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How to become an Animal Hydrotherapist

Posted on 05/03/2021
How to become an Animal Hydrotherapist

Whether it’s a result of injury, weight gain or ageing, animals can find themselves in need of human assisted therapy. And with the significant benefits that come with hydrotherapy, it’s steadily becoming a popular treatment for small animals. As demand increases for this service, it’s certainly a good time to become an animal hydrotherapist.

Animals referred for hydrotherapy can be brought in for a range of reasons. Some may be born with neurological or orthopaedic issues. Others may need rehabilitation post-surgery, or they’ve may have developed degenerative locomotive disorders. Any of these challenges can impact their emotional state, motivation and quality of life.

Painful conditions can’t always be effectively managed with medication. So, more emphasis has been placed on the need for a multi-model approach. Through water-based therapy, pain can be reduced, and movement and function can return. The low-impact nature of this treatment is beneficial for many of the challenges animals face. And, as a result, small animal hydrotherapists are becoming an increasingly important part of the multidisciplinary team.

Now, more veterinary practices and referral centres are installing the necessary equipment to provide this treatment. Which means they need trained staff to deliver it.

If you’re considering becoming an animal hydrotherapist, find out more about the role and what you need to apply.

learndirect - How to become an Animal Hydrotherapist

What the role involves

Being an animal hydrotherapist requires a certain level of physical fitness and ability. You’re in the water with the animals helping them perform specific exercises and movements. Which isn’t always something they naturally want to do.

Aside from being able to swim, you need to be comfortable working in awkward positions and restraining animals. It can be tricky at first, but once you and they get used to the process it can be really enjoyable. Especially as you see them improve as a result of your sessions.

There are three methods of hydrotherapy you can use:


Animals perform swimming exercises that can improve flexion in joints, musculature, use of arthritic and dysplastic joints and cardiovascular fitness.

Underwater Treadmill

Utilises the underlying principles of water and speed to maintain health, mobility, weight, and rehabilitate. It helps with intervertebral disc disease, post-surgical conditions, sporting injuries, neurological and joint conditions.


Non-exercise based standing or lay down treatment in warm water. Used for physiotherapy, stretching and range-of-motion exercises, pre-exercise warm up or post-therapeutic cool down.


Through these various treatments, animals can lose weight, improve overall function and alleviate their pain. Helping them live a happy and healthy life for longer.

With experience, you can progress into senior roles like an area team supervisor, training manager or regional training manager. You could also set up your own business and become self-employed. Where you can dictate your own hours and work more comfortably around your lifestyle.  

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The skills you’ll need

In a role dedicated to animal care, naturally, you’ll need to be fond of animals and comfortable working with them.

You’ll be very hands-on, so relevant experience handling them is desirable. Plus, you’ll need to be observant and in tune with where to draw the line with the animal’s abilities. Good communication skills are essential, and you should have an interest in science and animal health.

Outside of these desirable traits, there are no set entry requirements for becoming an animal hydrotherapist. Each company will set its own but as you’d expect, relevant experience and qualifications will increase your employment potential.

Many companies offer on the job training. So, if you’re currently a hydrotherapist, you can be taught the necessary skills to effectively work with animals. The same goes for any other animal related professional who wants to move into this area. Training usually encompasses canine & feline first-aid, anatomy and physiology, hydrotherapy theory and pool water management.

However, the requirements for entry are gradually changing. The animal hydrotherapy field is now a professionally recognised area of complementary therapy, which means standards of education are increasing.  

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Get qualified online

While it is still an unregulated profession, industry associations now exist that help training providers maintain professionalism and clinical standards.

Courses you can take that are registered on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) are:

Small Animal Hydrotherapy Level 3 Certificate

Teaches you the core principles and approaches to small animal hydrotherapy. After completion, you’ll understand what hydrotherapy is and how it can be used to treat certain conditions in small animals. You will become familiar with common orthopaedic and neurological conditions. Plus, the surgeries performed to correct them and how to provide effective hydrotherapy treatment.

Small Animal Hydrotherapy Level 3 Diploma

This course explores the key practises of hydrotherapy and how to provide them. You will learn more about animal behaviour, anatomy and biology, as well as hydrotherapy best practise, legislation and treatment.

Small Animal Hydrotherapy Level 4 Diploma

A follow on to the Level 3 Diploma. This course covers a wide range of topics including advanced pool and aquatic treadmill techniques. You will also learn how to treat, care for and handle animals correctly and safely. Along with methods to develop treatment programmes for your patients, monitor progress and assess results.  

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Should you need to top up your knowledge in specific areas, there are also targeted courses like those dedicated to aquatic treadmill therapy:

Aquatic Treadmill Therapy for Small Animals Level 3 Award

This course provides an introduction to aquatic treadmill therapy for those with the Level 3 Certificate in Hydrotherapy for Small Animals. During the course, you learn to safely operate an aquatic treadmill and identify animals suitable for this form of treatment.

Advanced Aquatic Treadmill Therapy for Small Animals Level 3 Award

Ideal for those already qualified to work with small animals who possess the lower-level aquatic treadmill therapy award. In this course, you build on your existing knowledge to provide the next level of support. You’ll learn how to conduct gait analysis, identify abnormal posture and understand how to review patient performance. As well as how to use advanced aquatic treadmill techniques during therapy.


If you’re considering becoming an animal hydrotherapist, these online courses will give you the essential knowledge for the role. They also incorporate practical training within a rehabilitation centre alongside experienced qualified hydrotherapists and physiotherapists. So you can get the hands-on experience employers will be looking for.

The remainder of the courses is studied online, without any set classes or structure. Allowing you to organise your education around your lifestyle and keep to your existing commitments.

learndirect is the leading UK distance learning provider, with a growing faculty dedicated to animal health and welfare. Find out more about our animal hydrotherapy courses and how you can kick-start your career by clicking below.

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