Dog in hydrotherapy pool

Why Hydrotherapy?

What is Hydrotherapy? — Why use it and what are the benefits?

If you have made it to this page then you probably have some questions about the treatment.Hopefully we can answer all your questions below — but if you still have questions please feel free to contact us.

A Non Weight Bearing Therapy

A full range of movement may not be possible on land following surgery or injury. On land, each footfall creates a shock wave which is absorbed by the bones, tendons and joints. Whilst these stresses are necessary for healthy strong bones,they can actually damage or weaken the limb. Hydrotherapy (swimming — a non-weight bearing exercise) allows working out and strengthening of the muscles whilst avoiding the potentially damaging concussion.

Relieves pain, swelling and stiffness

A decreased range of movement can often be due to pain, swelling or stiffness. The dog will have an increased range of movement when in the water due to a reduction of these.

Improves circulation

Improved circulation reduces swelling around an injured area and enhances healing from injury. Hydrostatic pressure applied by water can also assist in reducing swelling in affected areas.

Improves muscle strength and maintenance

The warm water increases the circulation of blood to the muscles increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients and flushing away waste products, leading to muscle relaxation and therefore a reduction of pain and stiffness. Also, because of the increased resistance provided by the water, the muscles have to work harder than they would on land.

Improves cardiovascular fitness (heart and lungs)

The chest is under pressure from the force exerted by the water squeezing inwardsso every breath requires more effort – the muscles used, particularly when to breathing in, have to work much harder. As muscles strengthen with exercise, this improves the whole respiratory system. The heart has to work harder in order to meet the increased demand for nutrients by all the muscles which are being worked.

Increased range of movement

Buoyancy also reduces the load on weight-bearing joints thereby helping stiff joints into a further range of movements with minimal or no additional pain.

Relives pain, swelling and stiffness

A decreased range of movement can often be due to pain, swelling or stiffness. The dog will have an increased range of movement when in the water due to a reduction of these.

Increased tissue healing

Swimming tones most of the major muscle groups and improves general overall fitness of the dog. Movement in water is more difficult due to the resistance of the water. Water based exercise uses 30% more oxygen than similar land-based exercising. By encouraging pain-free limb movement against this resistance, muscle bulk will improve and muscle wastage will be reversed.

Improves mental well-being and quality of life

Hydrotherapy can also play a vital role in improving a dog’s mental well-being particularly following trauma, injury or surgery or where a dog is on restricted exercise. Being able to move freely in the water, have fun and socialise, helps promote a positive mental state of mind.

Increased speed of recovery

With the increased blood flow to the tissues through hydrotherapy exercise the speed of recovery is increased.

Our Facilities

Doggy Dips provides a purpose built canine hydrotherapy centre based in the South Oxfordshire countryside, conveniently situated for Henley, Reading, Wallingford, Marlow etc

Our pool is 7m x 4m which is probably one of the largest pools in this area allowing us to swim any size and breed of dog. The water is constantly heated to 29°C and is quality tested 3 times per day and includes 2 multi-directions jets.

Our staff are trained and our hydrotherapists are qualified and registered with NARCH. All dogs are swum only with veterinary approval and we are accepted by all the main Pet Insurance Companies.

When Would Hydrotherapy Be Beneficial?

Pre-Operative Conditioning

Muscle building and toning prior to surgery can be achieved without further damage to joints etc. In many cases, building muscle before surgery can reduce the dog’s rehabilitation time after surgery. Also, if you dog has never had hydrotherapy before, it is a good way to familiarise them with the pool so they are less stressed about it after the surgery.

Post-Operative and Injury Rehabilitation

A number of conditions in dogs may be aggravated by or may show slow or no improvement as a result of weight bearing exercise. Among these are hip dysplasia and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), conditions most common in medium to large purebred dogs, such as German Shepherds, Labradors or Golden Retrievers; chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM), a degenerative disease of the spinal cord which causes hind limb problems in German Shepherds; and luxating patella which is seen predominantly in small and toy breeds. Injuries to the cruciate ligament, or other ligaments, may also make post-operative weight-bearing exercise in dogs problematic.


Obesity can be tackled in conjunction with your vet’s recommended diet. The non-weight bearing, non-impact nature of the work in the pool is kinder to joints and muscles than land based exercise, so, particularly for an older dog watching its weight, this is ideal.

Performance & Stamina

The performance and stamina of working dogs, agility dogs and fit pets can be improved and maintained through regular workouts in the pool and can be combined with the use of our 2 anti-swim jets.


Puppies need much less exercise than fully grown dogs. If you over-exercise a growing puppy (up to 18 months) you can overtire it and damage its developing joints, causing early arthritis. Hydrotherapy allows them to get rid of excess energy, offers socialisation, fun and will strengthen their all important muscles, setting them up well for later life.

Older Dogs

When long walks are no longer an option, our senior citizens are affected not just because they become unfit and a little overweight and suffer muscle wastage but their confidence drops and their quality of life can lessen. Hydrotherapy helps in many ways; improves muscle tone, keeps weight under control and, just as important, offers socialisation and the feel-good factor. When older dogs are in the pool, it can give them a new lease of life as it is often the only time when there is no pain or stiffness and they can (almost) feel like a puppy again. The benefits continue out of the pool, if they are able to swim regularly as they can achieve a greater range of movement.

Just for Fun

We really enjoy having dogs with us who want to swim just for FUN. Dogs don’t have to have any current injury or condition – most dogs love the water and just like to socialise and play and we appreciate owners who know the benefits of including swimming as part of their dogs exercise routine.

Photo of Emma, Hydrotherapy Manager

Emma, Hydrotherapy Manager

I have worked in a dog day care centre before Doggy Dips and also as a Dog Walker. I have a diploma in Animal Psychology, and my Level 3 Certificate in Hydrotherapy for Small Animals (ABC) qualification - Registered Canine Hydrotherapist (RCH).

I have always loved dogs and water, so to find a job that brings the two together is a match made in heaven for me. Sadly I don’t have a dog at the moment. The closest I have come to having a dog of my own is looking after my nephew’s (a German Shepherd/Collie cross) for a year.

Photo of Hannah, Hydrotherapist

Hannah, Hydrotherapist

Before starting at Doggy dips in January 2016 I studied Level 3 Animal Management at BCA and achieved a distinction level diploma. I then started working in daycare here are Doggy dips which I loved and then moved on to completing the level 3 certificate in hydrotherapy for small animals and qualified as a RCH (Registered Canine Hydrotherapist) in January 2017.

I have always loved dogs and have a Jack Russell myself who I now bring swimming for fun and fitness which she loves! I feel very lucky to be able to come to work to see all the happy faces of the dogs each week in and out of the pool! It is the most rewarding job I've ever had!

Photo of Sai, Hydrotherapist

Sai, Hydrotherapist

Sai has worked in the care industry for nearly 20 years (most recently at Abbeycrest, Sonning Common) and with our new Doggy Dips venture, she is enjoying applying her caring nature to a different customer group. We currently have five dogs, a yorkshire terrier (Squiggles), a Chihuahua (Bella), two Jack Russells (Charlie & Tags) and Emma as previously mentioned, along with 3 cats (and a few captured field mice that are being looked after until they can be released), chickens guinea pig, and a rabbit. Sai is a qualified hydrotherapist.