Your Veterinarian knows the benefits of canine hydrotherapy and told you that your pet should be enrolled with a hydrotherapist to help with their Orthopedics (or orthopaedics) condition. With the growing popularity of Veterinarians recommendation and referral, many pet owners like yourself are starting to enroll your pet for hydrotherapy or fun swimming.

Learn the differences of hydrotherapy, underwater treadmill, and fun swimming. There are also contraindications and cautions of hydrotherapy for your pets which you should be aware of before signing up for any form of in-water activities for your dog.

Find out the proper care that is required, regardless of whether your pet is healthy or otherwise. Proper care of your pet’s wellness comes from a complete understanding of how hydrotherapy can work for your pet.


Canine hydrotherapy is one of the many complementary therapies used alongside with your Veterinarian treatment of chronic conditions, post-operative recovery, and pre-operative or general fitness in dogs. It should never be used as an alternative treatment or a standalone therapy.

The reason why hydrotherapy for dogs has gained such popularity in Singapore is that hydrotherapy is relatively safe. Making use of the natural properties of water – buoyancy, viscosity, resistance, and hydrostatic pressure – to enable your pet to move their joints and help in recovering. The buoyancy of water (together with a good quality float jacket) supports your pet, which means that your dog is no longer fighting against gravity, making it easier for your pet and reduces joints stress and fatigue, creating a much safer environment for recovery after surgery.

Hydrotherapy is also beneficial for dogs who are recovering from an injury, dogs who suffer from degenerative joint disease, and those who have been paralyzed. Water therapy can also help dogs suffering from fractures, hip dysplasia, the amputation of a limb, and neurological disorders. Hydrotherapy may be especially beneficial for dogs who suffer from arthritis due to old age; the warm water helps reduce joint swelling, another benefit.

In general, hydrotherapy is the use or application of water to promote or supplement the healing process. With that in mind, hydrotherapy is preferred over traditional methods is that it is a weightless environment that promotes the use of the limbs, and provides a range of motion and movement generally not attainable with normal exercise or rehabilitation programs.


Many pet owners are under the assumption that hydrotherapy and fun swimming in the pool and sea are identical. While swimming your healthy dog is relatively safe, there are things to be aware of and swimming a senior dog or a dog with injury on your own is NOT RECOMMENDED. At our rehabilitation facility, fun swimming (recreational swimming for dogs) is for healthy dogs that enjoy swimming in water and have absolutely no physical or medical conditions and does not require supervision and assistance. Hydrotherapy is utilized as part of a rehabilitation program to help dogs that have physical issues and is ALWAYS supervised by a trained canine hydrotherapist. Their hydrotherapy sessions are planned based on their existing condition.

And one of the most important differences between fun swimming and hydrotherapy is that canine hydrotherapy has a Quality and Outcome Measures.


Hydrotherapy is not always the best option as a therapeutic treatment. Some dogs actually do not like water and will panic or fight when faced with is, especially if we are trying to walk them into a pool. We know that swimming in water is beneficial for cardiovascular health, however, dogs need to have a strong core to keep their body level and afloat, which most of our family pets do not possess, hence a hydrotherapist/s needs to be present to help them.


  • Flexion of the joints is greater when swimming than walking in the water
  • Swimming renders the patient completely non-weight bearing which removes all concussive forces on their joints
  • Great for core strength
  • Improves cardiovascular strength
  • Patients with front limb nerve injuries often times use the limb during swimming before they will place the limb to walk
  • Neurological patients who are unable to stand and support themselves will somet


  • Swimming benefits flexion of joints more but is not as effective for improving extension
  • Not a good option for patients who are unfit (seniors/geriatrics, weak core/stamina, etc.)
  • More intimidating for patients who are fearful or do not like water
  • Minimal control of the patient’s movement
  • Dogs do not generally use their hind limbs effectively when swimming (they use primarily forelimb movement)
  • Contraindicated in early post-surgical patients


Patient variables (primary complaint, age, etc.) are taken into consideration when deciding on which modality would be the most beneficial for their treatment plan. About 95% of our patients use the underwater treadmill because it is a more balanced option than swimming. The majority of those patients are dogs with osteoarthritis in multiple joints, those recovering from orthopedic surgery, or managing a neurologic disease (i.e. degenerative myelopathy).


  • Extension of the limbs/joints is more complete than with swimming
  • Control of how fast the patient moves
  • Control of how much weight the patient bears as they are moving (height of water)
  • More balanced treatment for patients with multiple issues (multiple joints, muscle atrophy, etc.)
  • Support for weak patients (able to move better in water than on land)
  • Less intimidating than swimming for patients who are fearful of water (with our treadmill, water fills slowly from the bottom)
  • Gentle and low impact enough for post-surgical patients (2 weeks post op with sutures removed)


  • Some patients are fearful of the belt moving under their feet and will refuse to walk
  • Walking on a moving belt in the water requires the patient to have some degree of coordination or body awareness which can be very challenging for seniors or severe neurologic patients

The Benefits of Hydrotherapy

It’s particular value comes about because of the effects of the warmth and pressure of the water and particularly the buoyancy provided. Some of the main benefits are:

  1. Non weight bearing exercise
  2. Relief from pain, swelling and stiffness
  3. Promotion of relaxation
  4. Joint mobilization
  5. Cardiovascular fitness (heart and lungs)
  6. Muscle strengthening, maintenance & restoration
  7. Increase in range of motion of affected joints
  8. Improved circulation