Underwater Treadmill Hydrotherapy and its Benefits

At Animal Care Clinic, we’re excited to now be able to offer underwater treadmill hydrotherapy! Hydrotherapy has been proven to be an effective tool in veterinary physical rehabilitation. Underwater treadmill sessions utilize the natural buoyancy, resistance, pressure and warmth of water to promote strength, endurance, and increased range of motion. This is particularly useful with pets with arthritis, neurologic issues, recovering from injury, pets needing to lose weight, and pets that just need some good ol’ fashioned (underwater!) exercise.

Why Buoyancy Matters

A big reason that underwater treadmill hydrotherapy is so effective is that the water provides buoyancy. We all weigh less in water because our bodies tend to float. This is no less true for a dog or a cat. In the case of hydrotherapy, the buoyancy of the water allows patients to exercise their muscles and joints without their own body weight putting pressure on their sore points. If a pet has a sore or weak leg, he will bear more weight on that limb in water than on land. Over time, muscle mass is gradually increased without the discomfort and muscle stress that can sometimes come with traditional land-based physical therapy. This makes underwater treadmill therapy an excellent treatment option for many musculoskeletal conditions, as well as for post-operative therapy.

The Healing Characteristics of Water

Warm water is another benefit of hydrotherapy. We all know that warm water is very therapeutic. It soothes sore muscles, loosens tight tendons, and increases blood supply to healing tissues. The warm water also helps to decrease the pet’s blood pressure – which decreases stress on the cardiovascular system and the whole body in general. Warm water may provide pain relief as well. In addition, the hydrostatic pressure of the water pushes slightly in on the pet. This can be great for a pet with swelling associated with an injury or healing. The slight amount of pressure, along with the heat from the warm water, helps to alleviate the swelling and this means less pain and better movement.

Strength Building Through Resistance

Used in conjunction with a proper weight management diet, underwater treadmill therapy also offers an effective option for weight loss – particularly for older pets. In this case, it’s the resistance of the water that’s important. Water resistance increases metabolic demand – which burns more calories and improves muscle strength. Underwater treadmill therapy can also be a wonderful exercise for animal athletes. This type of controlled training helps to build and maintain muscle and strengthen the core. Walking speed can be increased to running speed and changing the water level increases the resistance. This offers a more challenging workout, without any undue stress on the joints. The result is increased endurance, increased cardiovascular capacity, increased flexibility, and stronger muscles – all of which reduce the chances of injury. The intensive conditioning offered by a water treadmill can be helpful to keep older, arthritic dogs moving and athletic dogs in peak performance – especially offseason.

If you think your pet may benefit from underwater treadmill therapy, please contact us at Animal Care Clinic for more information. In addition to hydrotherapy, we offer physical therapy, physical manipulation, therapeutic laser, and more – all of which may improve your pet’s quality of life. Let us help you to help your pet!