Hydrotherapy Four Paws Changes

From 1st April 2024

We are committed to open and transparent communication with our clients as we navigate the changes required to be a sustainable and viable service for the future.

We understand that for clients the impact of change often transcends mere adjustments in procedures or services; it can evoke a myriad of emotions, ranging from apprehension to anticipation. Therefore we’ve created this page exclusively for you to help answer those questions and provide the facts to help you best make decisions for your dog.

This page is best viewed on a computer due to the volume of information presented.

Service Changes

We’re changing a few of our services to provide more meaningful treatment times and all inclusive treatment options that maximise recovery and reduce pain.

Below we’ve outlined the changes to the historic Hydrotherapy services at Hydrotherapy Four Paws:

  • General Session Times – Our general session times are extending to 45 minutes from 30 minutes
  • Clinical Assessment – The 45 minute sessions allows more time to assess your dog and specifically target treatments each time
  • Pre-Session Showers – We’ve explained below why this is really important
  • Fixed Fee – Regardless of Treadmill, Pool or Physio there is no change in pricing so your dog gets what it needs

There are of course variances to a ‘typical’ programme and our therapists are empowered to make the most appropriate suggestions for treatments for your dog. We’ve set out a section below in “What service is best for my dog” which explains more.

In addition to these service changes for Hydrotherapy we are adding more treatment options:

  • Physiotherapy – Our new dedicated treatment room is perfect for non-aquatic treatments and home exercise planning
  • Extended Treatment Times – You can book 60 minute sessions which combine physiotherapy and hydrotherapy
  • Bracing & Orthotics – Our Clinical Director is specially trained in fitting custom braces to support joints
  • More Assessment Tools – We’re investing in state of the art equipment to provide objective stance and gait analysis
  • More Treatment Tools – We’re also investing in the latest treatment tools to deliver better options for your dogs

Physical Changes

We’ve completed the first phase of internal remodelling which has enabled us to introduce our Physiotherapy options. Next, we will focus on safety and energy efficiency measures in the practice. And then, we are looking at the best ways to remodel the Hydrotherapy areas to provide privacy for even the most nervous of dogs. Eventually we’ll be adding to upstairs an educational suite to provide specialist training for the next generation, our own staff and for clients.

Service Changes

There are no planned additional changes to services beyond those descibed above.

Effective from the 1st April 2024 will be a revised cancellation policy. We know life can throw lemons so it allows for reasonable cancellations due to ill health in humans and animals but does mean that late cancellations for matters such as work changes or forgetting an appointment will be chargeable at full rate. Our policy can be seen here: www.thecaninefitnesscentre.co.uk/terms-of-service/ 

Your dog’s therapist will work in conjunction with yourself to recommend the most effective treatment model to yield the best results.

For most dog’s a 45 minute treatment session is appropriate:

  • Hydrotherapy Sessions include assessment, pre and post session showers, complimentary treats and grooming products, insurance claims as required, veterinary reporting and time to discuss your dog’s ongoing treatment needs
  • Physiotherapy Sessions include assessment, land-based treatments of any recommended modality, home care advice, treats, insurance claims as required, veterinary reports and time to discuss your dog’s ongoing treatment needs

There are however cases that don’t fit the mould. That’s okay we’ve got options for that:

  • Express Sessions are shorter 30 minute sessions where for behavioural, clinical condition (elderly and infirm), or for infant patients mean we adjust the content of the treatment plan to remove elements that might impact your dog – it might be assessment due to fear aggression, or length of time in the pool due to age.
  • Extended Sessions are longer 60 minute sessions where for varying reasons your dog would benefit for more clinical time. This might be to allow for multiple treatments together like Laser Treatment and Hydrotherapy, but equally it might be because your dog is nervous and needs more time.

And, then there are of course fun and fitness dogs where there is no underlying health condition (with the exception being weight management) and they just want a bit of fun in a controlled environment. We call that a ‘guided swimming session’ as there will always be a therapist with them for safety. 

We have a legal and moral responsibility for the safety of your dog and our staff. Dog’s bring fresh contaminants into the clinic every day and these contaminants can spread in water based environments. By showering your dog in fresh water before hand we reduce the risk of contamination.

We have our water externally tested in a laboratory each month. In January, February and March 2024 the process that estimates the total numbers of microorganisms, such as bacteria, yeast or mould species in both the pool and Underwater Treadmill were out of the acceptable ranges for a clinical environment. As such we are requiring all dogs to be showered beforehand to reduce risks to our staff and dogs.

As with all situations this is our standard rule and there may be exceptions to the rule for behavioural cases.

It is a requirement of both our insurance and governing bodies that each and every time we see a patient we clinically reason the treatments we are providing. Without assessing your dog it’s impossible to know the risk factors for treatment. It’s like going to the dentist, they’ll check your teeth before giving a filling – we’ll check your dog’s general health and musculoskeletal condition before providing hydrotherapy treatments.

This should be a minimum standard for any qualified practice.

As with showering there may be exceptions to this rule, for example a dog who is behaviourally challenging to handle may be better clinically assessed in the water than on land.

Absolutely! We provide guided swimming sessions for dogs without clinical conditions. These are charged at a slightly lower rate of £43 for a 40 minute session to reflect the shorter time, less experience required and less paperwork required.

