Dog Water Therapy- Is It Right for You

Susan Campbell - Wednesday, May 23, 2018

More and more veterinarians are offering water therapy or canine hydrotherapy for dogs healing from surgery, dogs of advanced years, dogs with chronic pain, and dogs with mobility problems. Does your dog need this therapy? What are the benefits? Are there risks for your dog? Get all your questions answered in this article.

What is water therapy like?

Hydrotherapy (Greek for water healing) can vary but there are two basic kinds—warm water therapy for injuries and cool water therapy for exercise. Therapy pools usually have a ramp to get the dog in the water. Some also provide a hoist. Some programs even have underwater treadmills. Some programs have therapists (or even owners) in the water with the dog. Others will have the dog on a long leash. Therapy could look a number of different ways. Dogs could be walking on the treadmill, fetching and retrieving balls, or even learning to swim. Yes, dogs that don’t naturally know how to swim can be taught! Therapy sessions often last from 10-30 minutes.

What are the benefits of hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is great year-round exercise for dogs. Dogs, particularly in cities, may struggle to get outdoors during the winter. Hydrotherapy can helps dogs’ aerobic conditioning but is a low impact exercise, great for bones and joints. It is preventive medicine at its best. It’s important to keep dogs moving because they can lose muscle mass in a short time frame, usually in 6-7 weeks. Water therapy is great for dogs with joint pain. Because of water’s resistance compared to air and its buoyancy, dogs can build muscle mass without pain. Water therapy not only strengthens muscles but can relax the body. It can improve balance and coordination while improving pain and stress. Other benefits of water therapy include:

  • Increased circulation, which can improve the skin and coat.
  • Increased lymph drainage which can improve the immune system.
  • Better digestion.

All of these benefits lead up to a happy dog. Making our dogs happy makes us happy. Maybe our dogs’ hydrotherapy will help us deal with our own stress, too!

Are there risks to my dog participating in hydrotherapy?

The pool your dog will swim in will most likely be chlorinated, but dogs can get ear infections from swimming in any type of water. Dogs with chronic ear infections may not be good candidates for this therapy. The water could also irritate certain skin conditions. A few dogs also show signs of stress in the water. If you see your dog in distress, pull him or her out immediately.

When considering a therapy program, what questions should I ask?

  • Ask if there is a person present during your dog’s therapy that knows pet first aid and if there is a vet on-call for emergencies. It’s important to have safety protocols in place in case they are needed.
  • Ask for customer referrals. Call a few customers and make sure they are completely satisfied with their experience. Find out if there dogs are happy and enjoy the therapy. The safety and comfort of your canine friend is key!

At DogMode our multi-purpose dog-only salt water pool provides a beautiful, safe space with sparkling clean, temperature controlled water for dogs of all sizes to enjoy and benefit from. Call DogMode at 801-261-2665 to setup an initial swim orientation session if your dog is new to swimming. See our Aquatic Fitness Center page for more details on pricing, session options and hours. You can also check out our Aquatic Fitness Center Webcam to check out what's going on right now!