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Water Therapy for Dogs

| Updated September 26, 2017

Water therapy for dogs is a relatively new form of therapy that is modeled after human water therapy. Warm water makes dogs weightless and provides healing and rehabilitation for dogs of all ages and all sizes.

Which Dogs Benefit

Many dogs can benefit in some way from water therapy, but it is most commonly recommended for disabled and arthritic dogs that need to get exercise but can't tolerate very much high impact physical activity. Some veterinarians also recommend water therapy for dogs with spinal injuries, hip or elbow dysplasia, or for dogs that are recovering from surgery. Water therapy is safe for both puppies and older dogs.


Water therapy is gaining popularity because it has so many benefits for your dog's health. The water for dog water therapy is between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which helps ease any muscular tension your dog may have, increases circulation, reduces stress and increases the dog's body awareness, according to the Association of Canine Water Therapy.

The main reason water therapy is so beneficial for dogs with arthritis is that moving in water is a low-impact exercise, so dogs with joint pain will have minimal joint stress, while the water resistance they experience while swimming will tone their muscles.

According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, a five minute swim is the equivalent of walking five miles, so water therapy is a good way to exercise your dog. The swimming action benefits the dog's heart and lungs because the weight of the water requires your dog to put forth more effort to breathe.

Choosing a Facility

If your dog would benefit from water therapy, you'll need to select a facility for the therapy. Many veterinarians conduct water therapy in the clinic, but there are also dog rehabilitation specialists that your veterinarian may be able to recommend to you. You'll want to decide before signing up for a program whether your dog will swim while supervised by a specialist, or if it will walk on an underwater treadmill. Some facilities offer both options, and some facilities do not.

According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, you'll want to inspect potential facilities carefully to ensure your dog will be well cared for while undergoing water therapy. Make sure the facility looks clean and ask if the staff members are licensed to practice dog water therapy. Ask if a record of your dog's vaccinations is required, how often the pool is cleaned and what chemicals are used, and check on the business's background to make sure no customers have filed complaints. The goal is to make sure your dog will have the best experience possible while undergoing water therapy.