Dog Hydrotherapy in Pewaukee, WI: What, Why and How?

You may have encountered situations when your dog needs physical therapy, whether it be to help recover from a procedure or an injury. One of the options that may have come up during your research was dog hydrotherapy. The common questions that many pet owners in Pewaukee then ask are whats, whys and hows of this particular method.

Dog hydrotherapy in Pewaukee, WI

What is Dog Hydrotherapy in Pewaukee, WI?

Dog hydrotherapy is a physical therapy method that uses water for both support and resistance, and can be used in addition to other physical therapy techniques for a variety of conditions. Suspension in water reduces pressure on joints, facilitating movement that would otherwise be painful or difficult. It also offers a kind of muscle-fortifying resistance that no other exercise form offers.

Hydrotherapy can involve something as simple as wading through shallow moving or still water. More beneficial though, is hydrotherapy that involves advanced equipment and specialists. It is important to consult with your dog’s veterinarian in Pewaukee, WI before proceeding with any sort of physical therapy regimen, including hydrotherapy.

Never institute a hydrotherapy regimen without getting your veterinarian’s blessing to do so.

What Dogs are Not Candidates for Hydrotherapy in Pewaukee, WI?

Before we go any further, it is important to note that some dogs should not participate in hydrotherapy sessions.

If Your Dog’s Afraid of Water

If your dog is afraid of the water, or even if they just seem uncomfortable in it, a hydrotherapy session of any kind could be a terrible idea. You can coax your dog by getting into the water yourself, or bringing a calm housemate with you. Treats are a great option or their favorite toy.

But if the dog says No, you as an owner need to respect that and leave the idea of hydrotherapy behind. Never drag, push, or toss your dog into the water, and never force them to participate. If they are compliant at first but then change their mind, end the session.

Failure to recognize and respect your dog’s communication will make the entire experience stressful for you both, and could cause more injury, doing more harm than good.

Dogs Who Have Recent Injuries or Scars

Dogs who have fractures, wounds, or surgery sites of any kind should not participate in hydrotherapy until a veterinarian in Pewaukee determines that they are healed enough and healthy enough for it.

Water will damage casts and bandages, so a dog with either should never participate in hydrotherapy. Water could also cause infections or degradation of wounds and surgery sites. Never start dog hydrotherapy without talking to your veterinarian first. Your pet’s wound or incision should be fully healed before being immersed in water.

Why Would My Dog Need Hydrotherapy in Pewaukee, WI?

The next important piece of information you should know about hydrotherapy is how it can benefit your dog.

Dog hydrotherapy can help with the healing of a variety of different injuries and/or problems, including:

Orthopedic Problems

Your vet in Pewaukee may recommend dog hydrotherapy for a variety of reasons, but the most common involves orthopedic issues. Orthopedics involve bone and muscle, and hydrotherapy can be a tool for recovery from injury, disease, strain, sprain or trauma inflected on either or both.


While a fracture won’t heal from hydrotherapy, and the practice should be avoided as long as a cast or bandage is in place, hydrotherapy can be used after recovery, to help re-build strength and flexibility that was lost while the bone was healing and the cast or bandage was in place.

Muscle or Traumatic Injuries

Muscle strains or sprains, or trauma from an inflicted injury can also benefit. Being partially suspended in water relieves pressure on the affected muscles, and allows them to be exercised in a low-impact way.


Diseases can affect joints and muscles too. Arthritis is classified as a disease, and it can be related to age, or it occurs secondary to another disease process such as immune-mediated polyarthropathy, Lyme disease, or joint infections. All of these conditions can benefit from low impact resistance exercise.


Obesity is classified as a disease as well. Combating obesity involves changes in diet and exercise regimen but the conundrum with obesity management, is that often the obese patient has difficulties with mobility that mean exercise is difficult, unpleasant, or sometimes impossible.

Adding water to the equation, using dog hydrotherapy, can literally help lift some of that “weight off their shoulders”, making it possible for them to move more freely and comfortably. The more they move, the more muscle they’ll build, the more calories they’ll burn, and the more fat they’ll lose.

How Dog Hydrotherapy is Performed in Pewaukee, WI

Dog hydrotherapy should always be used under the direction of a veterinarian in Pewaukee, and ideally a veterinary physical therapist. If your veterinarian, or veterinary physical therapist, recommends a hydrotherapy protocol, they’ll likely offer you all options that apply to your dog’s unique case.

