What to expect during your hydrotherapy session

When you first get in touch with West Wales Canine Hydrotherapy you will be asked general questions about your dog's health, recent conditions, injuries, surgery and what has brought you to contact the clinic.

Each dog is different and even the same condition may require a different approach and ongoing treatment, depending on the dog. Before your dog swims, the hydrotherapist will need to see a signed consent form from your vet. This is to ensure your vet is happy for your dog to swim, and if hydrotherapy is part of a recovery programme, the hydrotherapist will update your vet with how your dog is progressing. Your vet can give valuable information about your pet, helping the hydrotherapist provide the best possible treatment. You can download a vet form here.

If you would like to come along and see the hydrotherapy centre before booking an appointment, we would love to see you, show you around and meet your pet. It's a good opportunity to find exactly where we are, and work out how long it will take you to travel to us on appointment days. We can show you the pool, and talk through how our sessions work. Just phone beforehand to check we'll be available, and not busy with another patient when you want to come along.

Once the hydrotherapist has received the completed vet consent form, an initial appointment can be arranged. This will usually be a longer time slot (of about an hour) than subsequent appointments, to allow a more detailed chat about your dog's health, to perform a health check, and so the therapist and your dog can get to know one another before getting in the pool.

Your dog will then be fitted with a bouyancy jacket or harness, and accompanied into the pool by the hydrotherapist. It is not uncommon for dogs to be apprehensive as they enter the pool. It is a new and unnatural environment for them, but it is in everyone's best interests to keep stress levels to a minimum, so please be assured that this stage of the process is taken very gradually and gently, with encouragement and praise. The hydrotherapist will be at your dog's side in the pool throughout the whole session, ensuring your pet is safe. If your dog has a favourite toy, you can bring it along to help encourage them to swim. You should be present at the pool side to give reassurance and encouragement to your dog. Depending on the dog's condition, the first session may only consist of a few short swims, with long rest periods between. This is so we do not over exercise a vulnerable area, and so we can assess the dog, get them used to the water and the pool environment.

Second and subsequent sessions will last approximately 30 minutes. It may be beneficial to attend weekly sessions, or as much as 3 times a week, depending on the condition being treated. You would expect to see an improvement after 6 weeks. Some patients may respond quicker or others may take longer. Once an improvement in your pet's condition has been established, sessions can often be scaled back to fortnightly, or even less frequently as a maintenance programme.

After your dog's hydrotherapy session, they will be showered and dried. We have a blaster dryer, similar to those used by groomers. But if your dog doesn't like the noisy dryer, we recommend that you bring your own towels, and a warm dog coat or blanket to wrap your pet in for the journey home, especially in inclement weather, so the benefits gained from hydotherapy are retained.

Although sessions can be booked individually, we offer discounts for blocks of sessions booked up front. You should check with your pet insurer as they will often cover some if not all of the cost of hydrotherapy, which is now recognised as a beneficial course of treatment in your dog's recovery. If you are hoping to use your pet insurance, please note that WWCH will need you to pay for sessions directly, and then you should recoup the costs subsequently from your insurance company.

Hydrotherapy sessions are designed to be fun for your pet, motivated by play, toys and praise. We will take cues from your dog, and allow them to progress at their own pace. We want you and your pet to enjoy your hydrotherapy sessions, and to look forward to coming again.

NARCH logo The National Association of Canine Hydrotherapists