For Dog Owners

NARCH recognises that the world of canine hydrotherapy can be very new and confusing to dog owners. We have attempted to identify the key areas and provide useful information in the links below.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask by Contacting NARCH.


A therapy programme, utilising the properties of water. To ensure safety and appropriate treatment, hydrotherapy should be carried out by appropriately qualified and trained physiotherapists or hydrotherapists to improve an animal's function in a purpose built, and suitably heated hydrotherapy pool or underwater treadmill.


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 the support for joints. Especially after surgery or injury hydrotherapy 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.


  • Decreased pain perception
  • Decreased pain and inflammation
  • Possible feeling of well being due to release of endorphins
  • Relaxation of muscle tension and/or muscle spasm
  • Reduction of oedema (swelling)
  • Increased range of movement in water helping to ease stiff and arthritic joints
  • Non weight bearing - it is easier and more comfortable to move in water so animals often gain confidence
  • Non weight bearing - less joint concussion avoiding further damage after injury or for dogs with some form of dysplasia
  • Support for weakened or spinal injury dogs
  • Reduction of frustration for dogs on cage rest or reduced exercise - less likely to be 'uncontrollable' on land Increased muscle strength
  • Improved muscle patterning and recruitment helping to improve gait patterns (reduction in lameness) Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Potentially earlier return to normal activities - very important for owners of Assistance or Working Dogs
  • Slowing of progression of some symptoms of degenerative diseases
  • Improved quality of life


In general conditions treated with hydrotherapy fall into the following categories:
  • Orthopaedic
  • Neurological
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Degenerative and medical conditions
  • Conditions related to age - either juvenile/developmental or geriatric


  • Arthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Cruciate ligament rupture - either conservative management or post operative recovery
  • Patella luxation
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Degenerative myelopathy (formerly known as CDRM)
  • Spinal injuries including recovery from fractures and IV disc rupture (commonly known as a slipped disc)
  • Spondylosis - spinal arthritis
  • Mobility problems related to age
  • Obesity control


Why use a Registered Canine Hydrotherapist?

It is important that any client has confidence in the therapist treating their dog. By choosing to use a Registered Canine Hydrotherapist (RCH) you can be assured that the hydrotherapist looking after your dog or cat is trained in hydrotherapy and is required to abide by a code of practice and ethics by their professional association.

Every RCH is listed on the NARCH website enabling you to check that their registration is valid as well as providing details on the type and level of training completed and areas of competence or expertise.

A listed RCH has fulfilled the NARCH training requirements for registration (which are the highest in the UK) and must keep up to date by completing a further 25 hours of Continued Professional Development training each year. Registration with NARCH is not an easy option for a canine hydrotherapist.

RCHs are required to abide by the guidelines and rules set out in the NARCH Guide to Professional Conduct (PDF) and must hold public liability and professional indemnity insurance.


If you are lucky enough to have a choice of centres in your area telephone and speak to two or three different centres. You should get a welcoming and interested reception.

Check if the centre is run by or employs Registered Canine Hydrotherapists - then you can be sure of the training and standards at the hydrotherapy centre. It is possible to check the therapists are RCH's by searching the NARCH Register.

Why not visit the centre? All NARCH members will be pleased that you are being careful about choosing the right care for your dog. The centre should be clean and tidy and have a pleasant atmosphere and the staff should be happy to show you all of the facilities.

Ask your vet if they can recommend a centre. Your vet can also provide guidance on any specialist hydrotherapy requirements of your dog. For instance you may have a large or giant breed and not all centres are equipped to deal with this. Your dog may benefit from treatment using an underwater treadmill, again, not all centres can provide this facility.

The nearest centre to your home may not be the most suitable centre to treat your dog so do consider centres further afield.



Check the List/Register or find a Hydrotherapy Centre

Recent news

NARCH Education Seminar - Sunday 6th October 2024 at Holiday Inn, Guildford, Surrey

Tickets now available!

RCH Tickets - £55.00 click here

CHA/ICH members - £65.00 click here

Non Member Tickets - £75.00 click here

For more information on the event click here

To see previous updates see News