What happened when we tried hydrotherapy for dogs for the first time at K9 Spa

None of us like to think of our beloved pets getting older, but the truth of the matter is that Phoebe will be an (estimated) eight years old this year, according to the rescue centre. And while eight may not seem that old for a dog, it does tend to be the age many pet food brands market ‘senior’ food towards.

Phoebe hides her age extremely well, she’s strong, agile and can outrun Frank in a bid to chase a pigeon in the garden, but over the last few months, we have noticed that she can be prone to injury.

During the cold weather in December, Phoebe appeared to have pulled a muscle doing snow zoomies and spent around a week limping before she was back to her old self. But a few weeks later, she did almost exactly the same thing, seeming to repeat the injury. 

We thought that hydrotherapy might help her recover, as well as strengthen her shoulder muscles in order to prevent the injury reoccurring. 

As such, we decided to give hydrotherapy a go for the very first time, booking in a session at K9 Spa Hydrotherapy Centre, based in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent.

Arriving at the Furlong Road venue, there’s ample parking for customers on the large driveway, and our therapist, Anya, was able to let us in through the gate and into a secure annex where we could let Phoebe and Frank off their leashes for a quick mooch around. 

The pool is 4.5m by 3m and 120cm deep, heated to a comfortable 30 degrees celsius with its own filtration system. There is plenty of space to walk around the edge, as well as a separate toilet, too. 

Phoebe was sized up for a little life jacket and secured in before being led to the steps to enter the pool. It’s safe to say she was a little apprehensive at first, because – and I don’t know if you’ve tried to bathe a reluctant Staffy – she saw the pool as an oversized tub. 

With some encouragement, we were able to get her into the water where she had a little splash and paddle, assisted by her buoyancy aid and Anya.

Sessions at the pool are bookable in half-hour slots, and it’s advised to keep the first visit short and sweet so that your dog can be introduced to the water, and have the expert therapists assess their range of movement and level of fitness.

Anya kept a close eye on Phoebe’s pace and form, feeling her shoulders for any signs of injury. Despite never having swam, Phoebe was surprisingly a natural, the ‘least splashy Staffy’ to have been booked into the pool. That’s because the most splashy was scamp number two – Frank – who wasn’t supposed to be joining in the session, but decided to dive-bomb into the pool fuelled by curiosity and serious FOMO (fear of missing out).

Frank got his own life jacket fitted and was able to dip in and out of the pool as he wished – what’s really nice is that it’s a really relaxed and friendly atmosphere where the dogs can have a bit of supervised fun. Anya and Ross really treat your dogs as their own and are extremely knowledgeable, sharing tips and tricks during the sessions, too. Ross even popped his head in and was able to offer advice on nutrition and supplements for Phoebe to take as she ages.

During our swim, Anya alternated between swimming Phoebe, then Frank, which gave each dog a chance to have a go at swimming, while the other took a break. That said, you couldn’t keep either of the dogs out of the water for long – they absolutely loved it. 

What I really liked about hydrotherapy is that it isn’t just for dogs recovering from or trying to prevent an injury. There are so many other reasons to book your dog in for a swim. While the low-impact water-based therapy can be used to build pre and post-operative fitness for a speedier recovery, the weightlessness felt in water can also help with mobility, pain and conditions like arthritis, which we think Phoebe could potentially have the on-set of.

It can also be used to aid weight loss and build cardiovascular fitness for working or competitive dogs, with experts suggesting that five minutes swimming in the heated pool is equivalent to a 20 minute run – so it’s no wonder they slept as soon as they got home.

Not only that, though, but from a safety point of view, it could potentially be a lifesaver if your dog knows how to swim, so it’s important to give them that skill. It also helps them build confidence in the water, exposing them to the pool and encouraging that curiosity. In fact, it’s possibly the most confident I’ve seen Frank out of the house, forgoing the steps to fearlessly jump into the water for a splash about, which was really lovely to see.

After the session, your dog is encouraged to walk around the pool so that their movement can be checked before they get in the walk-in bath for a rinse and shampoo. Anya got Phoebe in the bath so covertly she didn’t even realise she was getting a shower until it was too late. She and Frank left the pool smelling delicious, sleepy and mentally stimulated, so it was a real win, win, win situation. 

A half hour session at K9 Spa Hydrotherapy Centre costs £30 per session, plus £10 per extra dog. And while half an hour may not sound like a lot of time to a human, it was the perfect length of time for Phoebe and Frank, who got about 10 minutes of swim time each with breaks in between.  

You can see just from the looks on their faces that they had a great time, even if Phoebe was a little unsure at first. We’re definitely going to make this a regular thing to help both dogs gain confidence and enrichment, learn safety skills, and strengthen their muscles to reap the health benefits of hydro.

If you’re based in Staffordshire or Cheshire and would like to try hydrotheraphy for your dog, get in touch with K9 Spa here.