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Level 3 Diploma in Small Animal Hydrotherapy + The Level 6 Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy with Hydrotherapy - Part 1

Ofqual Code 603/4410/6
Ofqual Code Physiotherapy 603/7725/2
Guided Learning Hours 626 Physio + 109 Hydro
Enrolment valid for 4 years
Award type Diploma
Assessment Method Portfolio of Evidence and practical assessment
Practical (mandatory) Learners need to attend 25 days of practical training and assessment (at one of our centres) PLUS 800 hours of physiotherapy clinical practice PLUS 6 days of hydrotherapy training and assessment
Entry Criteria Minimum age: 18. Learners must be able to access veterinary physiotherapy clinics to complete 800 hours of clinical practice.
Credits 153 Physio + 15 Hydro

This regulated qualification package consists of

Level 3 Diploma in Small Animal Hydrotherapy  (603/4410/6) Click here for Qualification Guide


 Level 6 Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy with Hydrotherapy (603/7725/2) Click here for Qualification Guide

Level 3 Diploma in Small Animal Hydrotherapy:

Learners will gain an understanding of the techniques involved in the provision of hydrotherapy and the assessment required before small animal hydrotherapy commences. Learn about the various medical conditions and their impact on hydrotherapy treatment. This regulated qualification also develops students knowledge around tissue healing, small animal behaviour and professional practice management. Additionally, students will learn terminology to be able to conduct gait analysis and review patient performance practically. There is a focus on Practical Aquatic Treadmill Therapy and Advanced Treadmill Techniques – something that is not offered in any other qualification. The level 3 Diploma in Small Animal Hydrotherapy meets the membership criteria for joining the Canine Hydrotherapy Association (CHA) and the International Association of Animal Therapists ( IAAT). This qualification consists of theory and practical training:

  • The theoretical principles of animal hydrotherapy and treadmill therapy, as well as theoretical guidance on how these therapies can be used.
  • Details on the conditions that hydrotherapy can benefit. These are primarily orthopaedic, medical and neurological in nature, and therapists are required to be well-versed in these conditions in order to accurately administer therapy.
  • First aid and dealing with small animal emergencies – this is essential for therapists who intend to work in animal healthcare and a mandatory requirement from the CHA/ NARCH to practice as a hydrotherapist.
  • Practical administration of hydrotherapy for dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals.
  • Small animal behaviour relevant to dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals in a therapeutic setting.
  • Thorough guidance on learning to assess an animal’s likely outcome from hydrotherapy and how to ascertain whether the treatment is suitable for a specific case.
  • Learn about small animal anatomy and biology; essential for ensuring robust baseline medical knowledge.
  • The basic fundamentals of administering hydrotherapy, such as assessment, handling of the patient, managing the equipment and other elements that are essential for effective treatment.
  • Learn how to manage aftercare for an animal that has experienced a session of hydrotherapy, and how to interact with pet owners to explain performance during the session.
Intensive hands-on training and assessments with our team of experienced Vets, Physiotherapists and Hydrotherapists at Woozelbears, a well established canine hydrotherapy company. This centre has top of the range equipment including underwater treadmills, large bespoke pools, a hydrotherapy spa, the 2nd gait analysis treadmill in the UK and a team of highly qualified personnel. Gain hands-on training with a variety of dogs attending for rehabilitation and sports conditioning. Train with highly qualified, experienced hydrotherapists and veterinary physiotherapists to learn how the treatment is used in a working rehabilitation clinic. This includes pool hydrotherapy and hydrotherapy treadmill treatments, including innovative advanced aquatic treadmill techniques. The practical training enables students to learn from experienced professionals in the industry while working with a range of cases at different stages of treatment. A range of practical dates are available. Students are required to have good physical mobility as the practical placement involves the following activities:
  • Handling a variety of dogs with varying mobility.
  • The ability to handle the dog at their level (knelt).
  • Moving around the dog to accommodate their body language and behaviour.
  • Strength, stability, and balance when working with a patient in the confinement of an aquatic treadmill.
  • Suitable mobility to get in an above-ground pool and walk through a 1 metre water level under the resistance and hydrostatic pressure of a heated hydrotherapy pool.
  • If attending an advanced treadmill course, students must be able to stand, bend over and kneel in the treadmill and deliver the techniques for a variety of breeds.
  • Suitable fitness to perform 40 hours or practical training.

