What the job involves
Hydrotherapists apply hydrotherapy techniques to help dogs recover from injury. Treatments are usually carried out for diagnosed conditions or injuries on dogs referred by a veterinary surgeon, although hydrotherapy is also used as an enjoyable form of exercise.
As a hydrotherapist, you will need to be compassionate, have a strong interest in animals and relevant experience handling them. You must be able to swim, and it is important to have good observation skills, along with a mind for enquiry and an aptitude for science. Good communication skills are essential, and the ability to work in a team with other professionals.
Your work could be full-time or part-time, and your hours could be flexible, depending on the needs of clients. The majority of your time would be spent working indoors, with the use of a hydrotherapy pool and water treadmill to aid the recovery of animals from injury. Aside from this, you may have various administration tasks and office duties to complete.
Hydrotherapists often work weekends on a shift basis, and whilst the job may involve long hours, it can be highly rewarding.
Qualifications and training
Although you can enter employment as a qualified hydrotherapist, many companies offer on-the-job training.
If you wish to become a canine hydrotherapist you must satisfy a list of training requirements. These include completing courses on subjects such as canine/feline first aid, pool water management, hydrotherapy theory, and canine anatomy and physiology.
What qualifications do I need to start training as a Hydrotherapist?
ABC Awards provide an accredited Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Hydrotherapy for Small Animals. This qualification is offered by a number of hydrotherapy centres across the country. Although it is not essential, a certificate in Animal First Aid would look attractive to potential employees, and it is often a desirable criterion in job applications for hydrotherapists.
Other courses are available, but it is recommended that your chosen course is recognised by the Canine Hydrotherapy Association (CHA) and the National Association of Registered Canine Hydrotherapists (NARCH).
Getting into the profession
The entry requirements will be set by the recruiting organisation so they will vary with each available post. Besides meeting any academic requirements set, it is recommended to try and gain any relevant work experience and or additional qualifications you can to make your application competitive. Many Hydrotherapists have studied courses such as Animal Welfare and Management, Animal Care, and Veterinary Nursing, before training in animal hydrotherapy.
Salary and benefits
Salaries range, depending on the organisation you work for and the area you work in. As a starting salary you could expect to earn around £14,000-18,000 a year, and the amount charged for sessions varies:
- initial consultations (from 30 minutes to 2 hours) from £20 to £70.50
- follow-up consultations (from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours) from £20 to £60.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Once qualified as a hydrotherapist, you would need to keep your skills and knowledge up to date by attending CPD short courses and training. This would normally involve completing a certain number of hours’ training each year in line with your professional body’s guidelines.
With experience you could progress to a senior job, such as area team supervisor, training manager or regional training manager. You may also be able to use your skills to become self-employed and set up your own business.