Hydrotherapy for Dogs

hydrotherapy for dogs trainingCan hydrotherapy for dogs be an effective tool for the betterment of a dog’s life?  Everyone knows how soothing it feels to slip into a bathtub filled with warm water.  Relieving tension after a long day, easing sore muscles after a long hike, working in the yard, or just relaxing, warm water can be very therapeutic.  Equally, cold water or ice is very effective in reducing swelling and alleviating pain in a twisted ankle or knee, for example.   Hydrotherapy for humans has been around for thousands of years.  The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used it to improve their health, spirits, and general well-being.

But, hydrotherapy has not just been enjoyed by humans.  Hydrotherapy for horses has been practiced for centuries, particularly utilizing cold sea water for leg injuries. The greyhound racing community next picked up the practice and now, hydrotherapy for dogs is becoming more and more popular.

hydrotherapy for horsesCanine hydrotherapy with a trained therapist can be administered in the form of swimming or using an underwater treadmill.  These therapies are often combined with dog massage, balancing, and stretching exercises. Non-weight bearing buoyancy and pressure of the water allows free movement without stress on the joints and bones.  This can help increase range of motion, restore mobility and flexibility, and build muscle.  Also, lymphatic drainage increase helps reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.

There are many conditions that can benefit from hydrotherapy for dogs including

  • arthritis
  • degenerative joint disease
  • hip and elbow dysplasia
  • degenerative myelopathy
  • spinal injuries
  • neurological problems
  • circulatory issues
  • obesity
  • injury and surgery recovery


Hydrotherapy for dogs has also been shown to have emotional benefits to canines.

Hydrotherapy for Dogs at Home

hydrotherapy for dogsHow can you administer hydrotherapy for dogs at home?  The therapeutic use of water can be used in any of its three forms and can be used externally or internally.  Heat and cold are some of the best therapies in the treatment of pain.  These are safe, effective, easy to use, free of side effects, and very cost effective.  Hydrotherapy for dogs can be used both as a rehabilitative therapy as described above or to fight fat, build muscle, and improve cardiovascular stamina by putting your dog in a pool, bath or tub for non-weight bearing exercise.  The use of hot or cold hydrotherapy is also very effective for pain control.  Both heat and cold decrease pain and muscle tension.

When to Use Hot or Cold Hydrotherapy

Cold therapy should be used immediately in the acute stage of an injury, the first 24 hours.  Also, use cold hydrotherapy for dogs between 24 and 72 hours when the injury has stabilized, the sub-acute stage.   Cold therapy can help reduce swelling of an inflamed area, and can break the pain or spasm cycle.  For cold therapy treatment you can use an ice pack, ice cup, frozen veggies, or you can make your own homemade slushy bag made from dish soap or alcohol.

Heat is an analgesic.  So, warm hydrotherapy for dogs relieves pain.  Heat also increases circulation and loosens muscle, tendon, and ligament fibers.   For warm hydrotherapy you can use a hot water bottle, hydrocollator pack, hot towels, or a heating pad ( be very careful to control/check that this is not too hot as most human-grade heating pads are too hot for dogs ).

Remember, hydrotherapy for dogs  is not a substitute for veterinary care.  We have some great rehab veterinarians in the area that you can contact for more information on rehabilitative hydrotherapy.


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