Level 6 Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy with Hydrotherapy:


Following completion of this qualification, learners are able to join membership organisations such as the Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (RAMP) for which we have Accredited Education Provider Status, meaning upon successful completion, there would be no further evidence or training required to register with RAMP as a Veterinary Physiotherapist for small animals.


This qualification will provide learners with a higher-level knowledge of small animal hydrotherapy and allow them to qualify as a veterinary physiotherapist, gaining the skills, knowledge and practical training required to treat animals both in and out of the water. The course content combines a sound knowledge base of anatomy and exercise physiology in animals along with occupational competence in providing excellent rehabilitation and physiotherapy care for a range of animals and conditions. This qualification consists of theory and practical training:

The units of this qualification, spread over 3 parts, have been carefully curated with the guidance of industry professionals to ensure that learners receive a rich knowledge base to equip them for a rewarding career in this industry.

Learners will explore topics such as advanced neuro physiotherapy, understanding pain, physiotherapy techniques, professional skill, exercise prescription and rehabilitation. Learners will benefit from the higher-level hydrotherapy content which compliments the comprehensive physiotherapy content. Clinical reasoning and case reporting are also examined within this qualification and learners will gain valuable experience by completing 800 clinical practice hours. This course is an excellent choice for students wishing to qualify as a Veterinary Physiotherapist. On successful completion of this qualification, learners can seek employment as veterinary physiotherapists and hydrotherapists, working to treat animals both in and out of the water. Alternatively, learners can seek employment in a specialist role within a wider practice setting. This qualification also ensures that learners are equipped with the professional skills needed to work as a self-employed veterinary physiotherapist.

The practical training will be conducted in small numbers split over the clinical spaces with a mix of live clients and practitioner animals to allow focused personal development. There will be time for reflective learning as well as larger group workshops. Learners will be actively hands on in all aspects of running a busy practice and teaching approaches will be adapted to reflect differing learning styles. Learners attending the Canine Fitness Centre may be able to benefit from additional benefits and opportunities beyond the structured learning including business mentoring and opportunities with an experienced senior business executive, discounted access to an exercise prescription and client record app, and further clinical and behavioural experience with our partners. A range of practical dates are available.

Unit 1

An Introduction to Hydrotherapy
This unit provides background information about small animal hydrotherapy. Gain an understanding of the properties of water, types of equipment used in hydrotherapy and the intended outcomes of hydrotherapy.

Unit 2

Anatomy and Physiology of Small Animals
The unit provides an introduction to the subjects of anatomy and physiology - this is essential for successful hydrotherapy sessions and achieving the desired outcome.

Unit 3

Gait Analysis and Biomechanics
This unit studies gait patterns and relevant terminology, as well as posture and muscle contractions relevant to hydrotherapy treatment.

Unit 4

Hydrotherapy and Related Conditions
This unit explores the conditions that are commonly presented for hydrotherapy. This includes medical, orthopaedic and neurological conditions.

Unit 5

Introduction to Small Animal Massage
Explore the benefits of small animal massage and the techniques used in small animal massage. Learn about the various forms of massage and the benefits of massage on common injuries.

Unit 6

Maintenance of Hydrotherapy Equipment and Water Balance
Learn about water testing and how to interpret results from water tests.

Unit 7

Practical Administration of Hydrotherapy
This unit explores the practical application of hydrotherapy from the initial assessment to preparation of the patient, to hydrotherapy treatment and aftercare.

Unit 8

Practical Advanced Aquatic Treadmill Techniques
Learn about the practical application of advanced aquatic treadmill techniques and how to adjust hydrotherapy treatment and review patient performance.

Unit 9

Practical Aquatic Treadmill Therapy
This practical unit is all about the aquatic treadmill and how to create treadmill sessions for patients.

