The two primary methods of hydrotherapy for dogs are via an underwater treadmill or in a swimming pool. Both methods can offer their own benefits. A third option — utilizing a whirlpool — also exists.
Using an underwater treadmill can allow dogs to get some movement in, just like when they’re on dry land, but puts less stress on their joints.
Walking on an underwater treadmill provides buoyancy and resistance that walking on land doesn’t. A dog experiencing weakness can move their body without the same risks of falling or causing additional injury. This may help with keeping them safe and with building their confidence.1
Swimming can offer some of the same benefits as using an underwater treadmill, but when a dog is swimming, they don’t have to support any of their own weight. This can benefit dogs with orthopedic conditions who’re having trouble moving their joints.
The support of the water can allow dogs to bend and move without putting any pressure on their joints. It can also decrease the time it takes to recover from an injury or illness.1
The warm water of a whirlpool can boost circulation, reduce inflammation, and help to loosen the muscles.3 Think of how you feel after a dip in a whirlpool, and imagine that same warm relief for your furry friend.
In addition to being used to help dogs recover from an illness or injury, hydrotherapy for dogs can be used in a preventative way to allow dogs to stay active and healthy.
If you’re wondering which specific ailments or injuries water therapy for dogs can help heal, improve, or prevent, the list is pretty extensive. It may include:1
To an extent, dog hydrotherapy at home is possible, but it should be done only after consulting with your veterinarian.
If your dog is a good swimmer, swimming recreationally in a pool or other body of water (while being supervised, of course) can naturally provide some of the benefits of dog hydrotherapy. If you have a smaller breed, a kiddie pool can be used to offer recreational swim therapy for dogs. It’s also important not to force your dog into the water if they’re not interested — the added stress may exacerbate any existing health conditions.
Playing fetch with a toy that floats in the water is also great exercise — and can be super fun — for your pup. Water can be a great way to add gentle exercise to your dog’s life.
However, beyond your dog swimming and playing in water, hydrotherapy for dogs at home should only be attempted if recommended by a vet. In addition to safety being a concern, hydrotherapy might not be a good option for your dog’s specific health concern, so talking to your vet is a good first step.
Holistic and alternative therapies are increasingly being used by veterinarians to help pets get healthy. In addition to traditional methods, like medication and surgery, vets see the benefits of deploying other treatments when appropriate.
In addition to hydrotherapy for dogs, this can include things like chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage.
If your vet recommends a holistic, alternative service like dog hydrotherapy — which can cost up to a few hundred dollars for multiple visits— a dog insurance policy through MetLife Pet Insurance can potentially reimburse you for some of the costs.
Learn more about how pet insurance works, so you know what treatments your pup could benefit from.