Our shared facilities at Earlswood vet Referrals boast a fantastic dog hydrotherapy set-up, complete with Northern Ireland’s first underwater treadmill for both dogs and cats. We have been using an underwater treadmill for over fifteen years making our team the most experienced in this advanced form of hydrotherapy.


What is Hydrotherapy?


Hippocrates, was a Greek physician who is credited with the beginning of the practice of medicine as a rational science and who is regarded as the originator of the Hippocratic oath. He documented his use of water therapy or hydropathy and that is the earliest mention of this form of treatment. Other ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians, the Chinese and the Romans also made use of the healing properties of water.

Hydrotherapy is effectively physiotherapy using the support of water on the body. It is extremely versatile as the temperature, depth, pressure and movement of the water can be varied depending on the needs of the patient.   

When a patient with pain or reduced mobility first attends HolisticPet for hydrotherapy the water depth is usually kept high to support the body and provide ease of movement. As the patient improves the water depth is reduced and an incline might be incorporated to improve muscle strength and fitness of the patient. The height can also be altered to encourage specific movements of a joint be it flexion or extension.


Hydrotherapy for dogs


Canine hydrotherapy is now a well-established therapy to help with pain management, improving joint range of motion, restoring mobility, gait reeducation, increasing stamina and fitness, and muscle strengthening, and it’s fun too!

  • Hydrotherapy uses the following properties of water:
  • BUOYANCY Supports the patient’s body weight alleviating pressure on joints and supporting weak muscles
  • HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE Creates pressure against the body to decrease pain and swelling
  • VISCOSITY AND RESISTANCE This can be beneficial for building muscle and increasing cardiovascular fitness
  • WARMTH Warm water allows an increase in elasticity of tissues and improves circulation  and relaxation which therefore contributes to pain relief and improves movement


Dog underwater treadmill


Benefits of Canine Hydrotherapy 


Hydrotherapy in an underwater treadmill has many benefits

  • helps patients return to full fitness and function after surgery illness trauma or debilitation 
  • pain relief and pain management 
  • improves joint range of motion
  • increases muscle strength
  • gait remodelling
  • fitness stamina and endurance training
  • reduces swelling and oedema
  • improves heart and lung function
  • can aid with obesity management programmes
  • improves mental wellbeing through the release of endorphins

Conditions which benefit from hydrotherapy

  • post orthopaedic surgery cases 
  • osteoarthritis/djd
  • hip dysplasia
  • elbow dysplasia
  • spinal disease - conservative or post surgery
  • cruciate disease
  • neurological cases
  • neck and back pain
  • tendon and ligament injuries
  • muscle strains sprains and sporting injuries
  • paresis and paralysis
  • obesity


Northern Ireland's First Underwater Treadmill


The hydrotherapy at HolisticPet is carried out in partnership with the hydro team at Earlswood vet referrals. Once a patient has been assessed by one of the vets at HolisticPet they will determine if hydrotherapy is an appropriate part of the treatment regime. The hydro treatments often happen at the same time as the other treatments but may also happen independently.


Advantages of the underwater treadmill (UWT) over pool swimming

Swimming is fun, provides a good cardiovascular workout, works the core musculature and can help to increase the overall use of calories. However, it is very difficult to modify swimming as a therapeutic exercise and it doesn’t aid muscle building as much as an exercise in the UWT. 

When dogs swim the movement is the same as a dog walking backwards so if trying to remodel a gait or teach a dog to walk again swimming is not an ideal modality and the Under Water Treadmill is preferred.

When dogs or cats walk in the UWT joint extension is more complete than with swimming hence achieving better improvements in range of motion. 

The UWT is a very flexible and adaptable modality for use in therapeutic exercise programs and allows modifications to be made more specific:-

  • Water height and therefore buoyancy can be adjusted to the animal's needs - high for pain relief or after surgery and low when muscle building and conditioning are required.
  • Water speed can be adjusted to the animal's gait and fitness
  • Water resistance to forwarding movement increases muscle strength
  • Gait remodelling can be achieved for paralysed or paretic animals in the UWT.
  • At HolisticPet we can alter the incline of the UWT enabling our Hydrotherapist to target specific muscle groups for strengthening.


Why Choose Holistic Pet NI?


When your pet attends HolisticPet for hydrotherapy they are under veterinary supervision ensuring that they are safe and the exercises is appropriate for their condition or injury. We have been using an Under Water Treadmill for over fifteen years and as such are the most experienced in this field in the province. 


How much is hydrotherapy for dogs?
The range is £35-£45

Does Pet Insurance cover hydrotherapy for dogs?
Most pet insurances have some cover for hydrotherapy but they may limit it. It is recommended that you check with your insurance company.

How often should a dog do hydrotherapy?
That depends on the complaint  - it ranges from daily in the immediate postoperative period for disc surgery to monthly for some maintenance treatments. 

Will my dog hurt after hydrotherapy?
A bit like people going to the gym, your pet may be a little uncomfortable the day after hydrotherapy as it encourages the use of muscles which they may not have used for a while. Any discomfort is usually only after a first visit and thankfully shortlived usually wearing off after a day or two. 

Is hydrotherapy suitable for cats?
Yes! We love getting cats into the treadmill.


Interested in hydrotherapy for your pet? Call the dedicated team at HolisticPet for an expert opinion on whether this would be suitable for their needs.