Project Description

Could hydrotherapy improve your dog’s mobility, muscle strength or weight loss?

We have an underwater treadmill at our Barnstaple veterinary hospital. The buoyancy of the water allows dogs to move more freely than they might otherwise do on land, builds up muscle mass, improves fitness and aids joint mobility.

Our hydrotherapy treadmill and swim jets can be used to:

  • Optimise recovery following surgery

  • Improve and restore function following injuries

  • Improve quality of life for our geriatric and arthritic patients

  • Assist with weight loss for podgy pooches

  • Improve muscle strength, flexibility and range of joint movement

  • Raise cardiovascular fitness and endurance

  • Provide a gentle and supportive treatment which is covered by most insurance policies

Prior to beginning a course of hydrotherapy, dogs are examined by a vet to check their suitability. Assessments include consolidation of history, clinical signs, working diagnosis, expectations for individual patient, mobility assessment, muscle mass scoring, heart checks, body condition scoring and review of current land based exercise routine. Reports to referring vets where indicated.

Our team of qualified veterinary nurses carry out the sessions and continuously assess the needs and abilities of the individual patient to develop a programme that will be most beneficial. All patients are assessed within 3 weeks of commencing hydrotherapy and after every 10 sessions.

hydrotherapy at Charter Vets in North Devon
hydrotherapy at Charter Vets in North Devon

Hydrotherapy Prices:

Hydrotherapy single session (45 minutes): £55
Hydrotherapy – block of 10 sessions: £495
Orthopaedic referral consultation: £150
Orthopaedic referral subsequent: £75

Frequently asked questions about hydrotherapy

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Below are a series of questions which address the most common enquiries about hydrotherapy.

The benefits of hydrotherapy depend very much on how the hydrotherapy treatment is carried out. For some dogs simply floating or swimming gently in water can relieve pain and inflammation. For others more vigorous exercise is used to increase the use of limbs, increase muscle bulk and tone, and strengthen support for joints. Especially after surgery or injury this can allow earlier return to normal use.

Water can also be used as a means of supporting dogs in a non weight bearing or partially weight bearing environment to allow movements that would not be possible on land, perhaps because of weakness or injury. This is particularly useful for dogs that have spinal problems.

Hydrotherapy can also increase cardiovascular fitness and help with weight loss.

The hydrotherapy pool allows the animal to exercise in a non weight bearing environment which relieves pressure on joints, reducing pain and encouraging movement. In the underwater treadmill the water height can be adjusted to precisely control the amount of weight bearing allowing increases as the animal strengthens or recovers.

It is difficult to move quickly within water (because of the viscosity or ‘stickiness’ of water) so the water has a cushioning or protective quality reducing the risk of injury. This same quality means that the dog has to work hard to move forward when swimming and in turn this helps to increase muscle strength and bulk. This is a very useful property for young dogs that are on restricted exercise, as they can exercise hard in the water with little risk and use up some of their excess energy.

Within water animals are also subject to hydrostatic pressure and this has the effect of a gentle pressure bandage on limbs. This can help to reduce swelling and then pain especially in the lower limbs – very useful for dogs with elbow, stifle, carpal and tarsal injuries or arthritis.

This depends on the reason for hydrotherapy.

As a guide post cruciate surgery recovery would normally be 8 to 12 weeks.

A young dog with hip dysplasia may need to swim for 6 months to 1 year until skeletally mature. An elderly dog with chronic arthritis may need hydrotherapy twice a week for 8 weeks, to gain a good improvement, and may then benefit from weekly or bi-weekly hydrotherapy for the rest of its life.

It depends on the terms of your insurance policy and how the insurance company defines hydrotherapy. Call your insurer and ask for clarification of your particular policy.

This really depends on your vet’s instructions. Usually hydrotherapy can start a few days after stitches or staples have been removed.

After some surgeries, fractures and spinal problems it may be 4-8 weeks before hydrotherapy can commence.

Some breeds such as Labradors, Retrievers, Spaniels and Newfoundlands are bred to be natural swimmers but even so some can be nervous or can take time to get used to the idea of swimming in a pool. It is important that the first introduction to swimming is a positive experience.

There are some dogs that have no idea how to swim and these dogs may require close supervision in the water.

Dogs that are very muscular, such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, tend not to float as well as other breeds and have to work much harder to stay on top of the water however, once they learn to swim they tend to love the experience.

Bracycephalic breeds (those with shortened muzzles such as Boxers, Pugs, Old English Bulldogs and some Cavalier Spaniels) can struggle to get enough breath when working hard. These breeds need particular care when they swim or attend hydrotherapy.

With sensitive and gentle handling most pets can get over any dislike of water (though not always). Your hydrotherapist will allow extra time and it could take a few hydrotherapy sessions for your dog to relax. Some dogs that appear to hate water, and will walk round puddles and refuse baths and showers, can take to swimming surprisingly well, especially with praise and reassurance and the hydrotherapist in the water with them.
In a hydrotherapy treadmill session the water height can be adjusted to precisely control the amount of weight bearing. The degree of weight bearing can be increased as the animal strengthens or recovers. The speed of the underwater treadmill can also be changed to achieve the best possible movement of the limbs. The dog can be viewed from all angles and this is very useful for assessing how it is moving and to make adjustments to get better quality movement. Re-educating gait or correct limb use is very important for dogs learning to walk again after spinal problems.

Intensive care

Whatever the time of day or night, if your pets needs intensive care, we are there to provide it. Charter Vets have a fully equipped veterinary hospital so rest assured, we have a team on-site 24 hours a day to look after your pet’s needs.


Pet Dentistry

We provide dentistry for pets using equipment you would recognise from your own dentists’ surgery. We are also one of the few facilities in Devon that offers dental radiography.



Our hydrotherapy unit allows your pet to benefit from buoyancy-assisted exercise in warm water - a gentle and supportive way for your dog to exercise while recuperating from injury or illness.



No matter how thorough our vets are, some diagnoses require more than just a physical examination alone. We offer an extensive range of diagnostics to find out why your pet is ill.


Nurse Clinics

Behind every good vet, there's an even better nurse. Our experienced team of veterinary nurses can give you helpful advice and care on a wide range of services.


Deaf BSL service

SignVideo is a free service for deaf clients who use British Sign Language (BSL). You can use it to make a call to our veterinary practices and during a face to face appointment.