An Underwater Treadmill is a machine designed to give dogs and other small animals the combined benefits of treadmill exercise and hydrotherapy (therapy using water).
Many studies have shown that hydrotherapy helps animals recover after surgery or injury faster, says Kristine Edwards from Sydney Animal Physiotherapy, the first clinic in Sydney to have an underwater treadmill.
Hydrotherapy is effective for improving strength, range of motion, agility and psychological wellbeing. It also assists in reducing pain, she says.
“I’ve had the underwater treadmill for seven years and have used it consistently!” says Ms Edwards. “The buoyancy of water provides dogs with a low-impact, high-resistance workout particularly beneficial when they’re rehabilitating from an injury or surgery.”
The underwater treadmill helps to rehabilitate after injury or post surgery, helps arthritic conditions and assists with weight loss, muscle toning, and strength and endurance training. It also helps to reduce pain and allows the dog to start therapy earlier. The water applies pressure on the dog’s limbs, helping to decrease inflammation and improve circulation, and the temperature can be altered to help the dog relax and further alleviate pain.
Furthermore, muscle conditioning in water is not only an effective method of building endurance and cardiovascular strength, but most dogs also have a lot of fun, says Ms Edwards.
How Does The Underwater Treadmill Work?
The dog can go inside the tank by himself or, if a bit anxious about it, accompanied by the therapist. Once the door is closed, the machine fills up with water, usually belly level but totally depends on what you want to achieve, and you can also control speed and temperature.
“It’s commonly used for spinal injuries, knee surgery, neurological conditions, weakness, hip surgery, arthritic conditions, or for oldies that need a safe environment to get fit/exercise without injuring painful joints or for show/agility dogs to purely ‘get fit’,” says Ms Edwards. “It can be used alone, excellent for strengthening and retraining gait.”
The underwater treadmill is usually used in conjunction with other treatments, eg joint mobilisations, massage, acupuncture and home exercise plan.
“Ideally sessions are two to three times weekly to get quick results, but even once weekly can be beneficial,” she says.
Ms Edwards enjoys watching the senior dogs come in.
“As soon as they are out of the tank, they want to run around the room like puppies. The owners always report back that their dog has more energy – a spring in their step,” she says.