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Aquatic Treadmill Therapy (Hydrotherapy)

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is derived from the Greek word meaning water healing. It is controlled aquatic exercise in heated sanitized water. A combination of warmth, buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure reduces pain and swelling, promotes muscle relaxation and improves circulation and healing.

The warmth of the water will relax the muscles. A decrease in range of motion can often be due to pain, swelling and/or stiffness which can be reduced by the warm water. Hydrostatic pressure (the pressure of the water on the animal) can also reduce swelling and therefore possibly increase the range or motion. The buoyancy of the water decreases the weight bearing on the limbs. The buoyancy of the water will help move the stiff joint with further range of movement with minimal exercise.

This helps to reduce pain and can allow easier movement with minimal exercise.

Benefits of hydrotherapy: 

– Relief from pain.

– Reduce swelling and stiffness

– Cardiovascular fitness (heart and lungs). 

– Joint movement. .   

– Muscle strengthening and building.           

– Improve circulation.

– Reduced impact exercise.   

– Mental stimulation.

Why hydrotherapy:

- Hip and elbow dysplasia.

- Osteoarthritis.

- Pre and post orthopaedic surgical rehabilitation.

- Weight management. 

- Medical conditions.  

- General fitness and conditioning. 

Why use a treadmill instead of swimming?

Swimming is an excellent exercise for general fitness but aquatic treadmill therapy provides greater control of the speed, duration and intensity of exercise. The flexion and extension of specific limbs and joints can be targeted by variations in water depth and the use of floatation devices.

An aquatic treadmill provides the latest technology for small animal rehabilitation, pre- and post-operative conditioning, general fitness training and weight loss.

The treadmill is surrounded by glass sides allowing the hydrotherapist to monitor your animal's range of joint movement, stride length and pattern throughout the session. With fully adjustable temperatures, water levels and speeds the aquatic treadmill gives us a wide scope to treat a multitude of conditions.

The treadmill also requires the animal to weight bear and therefore adopt a normal walking gait. The position adopted for swimming, particularly where dogs are hoisted into a pool and swim against jets, can lead to a tightening of the back and shoulder muscles resulting in a stiff and sore neck.

Another treadmill benefit is that it assists with proprioception as the resistance of the water increases sensory awareness and provides stability whilst allowing a longer reaction time for the patient to place its feet.

The Hydrotherapy Programme:

The unit is staffed by our Registered Veterinary Nurses and Qualified Small animal hydrotherapist Carola. At the first appointment, Carola will assess your animal and tailor a rehabilitation programme. Each programme is designed to meet the animal’s specific needs and is closely monitored. The majority of cases start with a 10 week programme consisting of 1 session a week.

The first initial session will last for around an hour and the following sessions 30 minutes.

What to expect:

Each animal is given a full nurse health check before every session. At the first, fifth and tenth session the animals gait will also be analysed (this does require you to lead your dog around at varied speeds so please advise us if your are unable to do this)

The animal will be fitted with a harness and showered before entering the aquatic treadmill.

The initial session will consist of 4x 30 second sessions with resting periods in between, as the sessions continue this will be extended to your animals capability and comfort (these times are guided times only and might be longer depending on your animals  hydrotherapy programme).

After the session your animal will be showered and dried.

Many pet insurance companies will cover the cost of hydrotherapy treatment. As a member of Canine Hydrotherapy Association (CHA) we are professionally recognised by all insurance companies, it is however your responsibility to check how many sessions are covered by your insurance company.

Veterinary referrals:

Animals undergoing hydrotherapy require referral by their Veterinary Surgeon. For their safety, we ask that the animals overall health has been checked within the 3 months prior to referral to ensure that they are fit to undertake an exercise programme. This is of particular importance in older animals. We also ask that all relevant history, details of concurrent disease and medication are supplied with the completed referral form. You will then be contacted by staff and an initial appointment will be arranged. Please note that although the Unit is based at our Veterinary Hospital, it is nurse led and animals are not seen by our Veterinary Surgeons. However should a problem arise these is always a veterinary surgeon available in case of an emegency.

We maintain high ethical standards in respect of referrals and you remain a client of your own veterinary practice.

If you would like to know if your animal could benefit from hydrotherapy treatment, please contact us on 01279 654108.

Follow the hydrotherapy unit on facebook to view videos and see regular updates:   Informative image: Find Bishop's Stortford Veterinary Hospital on Facebook

For more videos visit our youtube channel

Terms & Conditions

  • Veterinary consent must be obtained prior to commencing any therapy treatments at Bishop’s Stortford Veterinary Hospital Hydrotherapy.

  • All treatment courses, including those claiming through insurances, must be paid in full prior to any treatment commencing.

  • Patients with infectious or contagious conditions such as eye, ear or skin infections will not be accepted for hydrotherapy treatment on the day and until the infection is no longer active.

  • Bitches in season will not be accepted for treatment.

  • Whilst every care is taken to ensure the safety of patients undergoing treatment, Bishop’s Stortford Veterinary Hospital LTD cannot be held responsible for any loss or injury to any animal whilst on the premises – all patients remain the responsibility of the owner.

  • When visiting, all persons are advised to wear suitable footwear with nonslip soles as the centre can become very wet during the session, both in the pool room and in the reception area.

  • When not undergoing treatment, patients must be kept on a lead at all times.

  • Bishop’s Stortford Veterinary Hospital can reserve the right to refuse the treatment of any animal.

  • Vehicles and contents are parked at owner’s risk.

  • Hydrotherapy appointments should be cancelled or rearranged at least 24 hours before the session is originally booked. Failing to do so or not turning up for a session will result into the session being charged at full cost. Cancellations can be made via telephone on 01279 654108 or via e-mail on