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An Introduction to Hydrotherapy Fact Sheet

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Our Therapy and Fitness Centre team explain more about the benefits of Hydrotherapy for dogs and why they use an underwater treadmill.

What does ‘hydrotherapy’ mean?

Hydrotherapy means ‘water healing’ in Greek and has been used as far back as the 2400 BC, where it was first discovered that water provides healing in humans.

What is canine hydrotherapy?

Canine hydrotherapy is a form of non-weight bearing exercise, this can be seen in either a swimming pool or the use of an underwater treadmill. Hydrotherapy involves the use of key water properties which are important in facilitating rehabilitation. The key water properties help to reduce pressure from the joints and encourage a greater range of movement.

What are the key water properties and what do they mean?


Buoyancy is the upward exerted force onto an object when immersed in the water, this reduces the weight going through the limbs and makes movement easier.

Hydrostatic pressure:

This is the pressure exerted onto the body when submerged in water, this reduces swelling and inflammation.


Resistance is greater in the water compared to walking on land. It creates a cushioning effect on submerged limbs which makes movement harder, this helps to increase muscle mass.


This is the movement of the water which can create a more challenging environment for the patient. This can only be used in fitness patients.


Water molecules tend to adhere to each other creating a greater resistance, this is greater on the surface of the water.

Specific gravity

The ratio of body weight compared to the ratio of water, this helps with buoyancy.


The underwater treadmill is set to 28-32 degrees Celsius. The warmth of the water helps to reduce swelling and inflammation, increases blood flow and increases muscle relaxation.

What are the benefits of hydrotherapy for dogs?

Evidence based benefits of hydrotherapy indicate that it:

  • Removes pressure from the joints which improves range of motion
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Helps to increase blood circulation
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Improves stamina and strength in a controlled environment
  • Provides cardiovascular fitness
  • Provides mental stimulation

Davies Veterinary Specialists Guide to Hydrotherapy Fact sheet

What are the benefits for dogs of using an underwater treadmill?

Underwater treadmill specific benefits include: 

  • Allows the water level to be adjusted to suit the needs of the patient
  • Increases proprioception from having contact with the treadmill belt
  • Helps to re-educate gait
  • Can alter the speed which is important in rehabilitation
  • Increases muscle mass due to a degree of weight going through the limbs
  • Encourages equal weight bearing
  • Allows for more controlled movement, which is important after surgery
  • Dogs often feel more relaxed when they can touch the floor so are less likely to panic

At Davies Therapy and Fitness Centre, our therapy team will assess your dog, provide helpful exercise guidance and utilise a variety of treatment techniques to help your pet achieve their goals.

To find out more, visit:

Linnaeus Veterinary Limited trading as Davies Veterinary Specialists 01582 883950

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