or illness. Although it isn’t suitable for all dogs, hydrotherapy can provide a range of physical and mental benefits to improve your pup’s overall mood and health.

Physical Benefits

Depending on the type of therapy and the speed your dog is moving, hydrotherapy sessions can provide a good cardiovascular workout, increasing your dog’s muscle mass and improving its stamina. This can boost your dog’s physical health and help it lose weight if needed. It can also improve blood circulation, ensuring your dog’s organs and circulatory system remain in good shape. Additionally, water therapy can provide joint relief since it removes pressure from your pup’s joints, which can improve its range of motion.

Mental Benefits

Ultimately, hydrotherapy is meant to be soothing, creating a calming environment with gentle water movements that can alleviate stress or anxiety in dogs. If your dog has been experiencing behavioral issues, the mental and physical stimulation from aquatic therapy may boost its confidence and self-esteem, helping it focus better and feel a new sense of accomplishment and self-control. This can enhance its overall mood and make it less fearful of new experiences, encouraging positive behavioral changes.

Labrador undergoing a  hydrotherapy

What Conditions Can Be Treated Using Hydrotherapy for Dogs?

Hydrotherapy for dogs can help with a wide range of conditions, from treating injuries or illnesses to assisting with weight management. It can be beneficial for dogs of any age or breed, although the type of treatment may vary, depending on your pup’s unique condition. Some of the main health conditions water therapy for dogs can treat are:

  • Postsurgical healing. Dogs recovering from surgery may benefit from hydrotherapy because it can help them rebuild muscle strength and increase blood flow to affected areas, delivering oxygen and essential nutrients to tissues and muscles. The buoyancy from water therapy can also assist with muscle relaxation and alleviate post-surgery pain or inflammation, facilitating an easier, quicker healing process.
  • Arthritis and joint issues. Because aquatic therapy relieves joint pressure, it can be an effective remedy for arthritis or orthopedic injuries in dogs. Common orthopedic issues dogs face include hip dysplasia and ligament tears. Hydrotherapy can reduce pain associated with these issues and improve your dog’s range of motion and muscle strength.
  • Weight management. Often, dogs are less physically active when recovering from an illness or injury. If your dog gains weight during this time, hydrotherapy is a low-impact exercise that can help your dog burn calories and regain strength without putting excessive pressure on its joints.
  • Senior dogs’ overall well-being. As your dog ages, it may experience difficulty focusing or remembering things, resulting in stress and anxiety. Hydrotherapy with warm water can provide physical and psychological comfort, alleviating your pet’s heightened emotions and enhancing its overall well-being so it can age peacefully.

The Hydrotherapy Process

Hydrotherapy sessions can vary based on the type of treatment and clinic. That said, sessions are typically conducted by a certified hydrotherapist using the hydrostatic pressure, resistance and buoyancy properties of water to help your dog work through its condition.

The hydrotherapist may alter water levels, allowing your dog to swim weightlessly or touch down on an underwater treadmill to undergo treatment without stressing its limbs and muscles. Water temperature can also vary. For example, warm water may be used to loosen muscles and speed recovery for an injured dog, while cold water is better for more intensive water-based exercises to reduce weight.

Your dog’s hydrotherapist will also choose a treatment option based on its condition. If the main goal is to strengthen muscles, guided swimming exercises may work best, while whirlpool therapy is better suited for muscle relaxation. Meanwhile, underwater treadmills are designed to primarily treat arthritis and joint pain.

Your dog may need time to adjust to hydrotherapy, especially during the first few sessions, so safety precautions are necessary. The Halo Collar 3 wireless dog fence can help set boundaries and ensure your dog stays safe during treatment. The collar is completely waterproof and uses GPS technology, so you can create virtual fences no matter where you and your dog are, ensuring it remains safely in the water and comfortably adjusts to its new environment. It can also be helpful to bring your dog’s favorite treats to reward it after a treatment session.

Start Your Dog’s Hydrotherapy Journey Today!

Whether your dog is struggling with joint issues or weight management, hydrotherapy is a low-impact treatment option that can reduce your dog’s pain, improve its strength and enhance its overall well-being. However, ensuring your dog feels safe and secure during treatment is crucial for an effective recovery.

Every dog responds to treatment differently, and choosing a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner who uses a customized hydrotherapy approach can be helpful. Start searching for a hydrotherapist near you today and help your dog regain its strength and energy to get back on its paws.

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