What is Canine Water Therapy?

Cindy Horsfall assists Cricket, a 17-year-old dog suffering from arthritis, with water-based circulation and strength exercises.

The term “canine water therapy” can mean a lot of things… it can range all the way from an hour of tennis balls and power swimming to an hour of massage in the warm supporting waters at the stairs of the pool. Usually it falls somewhere in the middle with a combination of movement in water and some kind of bodywork during the resting periods. What determines the session depends on many components – the expertise and intentions of the therapist, the nature of the dog’s injury, the condition and age of the dog, where that dog is emotionally with water and the experience, etc…

There are many bodywork and massage modalities that can be very effective when applied in water – read more about Canine Bodywork and Massage.

In any program of water therapy that one seeks out, the most important component for me is that the dog and their person feel safe. When everyone involved is relaxed and comfortable, only then should we progress with swimming and the other options that water has to offer. It doesn’t do any good for a dog to swim or move in water when their body is full of stress and fear. In a state of fear, their gait will be one of panic and not a relaxed full range of motion stride and the benefits of the therapy you are seeking will be undermined. Regardless of your goals when you come to a water therapy program of any kind, make sure it feels safe for both you and your canine friend. If you want to read more about the emotional components on the bigger picture, click here to read Drifter’s Story.

It was when I saw water therapy done badly that inspired me to finally found the Association of Canine Water Therapy, an organization dedicated to safe practices and a neutral website and entity for all to participate (click here to learn more about the ACWT).

Witnessing the effects of unsafe practices, I was also inspired to finally start my training program that I call “the Heart of Canine Water Therapy” (click here to learn more
about my training opportunities).

One thing I find comfort in is that most owners who are seeking out this line of work for their beloved canine companions, are highly discerning – they are already seeking alternative help and the safety of their dog is at the forefront of their minds… this is a good thing.

As a concerned owner of a dog in need, I urge you to listen to yourself and seek out a program that feels good for both you and your canine friend.

Thank you for getting our Buddy back to walking on all fours. And please know that I am especially appreciative of your positive words. The hardest part of being a therapist is always the “parents”, isn’t it? We are the ones with all the worries and baggage! You have such a gift for inspiring confidence! With two vets giving us completely different advice, I was at my wit’s end with worry over what to do. All that worry disappeared with our first visit to see you. THANK YOU!!!

Dr. Yeik is going to get another earful from me about how AWESOME you are!

Thank you!

Kellie (and Joe and Buddy)

Read More: check out our article Canine Hydrotherapy: Health Benefits of Swimming for Dogs

Conditions that may benefit Include:

  • Joint injury/lameness
  • Hip/elbow dysplasia
  • Spinal injuries
  • Mobility problems
  • Circulatory problems
  • Arthritic conditions
  • Weight reduction
  • Chronic pain
  • Geriatrics
  • Pre surgery
  • Post surgery

Warm water therapy may be perfect for:

  • Loosening up tight muscles
  • Increasing circulation
  • Decreasing swelling
  • Increasing endurance
  • Increasing flexibility
  • Increasing range of motion
  • Increasing balance and coordination
  • Increases body awareness
  • Increasing muscle strength
  • Relaxing and therapeutic to the soul
  • Building confidence and having fun!