Hydrotherapy at VSA - Veterinary Specialists Aotearoa | Veterinary Specialist and Animal Referral Services in NZ with 3 specialist animal hospitals in Auckland and Christchurch

Hydrotherapy at VSA

Water-based physical therapy

What is VSA Hydrotherapy?


Hydrotherapy is water-based physical therapy. Hydrotherapy for dogs allows for rehabilitation to begin earlier, with patients able to begin therapeutic exercise within days of injury or surgery with minimal risk of re-injury and reduced pain.

At VSA, we utilize our HydroPhysio® underwater treadmill (UWT) for your pet’s treatment to promote optimal biomechanics and normalize gait pattern.

Weight-bearing exercise in a safe and controlled environment optimizes muscle building, providing strength and improving the condition of the joints and soft tissue. Our qualified hydrotherapists will create an individualized plan for your pet to help them recover from injuries, surgeries or to manage more chronic conditions.

As well as walking in the UWT, static exercises and massage are also implemented in the session for a holistic approach to your pet’s recovery.

Hydrotherapy at VSA - image shows our hyrdotherapist in the hydro tank with a patient

What to Expect at VSA Hydrotherapy

Before your appointment we will ask you to fill out our Hydrotherapy Screening Form so that we can be prepared for any additional needs that your pet has.

It is important that we are up to date with your pet’s medical history, we have this on file, but we will also ask you a range of questions to get an understanding of their daily routine and current condition.

Our hydrotherapists will assess your pet’s behaviour, overall condition, and the way they move. This will tell them a lot about what is going on with your pet’s joints and musculature.

At each appointment, we assess your pet’s gait and palpate their muscles and joints to gain an accurate picture of how they are using their bodies and what we need to improve – this is an important part of our overall assessment and is key to planning effective treatment.

Showering for hygiene, applying heat treatment over tight muscles and implementing stimulatory techniques for activating key muscle groups are important part of the warm-up process for your pet’s hydrotherapy session.

Our hydrotherapists will then guide and facilitate your pet walking in the UWT making sure they are walking at an optimal pace for your pet’s clinical condition. Walking in the UWT is considered the ‘active’ part of the hydrotherapy session.

During your pet’s tim in the UWT our hydrotherapists will get your pet doing some static exercises such as balanced standing, weight shifts, leg lifts, stretches, passive range of motion. Myofascial release and massage are also important as part of your pet’s hydrotherapy treatment. Each patient requires a unique approach, relevant to their condition and stage of treatment.

A post UWT shower rinses the chlorinated water off your pet before they are dried with a pet chamois and towels.


What if my pet is nervous or doesn’t like water?

We will never force your pet to do anything they are not comfortable with. We use therapeutic handling techniques to work slowly and respectfully with your pet to get the most out of their Hydrotherapy sessions. We see pets of all confidence levels for Hydrotherapy at VSA, so you might be surprised at what your pet achieves.

Please bring your pet’s most favourite treats or their favourite toy, so we can make their Hydrotherapy sessions fun and productive.

We can also offer a “Meet & Greet” session, where we can meet your pet, make friends, and slowly introduce them to the UWT at their own pace.


Do I have to buy multiple Hydrotherapy sessions up front?

It is your choice. You can either pay for a single session each time you come or you can buy a 6 or 8 concession. Concessions are more cost effective in the long-term.


What if my pet gets cold in the winter?

The temperature of the water in the UWT ranges from 28-32°C depending on the season. Clients are welcome to bring their pet’s jumpers to go home in if they have them!


What if my pet has a skin condition?

Our water is carefully balanced with chlorine to keep the environment hygienic for your pet. There are very few patients that react to chlorinated water but if you are unsure, you can bring your pet’s shampoo for a post-UWT bath.


Is Hydrotherapy covered by insurance?

Some insurance companies will cover your pet’s Hydrotherapy – we advise checking your policy wording carefully.


How soon after surgery can my pet start Hydrotherapy?

If your pet has stitches, these must be removed, and the incision checked before starting hydrotherapy. Some pets will have ‘intra-dermal’ or ‘dissolvable’ sutures, but the incision will still need to be checked by a nurse or veterinarian. Your pet may be able to start Hydrotherapy 10-14 days post-op if approved by your veterinarian.

Meet our hydrotherapists


Veterinary Hydrotherapist (Auckland)


Veterinary Hydrotherapist (Auckland)
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