Hydrotherapy for dogs is not the same as fun swimming. Hydrotherapy requires canine hydrotherapists or physiotherapists to be in the water with a pet. In Singapore, there are different forms of swimming and hydrotherapy available. The most suitable type of hydrotherapy and the expected regime will be determined following the initial assessment of the dog by a qualified canine hydrotherapist or physiotherapist. There are a number of ways that hydrotherapy can be performed and the following are some of those


  • Swimming in a sink or Bathtub
  • Beach
  • Hydrotherapy Centres
  • Pet Shops with swimming pool
  • Underwater Treadmill



dog physiotherapy hydrotherapy hydro treadmill aquatic water swimming walking cat canine


dog hydrotherapy treadmill underwater pool swimming walking aquatic water

Swimming in a Bathtub or Fibreglass Container

Smaller tubs, bath tubs or home-made fibreglass container can be a problem with nervous or anxious dogs. And for large dogs, most of them will have difficulty moving around in them, or manoeuvring to get in them.

Swimming a very small breed dog such as a chihuahua in a big tub big enough for you to be in the water should be fine. Many dog’s with fear in swimming are often caused by pet owners who think swimming dogs in a home made tub is a fun thing or beneficial for them, without knowing that they are actually causing more issues.

dog hydrotherapy treadmill underwater pool swimming walking aquatic water


Most pet shop do not have trained hydrotherapist on site to assist. The insufficient knowledge on handling animals in water and medical observation of dogs swimming gait, makes fun swimming or otherwise, a dangerous activity for your pet.

Like a child, when a dog is in the pool, there should be looked after by at least one trained hydrotherapist or an adult.

And unlike a dedicated hydrotherapy pool which is well looked after, such pools in a pet shop has the same problems faced by pet owners swimming their pets by the beach.

dog hydrotherapy treadmill underwater pool swimming walking aquatic water


Swimming by East Coast or Sentosa Siloso beach has limited advantages over the disadvantages. While the dog can be free and sociable, the following are also to be considered.

  • Cold temperatures causes the blood to move away from the peripheral limbs
  • Cold temperatures can lead to increased stiffness in the dog’s osteoarthritis
  • Lack of control with swimming can allow for an accident
  • Risk of waterborne diseases
  • Risk of drowning
dog hydrotherapy treadmill underwater pool swimming walking aquatic water

Hydrotherapy Swimming

As active as swimming is, it is not always the best option for therapeutic treatment. Surprisingly, some dogs do not like water and will panic or fight when faced with it, especially if we are trying to walk them into an open pool.  We all know swimming can be beneficial for cardiovascular health. However, patients need to have a strong core to keep their body level and afloat which most of our family pets and even athletic companions do not possess. Swimming also takes weight completely off of their limbs, which is good for arthritis but not helpful for patients who are reluctant to use the limb (i.e. post operative TPLO patients, etc.).

  • Flexion of the joints is greater when swimming than walking in the water
  • Swimming renders the patient completely non-weight bearing which removes all concussive forces on their joints
  • Great for core strength
  • Improves cardiovascular strength
  • Patients with front limb nerve injuries often times use the limb during swimming before they will place the limb to walk
  • Neurological patients who are unable to stand and support themselves will sometimes swim before they walk because the buoyancy of the water makes them “weightless”
  • Swimming benefits flexion of joints more but is not as effective for improving extension
  • Not a good option for patients who are unfit (seniors/geriatrics, weak core/stamina, etc.)
  • More intimidating for patients who are fearful or do not like water
  • Minimal control of the patient’s movement
  • Dogs do not generally use their hind limbs effectively when swimming (they use primarily forelimb movement)
  • Contraindicated in early post-surgical patients
dog hydrotherapy treadmill underwater pool swimming walking aquatic water

Hydro Treadmill

Patient variables (primary complaint, age, etc.) are taken into consideration when deciding on which modality would be the most beneficial for their treatment plan. About 95% of our patients use the underwater treadmill because it is a more balanced option than swimming. The majority of those patients are dogs with osteoarthritis in multiple joints, those recovering from orthopedic surgery, or managing a neurologic disease (i.e. degenerative myelopathy).

  • Extension of the limbs/joints is more complete than with swimming
  • Control of how fast the patient moves
  • Control of how much weight the patient bears as they are moving (height of water)
  • More balanced treatment for patients with multiple issues (multiple joints, muscle atrophy, etc.)
  • Support for weak patients (able to move better in water than on land)
  • Less intimidating than swimming for patients who are fearful of water (with our treadmill, water fills slowly from the bottom)
  • Gentle and low impact enough for post-surgical patients (2 weeks post op with sutures removed)
  • Some patients are fearful of the belt moving under their feet and will refuse to walk
  • Walking on a moving belt in the water requires the patient to have some degree of coordination or body awareness which can be very challenging for seniors or severe neurologic patients
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