Canine Rehabilitation: Can Your Dog Benefit from a Rehab Service?


When humans are injured, the doctor often recommends rehabilitation. When your dog is injured or has a condition that affects mobility, a veterinarian may encourage you to take your dog in for rehabilitation treatments. But, what are rehabilitation services for dogs? Drypet spoke Clo Richardson with K9 Rehab Wellness Centre in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, to see what canine rehabilitation was all about.

Drypet: Why are most of the dogs you see in need of rehab services?

Richardson: The most common medical issues we see are arthritis and knee injuries. For arthritis, the warm water alone helps ease inflammation and provide low-impact exercise in a weightless environment that is normally a struggle for arthritic dogs on land. For post-op TPLO, TTA or Ex-cap, and knee surgeries, the pool is introduced at 10 weeks post-op to help move inflammation away from the surgery site, encourage range of motion back into the injured leg, and help build back muscle.

Drypet: What is hydrotherapy and how does it help dogs?

Richardson: Hydrotherapy is the use of different exercises and modalities in a pool as part of a treatment plan for pain relief and other mobility issues. Our warm water sessions are 30 minutes in length and are catered to each dog’s needs. Each session is led by a trained hydrotherapist who is in the pool with your pup, guiding and using different techniques to work different muscles in the water. Parents are very much involved throughout the session—dispensing treats, tossing toys, and offering support to their furry loved one.

Drypet: How can dogs who fear water benefit or be treated with hydrotherapy?
Richardson: Teaching a fearful dog confidence through hydrotherapy is extremely rewarding! For dogs that are fearful of water, our hydrotherapists introduce the pool very slowly, and continuously look for cues from the dog to ensure they are feeling comfortable and as stress-free as possible. Once the therapist guides the dog to swim, it allows the pup to take a giant leap over a very scary obstacle! Giving dogs that confidence allows them to feel accomplished and can encourage them to tackle other barriers.

Drypet: Why is rehabilitation important for dogs? Why should more people consider it as an option for their dogs?

Richardson: Warm water therapy for dogs is a fairly new idea for most pet owners, and most don’t know that their dog could benefit from it right now.

Many conditions can benefit from canine hydrotherapy including:

  • Dogs dealing with hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, arthritis pain management, cruciate injuries, spinal injuries, neurological disorders, tendon and ligament injuries, and many more.
  • Overweight dogs—swim therapy is a great addition to food management to help reduce obesity, and therefore improving health and wellness, and reducing potential future weight-related stresses or injuries.
  • Competition dogs, such as those active in agility, herding, flyball, and dock diving, benefit from hydrotherapy sessions by utilizing the resistance of the water together with a strategic combination of swim styles and durations to condition muscles and improves cardiovascular strength.
  • Senior dogs enjoy the float sessions and the fun of being able to do more with less pain in the warm water environment. This can have long-term benefits from conditioning underused muscles and improving joint mobility.
  • Studies have proven that puppies (especially those who will grow into dogs that weigh more than 50 pounds or are breeds that tend to suffer from orthopedic conditions, such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia) that swim consistently from an early age can strengthen and stabilize their joints and increase muscle mass benefit enormously from hydrotherapy.

Drypet: Do dogs need to be referred for rehab at K9 Rehab Wellness Centre?

Richardson: It depends on the type of swim! Referrals aren’t necessary if your hydrotherapy goal is to teach your dog how to swim, manage weight, provide senior maintenance, or support optimal health. We do need referrals for pre- or post-surgical conditioning, hip/elbow dysplasia, patella luxation, etc., just to ensure we provide the safest and most beneficial experience for your dog.

Drypet: What other rehabilitation options are there for dogs?

Richardson: Chiropractic, physiotherapy, massage, functional land exercises, and underwater treadmill are all other rehabilitation options for dogs.

To learn more about the K9 Rehab Wellness Centre, visit them on their website, Facebook, and Instagram