Canine Hydrotherapy

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy originates from Greek word meaning: ‘healing water’. The properties of water help to relieve discomfort and promote the physical and mental wellbeing of the animal.

Canine hydrotherapy has been accepted in veterinary medicine for a long time but only recently has its benefits become widely known. To ensure safety and appropriate treatment, hydrotherapy should be carried out by appropriately qualified and trained physiotherapists or hydrotherapists to improve an animal’s function in a purpose built, and suitably heated hydrotherapy pool or underwater treadmill.

Benefits of hydrotherapy

The benefits of hydrotherapy depend very much on how the hydrotherapy treatment is carried out. For some dogs simply floating or swimming gently in water can relieve pain and inflammation. For others more vigorous exercise is used to increase the use of limbs, increase muscle bulk and tone, and strengthen the support for joints. Especially after surgery or injury hydrotherapy can allow earlier return to normal use.

Water can also be used as a means of supporting dogs in a non-weight bearing or partially weight bearing environment to allow movements that would not be possible on land, perhaps because of weakness or injury. This is particularly useful for dogs that have spinal problems.

Hydrotherapy can also increase cardiovascular fitness and help with weight loss.

Benefits of hydrotherapy can include:

  • Decreased pain perception
  • Decreased pain and inflammation
  • Possible feeling of well being due to release of endorphins
  • Relaxation of muscle tension and/or muscle spasm
  • Reduction of oedema (swelling)
  • Increased range of movement in water helping to ease stiff and arthritic joints
  • Non weight bearing – it is easier and more comfortable to move in water so animals often gain confidence
  • Non weight bearing – less joint concussion avoiding further damage after injury or for dogs with some form of dysplasia
  • Support for weakened or spinal injury dogs
  • Reduction of frustration for dogs on cage rest or reduced exercise – less likely to be ‘uncontrollable’ on land Increased muscle strength
  • Improved muscle patterning and recruitment helping to improve gait patterns (reduction in lameness) Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Potentially earlier return to normal activities – very important for owners of Assistance or Working Dogs
  • Slowing of progression of some symptoms of degenerative diseases
  • Improved quality of life

Conditions Treated by Hydrotherapy

In general, conditions treated with hydrotherapy fall into the following categories:

  • Orthopaedic
  • Neurological
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Degenerative and medical conditions
  • Conditions related to age- either juvenile/developmental or geriatric

Conditions Include:

  • Arthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Cruciate ligament rupture
  • Patella luxatione
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Degenerative Myelopathy
  • Spondylosis- spinal arthritis
  • Mobility problems- age related
  • Obesity control
  • Spinal injuries including recovery from fractures and IV disc rupture (slipped disk)


Why use a Registered Canine Hydrotherapist?

It is important that any client has confidence in the therapist treating their dog. By choosing to use a Registered Canine Hydrotherapist (RCH) you can be assured that the hydrotherapist looking after your dog or cat is trained in hydrotherapy and is required to abide by a code of practice and ethics by their professional association.

Every RCH is listed on the NARCH website enabling you to check that their registration is valid as well as providing details on the type and level of training completed and areas of competence or expertise. A listed RCH has fulfilled the NARCH training requirements for registration (which are the highest in the UK) and must keep up to date by completing a further 20 hours of Continued Professional Development training each year.

Registration with NARCH is not an easy option for a canine Hydrotherapist. RCHs are required to abide by the guidelines and rules set out in the Guide to Professional Conduct for Registered Canine Hydrotherapists and must hold public liability and professional indemnity insurance.


NARCH recognises that the world of canine hydrotherapy can be very new and confusing to dog owners. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask by Contacting NARCH.

Choosing a hydrotherapy centre

Pawseidon is run by and employs Registered Canine Hydrotherapists – you can be assured that the training and standards of the centre are of the highest.

It is possible to check therapists are RCH’s by searching the NARCH Register.

Your vet can provide guidance on any specialist hydrotherapy requirements of your dog. For instance you may have a large or giant breed and unlike us, many centres are unequipped to deal with this. Your dog may benefit from treatment using an underwater treadmill but not all centres can provide this facility.

Why not visit our centre? Pawseidon members will be pleased that you are being careful about choosing the right care for your dog. Pawseidon is clean, tidy and offers a pleasant atmosphere. The staff will be happy to show you all of the facilities. All we ask is that you let us know in advance when you are coming.