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The Benefits Of Hydrotherapy For Hip Dysplasia In Dogs

by Amber LaRock February 01, 2021 4 min read

Dalmatian awaiting for his hydrotherapy

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can deeply impact a dog’s life. If your dog has been diagnosed with this degenerative condition, you may be looking for ways to ease their discomfort. Water therapy is helpful to humans with painful conditions, so can it help our furry friends as well?

In this article we’ll discuss the details of hydrotherapy in dogs with hip dysplasia, and how it can benefit your beloved companion going forward.

What Is Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

Hip dysplasiain dogs is a joint condition that is often classified by the irregular formation of the hip joint. In a dog free of hip dysplasia, their hips consist of ball and socket joints that should glide freely with each movement. When a dog struggles with hip dysplasia, the hip joint does not glide as easily as it should.

The irregular formation of the hip joint is not only uncomfortable for dogs during activity, but can lead to joint deterioration as time passes. If a dog’s hip dysplasia is not addressed, they will often begin to show signs of chronic pain due to joint damage over time.

While hip dysplasia has been linked to a few possible factors in our furry friends, it is often understood to be a hereditary condition that is passed down from dog to dog. While some dogs may be susceptible from birth, there are some triggers that can exacerbate hip dysplasia in at risk dogs. Some exacerbating factors in dogs include:

  • Strenuous or excessive exercise, especially in growing dogs
  • Fast growth periods, especially in large breed dogs
  • Canine obesity
  • Diet lacking nutrients needed for proper growth
  • Inadequate nutrition for a dog’s age range, especially in puppies

The Signs Of Hip Dysplasia In Dogs

To best relieve our dog’s discomfort, we must first understand the possible signs of hip dysplasia in our furry friends. Our dogs can’t tell us when they are hurting, making it important to be aware of the symptoms to look out for. Some of the most common signs of hip dysplasia and joint pain in dogs include:

  • Decrease in daily activity
  • Stiffness
  • Difficulty getting up and down
  • Decrease in the thigh muscle mass
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Change in their normal gait
  • Sensitivity in their back end
  • Weakness in the hind legs
  • Crying out or whining during activity

What Is Hydrotherapy?

When a dog develops hip dysplasia, pain is not the only factor they struggle with. Hip dysplasia can lead to serious weakness in the hind limbs, often due to a decrease in muscle mass over time. Weakness in the hind limbs can further exacerbate their daily struggles, and cause a waterfall effect if they are not remaining as active as they once were. Hydrotherapy can offer a solution for these complications, and can help your dog get up and moving.

Hydrotherapy is a form of physiotherapy that uses water for pain relief and strength training. Hydrotherapy is often performed in a professional setting using gentle exercise approved for bone and joint conditions. The warm water paired with appropriate exercise allows a dog to practice their mobility, while building strength at the same time. Consistent hydrotherapy is considered one of the most successful therapy options in dogs with degenerative disease, especially those that involve the hips and legs.

The Benefits Of Hydrotherapy In Dogs

The main purpose of hydrotherapy in dogs with hip dysplasia is to build strength in the weakened hind legs without putting added stress on the joints. Though strength training is one of the main goals, hydrotherapy can offer other benefits as well.

Some of the many perks of hydrotherapy for dogs with hip dysplasia include:

  • Decreased inflammation
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Helps to improve the cartilage health within the joints
  • Improves circulation to the weakened muscles
  • Aids in pain relief
  • Improves range of motion in stiff joints
  • Aids in weight loss in obese canines
  • Increased strength in weakness muscles
  • Improves muscle mass
  • Improved balance
  • Offers a comfortable outlet for exercise
  • And more

Types Of Hydrotherapy For Dogs

As hydrotherapy in dogs has gained popularity, there are a few different options available to our furry friends. Though each dog may benefit from a different therapy plan, there are a few types of hydrotherapy methods to be aware of.

Underwater treadmills: Underwater treadmill therapy is a wonderful option for dogs with hip dysplasia and joint pain. These underwater treadmills will be placed in a small glass chamber that is filled with warm water just above the dog’s legs. Once the chamber is closed and filled with water, the treadmill will begin to move at a slow pace. This will allow your dog to exercise without the added stress of gravity, and enjoy a low impact activity. Underwater treadmills can improve muscle strength, improve cardiovascular health, improve circulation, and more.

Whirlpool hydrotherapy: Whirlpool therapy is another popular therapy option for dogs that struggle with chronic pain due to degenerative disease. Your dog will be placed in a tank with warm water, with the addition of a harness if needed. The jet stream of the warm water in the tank will offer a muscle massage, inflammation relief, pain relief, improves range of motion, and more.

Dog pools: Dog pool water therapy is a method that targets dogs with arthritis and degenerative joint conditions like hip dysplasia. This type of therapy involves your dog being suspended into a dog pool with a supportive harness, and encourages them to swim with support. This practice can help to improve muscle strength, improve range of motion, loosen stiff limbs, and more.

Final Thoughts

Hydrotherapy in dogs with hip dysplasia is a beneficial tool for potential pain relief. Be sure to review the information we discussed above, and you can better determine if hydrotherapy is right for your furry friend!


The article was written by Amber LaRock, RVT

Amber LaRock
Amber LaRock



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