What I do
I work as a canine hydrotherapist at Cotswold Dog Spa, based on the Hartpury campus. After an assessment with the owner, we give the dog a therapeutic pre-shower for hygiene and to warm and provide sensory stimulation of the muscles. We then conduct water-based work, either in the hydrotherapy pool or treadmill, using therapeutic techniques. These include sequences through the water, stimulation of limbs, active range of motion and massage. After the session, we give the dog a therapeutic shower as the massage and the warmth helps relax the muscles and joints.
How I got here
I started at Cotswold Dog Spa as a student volunteer while studying my Bioveterinary Science degree at Hartpury University. I volunteered there for two years and, after I graduated in July 2015, I secured a job as a trainee canine hydrotherapist alongside Vikki Purves, who was also a student volunteer. We have both since completed the ABC Level 3 Certificate in Small Animal Hydrotherapy.
About my job
It’s vital to have an understanding of canine behaviour as the majority of dogs we treat are rehabilitating. They could be in pain and act differently to what would be considered normal by the owner, so we work at the dog’s own pace and are guided by their behaviour. I’m working as part of a multi-disciplinary team and, by law, we have to receive a veterinary referral so it’s important to have a good professional relationship with local vets too. I discuss the dogs with them to ensure they are receiving appropriate care. I also supervise and teach Hartpury students on work experience. We aim to provide them with enhanced knowledge on canine behaviour and animal handling skills, as well as to improve their communication skills. We support them to be actively involved in the hydrotherapy sessions.
The best bits about my job
Seeing the improvements in rehabilitation cases; from young dogs with Hip Dysplasia progressing from nervous and lame to excited and pain free to neurological cases being able to stand on their own without support, having previously been unable to stand or walk. It is always rewarding to know that your therapeutic skills as a hydrotherapist have helped make that possible, alongside input from other members of the multi-disciplinary team.
Why Hartpury University
I always wanted to be a vet but I wasn’t aware of the alternative career paths. I didn’t get the grades I needed at A-level to apply for veterinary science at university and I came to Hartpury University for a clearing open day. After visiting and discussing courses, I decided on the Bioveterinary Science degree. We were offered a taster session in canine hydrotherapy as part of study week in my first year and I was told about the opportunity to volunteer with Tessa Lewis at Cotswold Dog Spa. Tessa allowed me and three other students to use the underwater treadmill to collect data for our dissertation research. I was also able to volunteer at the Equine Therapy Centre, and experience the equine underwater treadmill and land treadmill.
Top tips for future students
Get as much work experience as possible as the best way to know the ins and outs of a job is to witness and experience it first-hand. I found it the best way to learn and reinforce knowledge from my lectures during my degree.