How Does Hydrotherapy Relieve Pain in Dogs?

November 4, 2021 | ​​​​​​​

Hydrotherapy isn’t a new technique. Meaning ‘water healing’ in Greek, hydrotherapy has been used for thousands of years thanks to the therapeutic effects it is proven to have.

However, it isn’t just humans that can benefit from this ancient practice. Canine hydrotherapy is an increasingly popular form of therapy for dogs suffering from pain and joint problems, allowing many owners to avoid the need for their pets to take artificial pain medications.


What Form Does Hydrotherapy Take?

Hydrotherapy for dogs is a little different from hydrotherapy for humans. For dogs, hydrotherapy usually consists of either swimming or walking in the water on an underwater treadmill. The water is usually warm, and your dog will be fully supervised for the duration of their session, meaning you don’t need to worry about their safety.


There are a number of key properties associated with water-based exercise that make it so beneficial for pain relief. These are as follows:


Buoyancy. Buoyancy refers to the upward exerted force of an object when in water. It helps to reduce the amount of weight placed onto your dog’s paws and limbs, making movement much easier and less painful.


Hydrostatic pressure. This is the pressure that is placed on the body when it is submerged in water. Hydrostatic pressure is proven to help reduce swelling and inflammation that could be causing pain and making it hard to move around.


Temperature. The water used in hydrotherapy is usually set between 28-32 degrees Celsius. This warmth helps to reduce swelling and inflammation, increase blood flow and make it easier for muscles to relax. All of these things can provide natural pain relief, meaning animals are less reliant on over-the-counter artificial drugs.


Conditions Canine Hydrotherapy Can Treat

There are a variety of conditions that can cause animals pain and where hydrotherapy could prove to be extremely useful. One of the most obvious is arthritis. Many dogs can experience arthritis, which is characterized by the painful swelling and inflammation of the joints. The warm water used in hydrotherapy can help to loosen stiff muscles and reduce joint inflammation which can cause pain. At the same time, the resistance provided by the water can help to strengthen your dog’s muscles around the joints, giving them greater strength and stability.


In addition to arthritis, canine hydrotherapy can be particularly effective at helping to treat a range of painful conditions including:


  • Hip dysplasia

  • Elbow dysplasia

  • Torn ACLs

  • Degenerative joint disorder


It is also recommended for dogs who have been through surgery as it can support post-surgical healing and recovery which can prove painful. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you if your dog would benefit from hydrotherapy following a surgical procedure and will include this as part of their rehabilitation program.


Ask Your Vet About Hydrotherapy

For more on how dogs might benefit from hydrotherapy, or if you have any questions relating to hydrotherapy, visit Tampa Bay K9 Rehabilitation Center in St. Petersburg, FL. Call (727) 677-9500 to schedule an appointment today.

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