The underwater treadmill

In Uncategorized by Denico Brand

Therapy for dogs

Hydrotherapy has been used to treat human maladies for many centuries. Most of us can agree that floating in a Jacuzzi is relaxing. The advantages of walking in water first emerged in the animal world when this practice was used to assist race horses. Using water therapy in racing Greyhounds was the next step and the water walker or underwater treadmill was born. 

Any form of hydrotherapy makes use of the properties of water. A brief overview of these properties follows:

  1. Water resistance. Depending on the depth, the limbs must move through the water, or be lifted out of the water. This activity improves strength and counteracts muscle atrophy.
  2. Buoyancy. The water supports weak patients and those that are unable to stand unassisted. There are less concussive forces on the joints. 
  3. Hydrostatic pressure. The pressure that the water places on the body can assist with circulatory problems and to reduce oedema.
  4. Water temperature. Warm water soothes muscles and aching joints. 

The underwater treadmill is a great adjunct to any physiotherapeutic recovery program. It allows for very specific targeting of movement in joints. This is dependent on the level of the water as well as the speed at which the tread moves. Reduced concussion and less weight bearing are desirable following surgery or injury. The water in the treadmill achieves this while simultaneously supporting the weakened body or limb. Once the tread begins to move, the body (and limbs) must move against the water.

This resistance contributes to increased muscle strength. There is a great deal of control when using this machine, making reinjury less likely. 

For canine athletes or working dogs, regular exercise in the underwater treadmill can increase stamina and endurance. The sessions will also strengthen muscles. “Positive results can often be seen quickly when incorporating hydrotherapy into athletic conditioning programs, as exercise in water can accelerate results when compared to similar land-based exercises,” says Dr. Kern. “For example, trotting in the underwater treadmill with the water at elbow height for 2 miles would be approximately the equivalent amount of exercise as running 4 to 5 miles on land with less concussive forces on the joints.” 

Overweight or obese pets can exercise more safely in the underwater treadmill than on land. Again, the concussive forces on the joints are reduced while the cardiovascular load is increased by the resistance of the water. A word of caution: compromised patients (including those that are overweight) should all first be examined by your veterinarian. Once a clean bill of health has been awarded, then it is time to hit the water! 
Should you feel that your dog needs any form of hydrotherapy, please consult any one of our veterinarians or therapists in this regard or 083 230 2188. Alternatively, search for a registered veterinary physiotherapist in your area