Hydrotherapy and Hip Dysplasia - Betty's Story

Betty is a westie x poodle, who first came to see me in July 2019. At the time she was just ten months old. Betty has a poorly formed right hip; the socket is so flat that the joint can be luxated out when under general anesthetic. The vet discussed surgical options with her owners, but initially they wanted to try conservative management including physiotherapy and hydrotherapy.

Betty the westie poo on her first hydro visit
Betty on her first visit

During her first visit I observed that Betty didn't fully load her right hind leg, and she also hopped from time to time whilst walking. This was more pronounced when she moved faster than a walk. Her owners explained that she often sat down on walks, and wasn't willing to walk very far. There was an imbalance between the muscles of her right and left hind legs, and her hind legs in general were less muscled than her front legs. She was taking medication twice a day to manage her pain levels.

Given all the information, I decided that the best option to start with for Betty was the underwater treadmill. This gives us the chance to work on gait re-education whilst building strength in the muscles. During her first session she walked for just 30 seconds at a time, for a total of four repetitions. I kept the water high in order to provide maximum support for her hips.

Betty initially came twice a week for the first three weeks, then weekly thereafter. After ten sessions, I took new muscle measurements. Not only had the muscles on her hind legs evened out, she had gained 3cm of muscle mass. By this stage, Betty was no longer limping when walking, and certainly wasn't sitting down when out on walks!

However, she was still hopping when she tried to trot - being so young, and having had this condition since birth, it's likely she'd never learned to trot on four legs. I started working on Betty trotting in the treadmill, to further build the muscles and introduce a correct gait. She now does five repetitions of one minute each in the treadmill, split between walking and trotting. I also vary the water level, as lower water will give less support and thus provide a bit more challenge.

Betty in the hydrotherapy pool
Betty's first time in the pool

In the last couple of weeks I've also started Betty swimming in the hydrotherapy pool. This will further build her strength, working her muscles in a different way.

Betty recently saw her vet again for the first time since starting hydrotherapy. He was very pleased with her progress - so much so, he no longer thinks that she will require surgery any time soon. Betty is no longer taking any pain medication, and she is as strong as she's ever been. She is enjoying her daily walks, and has been cleared for some off lead exercise.

We've agreed to cut down to one hydrotherapy session per fortnight for a few weeks, with the ultimate goal of reducing to once per month as long as this keeps Betty's leg strong enough to live a normal day to day life. These sessions will be split between the treadmill and the pool.

If you'd like to find out more about how hydrotherapy could help your dog, please get in touch either through the website or at

68 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All