There are two routes for multi-dog swims:

  • Split sessions allow for 45 minutes or 60 minutes total session time with the pool time split at your request between the dogs of the same household.
  • Multi dog sessions allow for the same treatment times as general or extended sessions but receive a time based discount due to service efficiencies.

Due to restrictions on our insurance policy and safe working practices set out by our governing bodies we are unable to allow two dogs or more in the pool at the same time unless there is exceptional circumstance and appropriate staff are available.

Pricing Changes

From the 1st April our new session rates will be:

  • Extended Sessions (60 Minutes) – £60
  • General Sessions (45 Minutes) – £50
  • Express Sessions (30 Minutes) – £40
  • Guided Sessions (40 Minutes) – £43


These prices are aligned to our clinics in Petersfield and Portsmouth.

Our team will clinically reason each patient’s needs and advise you on the best treatment protocol to achieve the best results. The choice is ultimately yours as to the type of treatment programme booked.

After purchasing the business the Canine Fitness Company received the finalised accounts from the accountants for the year to date. This showed that the business had made a loss for 3 out of the 4 financial quarters. Before even considering the increased costs we’re facing it quickly became clear that without change the business could ultimately be forced into closure.

The UK Government have increased the national minimum wage by 10% from April 2024 onwards. Major employers such as Tesco and Aldi have all committed to paying their employees the Real Living Wage which is a 15% rise. To retain the incredible staff who work tirelessly in a very physical job and ensure that they are rewarded for their skill set we have to set an attractive and fair salary. We were also mandated in our contract of sale to increase the salaries of staff. As a minimum our staff salaries are raising to above the Real Living Wage. Our salary bill represents over 60% of the costs of operations.

In addition to our staffing bill increasing there are many other costs that have or are increasing that we have to factor in. These costs are all requirements to exist and operate safely;

  • The Landlord confirmed that the rent is going to rise inline with market values for the sector – we expect this to be approximately 12% based upon current indexed rates
  • Our insurances renewed on the 17th March. Aviva who previously ran our insurance programme closed their scheme for Hydrotherapy centres which means we have to use specialist firms increasing costs to over double.
  • The pool uses certain chemicals to maintain a healthy disinfectant routine. These chemicals are affected by the challenges in the Red Sea which have put up the price of purchase by over 25%. 
  • BT has written to us and told us that their prices for telephone and WiFi are increasing by 8%.

The costs outline above make up a further 15% of our cost of operation. That’s 75% of our minimum baseline operating costs rising significantly. Collectively our fixed costs are around £100 per hour of opening just to operate.

Further to these costs the business has various loans to repay for equipment such as the Underwater Treadmill, a new pool installed in October, and the new Physiotherapy equipment. These loans total over £30,000 each year owing.

As you can see, these unavoidable costs are having a material impact on the business and our prices have to rise to ensure we are able to survive and thrive into the long term. 

The significance of change is of course all relative. At the time of taking ownership clients were being charged between £25 and £42 per service for effectively the same programmes creating inconsistencies and a lack of fairness across the charging structure. The jump in pricing therefore for a client on a £25 rate is more challenging that a client on a £42 rate.

In 2023, ManyPets – one of the largest pet insurance companies – increased their baseline payout limit for UK policies to £500 recognising the national average charge for this service as £50 per treatment. We too benchmarked our 2023 prices across the region and when comparing like for like services the average rates were:

  • £50.49 for 30 Minute Hydrotherapy Treatments
  • £66.59 for 45 Minute Physiotherapy Treatments
  • Additional charges for grooming, insurance claims and therapists

For smaller and less experienced/qualified clinics the average session was still £43.44 per 30 minute session. Typically these practices don’t have to charge 20% VAT like we do. For the quality of treatment, experience and knowledge to support your dog our new pricing plans are therefore very much competitive.

Our general treatment programmes are also extended to 45 minutes to allow for meaningful care of patients. Comparatively it’s therefore only clients on the previous “special pricing” rates who will see a significant change.

In short, No. We have no option to share some of the costs with our clients. No different from any other business. There are however operational savings we can make by bulk buying some products as a larger group of centres. We are also making moves to bring in energy efficiency savings as our annual electric bill in Wickham is over 3x the amount at the clinic in Petersfield. We have made assumptions with regard to these savings and they have been factored into the pricing plans.

Hydrotherapy Four Paws has historically provided a 10% discount to those who block book and pay in advance. Due to complications arising during the sale and acquisition process we have had to press the pause button on block bookings. We will continue to explore subscription based models to reward loyalty of clients.

We totally understand that you want the best for your pet. We do too. You may want to consider changing the regularity of visits or adapt treatment plans to be more cost effective. Here are some examples:

  • If you typically attended weekly with your dog: Why not switch to bi-weekly session and even those on a historic special rate will save monthly on historic costs. Your dog will still receive the benefit of treatment and your pocket a little less challenged.

  • Consider a physiotherapy appointment to get home exercises where you can strengthen your dog at home in your own time. A perfect adjunct to hydrotherapy that’s more spaced apart.

Still got a question?

We’ve tried to cover off the frequently asked questions and concerns we have heard from Hydrotherapy Four Paws clients but if there is something else you need advice on then please let us know at wickham@thecaninefitnesscentre.co.uk