Hydrotherapy is a part of alternative medicine, in particular of naturopathy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, that involves the use of water for pain relief and treatment. Encompassing a broad range of approaches and therapeutic methods designed take advantage of the physical properties of water, such as temperature and pressure, for therapeutic purposes, to stimulate blood circulation and treat the symptoms of certain diseases. Canine hydrotherapy is directed at the treatment of chronic conditions, post-operative recovery, and pre-operative or general fitness in dogs.
A number of conditions in dogs may be aggravated by or may show slow or no improvement as a result of weight bearing exercise. Among these are hip dysplasia and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), conditions most common in medium to large purebred dogs, such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers or Golden Retrievers; chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM), a degenerative disease of the spinal cord which causes hind limb problems in German Shepherds; and luxating patella which is seen predominantly in small and toy breeds.
Injuries to the cruciate ligament or other ligaments may make post-operative weight-bearing exercise in dogs problematic. Obese dogs, while requiring exercise, may aggravate existing conditions or injure themselves due to the weight exerted on their joints if walked normally.