Unit 10

Professional Practice Management
Learn about the importance of CPD, professional conduct within the workplace, roles and responsibilities within a hydrotherapy centre and administration carried out in an animal hydrotherapy centre.

Unit 11

Small Animal Assessment for Hydrotherapy
This unit studies the veterinary referral process. It also explores the subject of health checking small animals. Learn about the various professional team members that are involved in assessing patients suitability for hydrotherapy and the patients subsequent treatment.

Unit 12

Small Animal Behaviour
Gain an understanding of small animal behaviour in relation to hydrotherapy. Learn about safe handling and how to understand body language in small animals.

Unit 13

Small Animal First Aid
This unit examines the aims of first aid, the different types of emergency that the student may come across in a hydrotherapy centre, and the practical application of first aid techniques.

Unit 14

Tissue Healing Process
This unit explores the tissue healing process, including factors that may affect this process, types of pain, and timing of hydrotherapy treatment.

Unit 15

Advanced Pool and Treadmill Techniques
This unit focuses on conducting hydrotherapy sessions using advanced pool and treadmill techniques.

Unit 16

Business Management in Small Animal Hydrotherapy
Learners will develop knowledge of how to establish a hydrotherapy company. They will explore the importance of branding and marketing and learn how to manage hydrotherapy business accounts.

Unit 17

Canine Nutrition
This unit looks at the role of nutrients for canines and how they support bodily functions. Learners will study the structure and function of the canine digestive system and understand what nutritional benefits the canine diet provides.

Unit 18

Conditions and Surgical Procedures in Small Animals
Learners will explore common orthopaedic and neurological conditions that may benefit from hydrotherapy treatment. Learners will investigate how to manage small animals with these conditions.

Unit 19

Feline Behaviour, Nutrition and Handling
This unit examines common feline behaviour and how to to handle felines correctly and safely in a hydrotherapy setting.

Unit 20

Higher Anatomy and Physiology
Learners will explore in detail the muscles and joints, and their role within the skeletal system. Learners will become familiar with the anatomical terminology used in referrals.

Unit 21

Introduction to Canine Laser Therapy
This unit looks at canine laser therapy and the different types of class IV laser equipment. Learners will explore the different types of wavelengths and their importance in laser therapy. They will also learn about the types of conditions in small animals that will benefit from laser therapy and understand the health and safety responsibilities of a laser therapist.

Unit 22

Introduction to Small Animal Physiotherapy
This unit covers the structure and function of the canine musculoskeletal system. Learners will look at common orthopaedic conditions that are suitable for physiotherapy and discover the professional duties of a physiotherapist and the range of equipment required.

Unit 23

Land Based Exercise for Small Animals
Learners will study the importance of clinical reasoning of land based manual exercise. Learners will also investigate the risk and contraindications of basic land-based therapy and the reasons for integration and transfer of land to water based therapy.

Unit 24

Pool and Treadmill Operations and Water Management
Learners will develop the knowledge to maintain hydrotherapy pools and treadmills effectively, along with understanding the potential risk and hazards of inadequate maintenance.

Unit 25

Practical Skills in Small Animal Hydrotherapy
Learners will study a range of practical skills required in small animal hydrotherapy. Learners will have the opportunity to design and evaluate plans and programmes for hydrotherapy and treadmill treatment plans.

Unit 26

Professional Practice in a Hydrotherapy Centre
This unit looks at what ‘duty of care’ means in relation to running a hydrotherapy centre. Learners will study the implications health and disease have in a hydrotherapy centre and the importance of accurate record keeping.

Unit 27

Small Animal Massage Therapy
This unit explores what small animal massage entails and the impact on the anatomical structures of small animals. Learners will have the opportunity to examine the different types of small animal massage technique and understand the benefits for certain conditions experienced by small animals.

Unit 28

Stress and Small Animal Hydrotherapy
This unit covers how to recognise signs of stress during small animal hydrotherapy. Learners will understand how to reduce stress during hydrotherapy and understand the safe handling techniques to be used on small animals.

