Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What is Dog Water Therapy?

By Tamara McRill

Who can resist the joyous tongue-lolling grin dogs get when they play in water? Not me… and I'm guessing that as a pet lover, not you either! Turns out this canine fun – in the form of dog water therapy – can also help the health of our pets.

Sounds like a great match, so let's explore just what dog water therapy is, what you can expect and how it can help with pet rehabilitation.

Splish Splash

Well, it's sort of like taking a bath. Dog water therapy – also known as canine hydrotherapy – is most commonly performed in a small heated pool. A dog's muscles are similar to ours, in that they can benefit from the warmth of heated water. Most hydrotherapy pools are also treated with a chemical such as chlorine.

Most therapy center pools have either a ramp for dogs to get in and out of the pool, a hoist to lift your dog out, or both. If your dog has difficulty walking, be sure to ask about this at centers you are checking out.

Some pools also have jets to spray underwater, which is great for building strength. Also something to ask about, if it meets your dog’s medical needs. Always be sure to consult with your veterinarian before starting any type of therapy for your dog and to get your vet's recommendations on what types of pool features are best for your pet's treatment.

When to Consider Water Therapy

There are a broad range of canine health problems that can benefit from hydrotherapy. The most common are chronic conditions, such as:

• Hip/elbow dysplasia
• Mobility problems
• Joint injury
• Spinal injury
• Geriatrics
• Chronic pain
• Arthritis

Hydrotherapy can also help our furry friends before and after surgery. Overweight dogs can also get more exercise, without the stress to joints, during water therapy. There are also those dogs that go just for fun.

Jump On In

If you think you would enjoy spending time in the pool with your pooch, there are some centers that allow this. Be sure to ask ahead of time though, and ask what to wear! This is also a great idea for pets who become overly nervous in new situations.

Just a word of caution: If you become nervous while in water, then you may want to skip getting in. Your unease could transfer to your pet and make the sessions stressful for them.

Questions to Ask

There are several things you will want to ask any hydrotherapy clinic before taking your dog there for treatment. This will help you determine what is the best fit and if the center is safe. Some of these include:

• How much training does the person giving the treatment have?

• Do they know pet first aid – especially in an aquatic situation – and have they ever had to perform it?

• Is there a vet on-call for emergencies?

• Will you be allowed to attend the session?

• Is the facility insured?

Also see if they will give you customer referrals to check up on. If at any time the center makes you uncomfortable about leaving your precious dog in their care, don't be afraid to skip them.

Most of all, try to have fun with the experience and make sure your dog has a wonderful time, too. You can do this by bringing along some healthy dog treats like CANIDAE Pure Heaven as a reward, staying calm and talking to your pet in a positive voice.

Have you ever tried canine hydrotherapy for your pet?

Top photo by Ordinary Guy
Middle photo by feeferlump
Bottom photo by Phiz

Read more articles by Tamara McRill


  1. We've looked all over near us for a place that had open swim hours and can't find any.

  2. The rehabilitation vet that Ernie has treated with offers water therapy not only for dogs but for cats too!


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