What Is Hydrotherapy for Dogs and What Are Its Benefits?

Four Minutes
Sep 29, 2023

Plenty of pups love the water, and some can’t even walk past a pool or lake without trying to take a dip. But water can do more for a dog than just provide playtime — it can be used as a form of physical therapy.

Hydrotherapy for dogs is a growing trend that’s had promising results when used to help dogs on their health journey, whether for recovery or exercise.

What Is Hydrotherapy for Dogs?

Hydrotherapy is a type of water therapy for dogs that can be used for rehabilitation after an injury, as a treatment for various conditions, or as a form of exercise and preventative care. It’s an important piece of a dog’s overall physical therapy regimen.1

Hydrotherapy has been used to help humans for centuries, but aqua therapy for dogs is a more recent approach.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Dogs

While there’s plenty of scientific research proving the benefits of hydrotherapy for humans,2 not much exists for dogs yet. However, as water therapy for dogs becomes more common, experts say the elements of hydrotherapy can be as good for dogs as they are for their human companions.

The low-impact nature of hydrotherapy for dogs involves little risk, and it can provide several benefits for our furry friends, including:1

  • Increased mobility
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced joint pain
  • Faster metabolism
  • Better range of motion
  • Improved circulation
  • Strengthened muscles
  • Fun!

MetLife Pet Can Help Cover Hydrotherapy Costs

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Types of Dog Water Therapy

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.

Underwater treadmill

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

Using a pool for dog hydrotherapy

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.

What Conditions Can Dog Hydrotherapy Help Improve?

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

Is Dog Hydrotherapy at Home Possible?

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.

Pet Insurance Can Help Cover Dog Hydrotherapy

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.

Pain Relief Doesn’t Have To Cost a Lot.  Pet Insurance Can Help You Save.

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “The Importance of Water Therapy in a Physical Rehabilitation Program,” Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine

2 “Hydrotherapy,” Cleveland Clinic

3 “Is Hydrotherapy Good for Your Dog?, Rover, 2022

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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