Veterinary Physiotherapy

A veterinary referral for physiotherapy can help animals to recover from a range of conditions such as:

  • Back pain
  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Fractures
  • Sporting injuries
  • Post-surgery recovery
  • Improving biomechanics and athletic ability

The use of physiotherapy within the veterinary sphere is increasing. Animals can undergo a variety of treatments such as:

  • Manual techniques
  • Electrotherapies
  • Exercise therapy

Small Animal Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a form of low impact therapeutic exercise that takes place in water, sometimes using an underwater treadmill. It is normally recommended as a treatment for chronic conditions, preparation and recovery from surgery, and for general fitness.

Water is an optimal environment for rehabilitation and the easing of pain. Water buoyancy supports movement and also ensures protection for joints and muscles. Animal patients who receive physical rehabilitation in water have shown a faster return to their normal function.

Referrals from veterinary surgeons to qualified hydrotherapists are increasing. They are tasked with creating and carrying out suitable treatment plans for a variety of animals and conditions such as:

  • Cruciate ligament problems
  • Sprains and Breaks
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Spinal Injuries and paralysis
  • Post-operative muscle regeneration and maintenance
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
  • Obesity and weight control

According to the Canine Hydrotherapy Association, “Hydrotherapy in conjunction with veterinary treatment can significantly improve the quality and rate of healing following surgery or traumatic injury. Controlled swimming helps to improve cardiovascular stamina, muscle tone, range of movement and is particularly helpful in aiding recovery from injury or surgery whilst also improving general fitness”

The benefits of hydrotherapy for animals include:

  • Increased motion range in joints
  • Relief of pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Improved circulation
  • Increased tissue healing
  • Muscle maintenance and strengthening
  • Alleviating muscle spasm
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Increased speed of recovery

Combining physical rehabilitation with hydrotherapy is well regarded and can be an invaluable addition to a veterinary practice. Working with a trained professional can ensure that aches and pains decrease and mobility is improved.

Key Points

  • Study the advanced methods used by Veterinary Physiotherapists and Animal Hydrotherapists
  • Learn about a range of advanced therapy methods for small animals in and out of the water
  • Gain 6 days of practical hydrotherapy training, and 25 days of physiotherapy training
  • Gain 800 hours of experience with animals in Veterinary Physiotherapy practices
  • Discover in-depth knowledge on animal rehabilitation and various therapies and treatments

About your Course

The Level 3 Diploma in Small Animal Hydrotherapy and Level 6 Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy with Hydrotherapy is a combined course resulting in a degree-level qualification. This course will enable you to become a qualified Small Animal Hydrotherapist and Veterinary Physiotherapist, working with animal patients in and out of the water. 

This course contains two qualifications, available to study in three parts. 

  • Part 1 includes Small Animal Hydrotherapy
  • Part 2 includes Veterinary Physiotherapy with Hydrotherapy (Not included in this payment)
  • Part 3 includes Veterinary Physiotherapy which is the final stage (Not included in this payment)

You must complete all parts (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) to obtain a certificate and become qualified in Small Animal Hydrotherapy and Veterinary Physiotherapy.

This course is for learners aged 18 and over. Learners are required to complete 6 days of practical canine hydrotherapy training at a Hydrotherapy centre. Learners must be able to access veterinary physiotherapy clinics to complete 800 hours of clinical practice, along with completing 25 days of practical physiotherapy training and assessment at The Canine Fitness Centre. A range of practical dates are available.

Following completion of this qualification, learners can join the membership organisations such as the Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (RAMP) the Canine Hydrotherapy Association (CHA) and the International Association of Animal Therapists (IAAT).

Getting Started

Animal Courses Direct is the UK’s leading online course provider. Our online courses give you the flexibility to engage with your studies whenever suits you best. 

The benefit of online learning means that you can plan your studies around your existing commitments. So you’re able to progress with your learning in a way that works for you, without the stressful balancing act. With no classes to attend or a timetable to stick to, you’re in control of the pace and place of your learning.

What’s more, we have dedicated and experienced online tutors to support you throughout your course. As well as all the material being readily available as soon as you enrol so you’re able to start right away.

For more information about Part 2, click here. For more information about Part 3, click here.

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