Options for At-Home Hydrotherapy (Under Veterinary Direction)

If the weather in your region is warm and comfortable, without concern for storms or low temperatures, you can go to a shallow, slow-moving stream with a relatively flat bed. You want to avoid bodies of water that are fast-moving, deep, and have rough, slippery, or uneven bottoms.

Use Shallow Water with Very Little Resistance

One of the most important factors with at-home hydrotherapy, is to set your dog up for success. This is not a time to challenge their ability to stabilize and navigate, or otherwise encounter any kind of obstacle. You want a space where they can move freely through the water, maybe against the current for a little bit of resistance, but never with any significant effort.

Deep water is also hazardous – the goal is not to swim. The goal is to walk/wade with support. Slippery or uneven surfaces can lead to instability that could cause more injury, undoing any progress you’re trying to make. Especially for dogs who are small, or aren’t strong swimmers, a life-jacket built for a dog could be a good tool.

Remember that even in slow-moving water, there’s risk for injury or loss of footing.

Use a Backyard Wading Pool

For an even safer experience, a backyard wading pool is a good option. While you won’t get resistance from moving water, there is very little about a wading pool that can’t be controlled. You should still only use this method if the weather in your region is warm and comfortable, without concern for storms or low temperatures.

The water itself should be a comfortable temperature – cool or warm, but not cold or hot. With a wading pool you don’t have to worry about uneven footing, slippery surfaces, water that is too deep, or strong currents. Smaller dogs may require a life-jacket, but larger dogs should be fine without.

There are numerous wading pool options available on the market. Be sure to pick one that is appropriately sized for your dog, with a firm bottom so their toenails don’t rupture it. Fill the pool only deep enough for the water to support your dog’s chest and belly. They shouldn’t be floating.

Make Sure Your Dog is Always Supervised

In both environments described above, your dog should always be directly supervised in the water – someone able-bodied should be standing directly next to them in the water at all times. Sessions should be limited to 30 minutes, or less depending on your dog’s tolerance. The goal is not to work them to exhaustion.

If they show any sign of tiredness or disinterest before then, stop the session. If your dog seems sore or stiff after a hydrotherapy session (whether its immediately after, or a day or two later), Talk to your veterinarian in Pewaukee first, then consider reducing sessions by 10 minutes at a time, and space them out by a day or more.

Dog Hydrotherapy with a Veterinary Specialist

Veterinarians who provide dog hydrotherapy services offer a variety of benefits that aren’t provided when doing the exercises at home, including ability to complete treatment not being dependent on the outside weather. Since this is something that should always be discussed and planned with a veterinary professional, it stands to reason that having these exercises done at an animal hospital offers noticeable advantages.

Professional Hydrotherapy Tools

Many veterinary physical therapy specialists have access to a variety of hydrotherapy tools. The most common of which, is the underwater treadmill. This offers a controlled environment for active hydrotherapy sessions, where your dog will walk at the speed of the treadmill, with no obstacles, no risk of slipping, in water that is at an ideal level and ideal temperature.

Trained professionals will be attending at all times, ensuring no injury is sustained.

Rate of Improvement and Recovery Can Be Higher

While dog hydrotherapy with a specialist is more expensive than doing it at home, the rate of improvement and recovery could be exponentially higher, because those professionals are specifically trained in a variety of physical therapy methods that can help your dog in ways that you can’t at home.

Talk with a Vet About Dog Hydrotherapy in Pewaukee, WI

Dog hydrotherapy can help with the recovery of many different procedures and bone or muscle problems your pet may be facing. However, you should always consult with your veterinarian in Pewaukee to make sure this is the best option for your dog and to make sure a proper plan is implemented.

At Pewaukee Veterinary Service, our highly skilled and trained veterinary team is here to answer any questions about hydrotherapy for your dog and will develop the best course of action for this method of physical therapy. We have all the necessary knowledge and resources at our animal hospital to help ensure a successful and positive experience for your pet.

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Since 1977, Pewaukee Veterinary Services has provided progressive veterinary medicine to pets of Pewaukee and the greater Milwaukee area. We put a strong emphasis on preventive medicine and alternative therapies aimed at keeping companion animals healthy and happy. Yet, if your pet is ill, there’s no better place to entrust their care. Our animal hospital in Pewaukee not only has the most advanced veterinary equipment in the area, but also the skilled veterinarians and staff to use it.