Dog in hydrotherapy pool

Water physiotherapy for pets

A gentle way to help your pet restore and maintain mobility

Hydrotherapy reduces pressure on delicate joints so pets can slowly rebuild their strength and stamina at a pace to suit them. Our highly trained team of vet nurses take time to introduce pets to the pool so they feel safe and secure. Our state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pools have a built-in walking belt with adjustable speed and the water level can be adjusted to suit any sized pet. Perfect for either cats or dogs recovering from an injury or learning to live with age-related issues such as arthritis. We currently have pools at Vetlife Timaru and Vetlife Wanaka.

How can hydrotherapy help my pet?

Pets of any age can enjoy a variety of benefits from time in the hydrotherapy pool

Hydrotherapy can be used for post-operative care, arthritis management, weight management or muscular/skeletal conditions.

Benefits of hydrotherapy include:

  • Pain management
  • Muscle strengthening
  • Improved endurance
  • Increased range of motion
  • Weight loss
  • Faster recovery times
  • Strengthened bones
  • Allows exercise to continue if land-based exercise is restricted
  • Aids in returning to normal function and mobility
  • Provides relaxation
  • Increased circulation
  • Less post-operative complications
  • Corrects form and function
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Provides mental stimulation.
Dog and hydrotherapy pool

What to expect

Our aim is to provide a positive hydrotherapy experience for both you and your pet.

We will provide your pet with an individualised treatment plan to suit their needs. We recommend that you stay with your pet for their comfort, as well as to discuss findings and create a plan. Before the session, ensure your pet has had the opportunity to go to the toilet and has not been fed for three hours prior. 

Please check in at reception when you arrive for your appointment, and we will take you through to our hydrotherapy room. Your pet’s first session may be short as we assess what your pet’s requirements are. Starting with shorter sessions also helps to ease any anxiety that your pet may have during the first few sessions. Most pets will acclimatise to the hydrotherapy pool after a few sessions.  

Your pet may be fitted with a harness or lifejacket to help us guide and support them during their session. During your pet’s time on the underwater treadmill, we may have your pet practice static exercises such as balanced standing, weight shifts, leg lifts, stretches and passive range of motion. Myofascial release and massage may also be performed as part of your pet’s hydrotherapy treatment.  

Every animal’s hydrotherapy session will be different and  involve intervals of exercise and rest for different lengths of time and intensity depending on their specific needs and goals.  


A veterinarian consult is required before beginning their hydrotherapy treatment for the first time to ensure it is the right fit for them. Some contraindications include:  

  • Respiratory condition 
  • Open wounds/infection 
  • Kennel cough 
  • Ear and skin infections 
  • Uncontrolled epilepsy 
  • Incontinence

If your pet vomits or has diarrhoea within 48 hours before your appointment, please contact the clinic to reschedule.   

After your session 

Your pet will need to be kept quieter than usual for the rest of the day. Typically, they may be more tired than usual or appear less comfortable on the problem area for the rest of the day. We also welcome notes on how your pet behaved after their session which you can share with us at your next appointment.