Canine hydrotherapy uses water resistance to support your dog’s weight while they work through exercises with an animal hydrotherapist.
It’s one of a range of complementary therapies available for dogs and is a form of physiotherapy.
Hydrotherapy can help your dog to recover from injury and to relieve pain.
How do I find a canine hydrotherapist near me?
To access hydrotherapy that helps your dog recover from an illness or injury, you need to go through your vet.
Hydrotherapy is classed as a form of musculoskeletal therapy which means it doesn’t need to be carried out by a vet, but your vet does need to have diagnosed your dog and referred them for hydrotherapy sessions.
If you contact the hydrotherapy centre yourself, they should give you a referral form that your vet will need to fill in before your dog can have treatment. You should also check that the centre is accredited by either the Canine Hydrotherapy Association (CHA) or National Association of Registered Canine Hydrotherapists (NARCH).
A veterinary referral isn’t usually needed for exercise and training sessions or ‘fitness swims’ in the pool that aren’t to treat an illness or injury.
What can canine hydrotherapy help with?
Animal hydrotherapy can help with:
Recovery from surgeries for spine and leg injuries, like hip dysplasia and patella luxation.
Types of dog hydrotherapy
There are three main types of hydrotherapy that could help your dog with with their recovery or fitness:
Underwater treadmill session
This uses a dog hydrotherapy treadmill which is submerged in water inside a glass box. The height of the water comes up to the top of your dog’s legs.
It gives your dog a low-impact workout by having them walk against the resistance of the water, but without stress and weight on their joints.
This helps build up muscle strength while the warm water helps with pain and stiffness.
For pool sessions your dog will work with a trained hydrotherapist in the pool. The water is kept at a comfortable temperature of about 30 degrees to help ease any pain and stiffness.
Your dog may need to wear a buoyancy aid and the therapist will guide them through exercises in the water.
The therapist will tailor the session to your dogs need and can adjust the exercises to suit. Canine hydrotherapy sessions are usually about 20-40 minutes long.
You shouldn’t need a referral for a fitness swim session as it doesn’t involve any physiotherapy. For this, your dog just gets to have a good workout in a heated pool.
Some pools will even let you get in with your dog.
Fitness swim sessions are typically a lot cheaper than a hydrotherapy session because you don’t need a qualified canine hydrotherapist there. You also don’t need a referral from your vet as your pet isn’t receiving treatment.
How much does hydrotherapy for dogs cost?
In July 2022 we checked the prices of 20 canine hydrotherapy centres around the UK and the average cost of a session was £36.28.
The cheapest canine hydrotherapy sessions were £30 and quite a few of the centres charged this. The most expensive hydrotherapy sessions we found were £50 at centres in Cheshire and East Sussex.
Most pet hydrotherapy centres ask that you also have an introductory session which is an in-depth assessments lasting about an hour.
Although one centre charged just £12.50 for an assessment, most were around £40-60 and the most expensive was £70. The average price of an introductory assessment for hydrotherapy was £47.91.
Lots of centres also offer a discount if you book a dog hydrotherapy course of several sessions, for example 10% off a course of 10 sessions.
Are there any other charges?
You should take your dog for a walk before their hydrotherapy session and encourage them to empty their bowels. If they poo in the pool, there’s usually a hefty cleaning charge!
Some centres offer some optional extras like having your dog shampooed and blow dried afterwards – you can expect to pay £10-20 for this.
Can pet insurance pay for hydrotherapy?
Your ManyPets pet insurance policy includes cover for complementary therapies and that includes hydrotherapy.
There’s a separate vet fee limit for complementary therapies between £250-£2,500 and this limit is a part of your overall annual vet fee limit.
All our policies are lifetime cover, so if your dog needs ongoing hydrotherapy year after year, this limit will refresh each year when you renew.
Can cats have hydrotherapy?
Although hydrotherapy’s more commonly recommended for dogs, it it can also be used by cats in some circumstances.
Again, you’ll need a referral from your vet before you take your cat to a pool.
Although cats can benefit from hydrotherapy in the same way as dogs, the problem is that these advantages might be outweighed by the water stressing them out.
Cats will need to wear a buoyancy aid for hydrotherapy and some will accept it more readily than others. You and your vet will need to weigh up how your cat reacts and whether the benefits outweigh any stress.