Hydrotherapy, also known as aquatic therapy, is a type of exercise or physical therapy involving water use to help improve the strength, flexibility, and endurance of animals. Hydrotherapy can be particularly beneficial for animals with injuries, mobility issues, or other physical conditions that make it difficult for them to engage in traditional forms of exercise. Hydrotherapy can be performed in a swimming pool or in an underwater treadmill. At Sound Animal Rehab & Fitness, we use an underwater treadmill for hydrotherapy. Using the body’s natural buoyancy, the water allows us to decrease the amount of weight and stress on the joints that occurs while standing on the ground and helps our patients move more freely with less pain that full weight bearing may cause. We use different heights of water and varying speeds of the treadmill to fit the specific needs of each patient. The end result is an increase in strength, muscle tone, coordination and range of motion of the joints.
What conditions can be treated with underwater treadmill therapy?
-Pre-surgical strengthening and conditioning
- Strengthening your pets’ muscles and tendons before an orthopedic surgery will promote a faster and stronger recovery after surgery and can reduce the amount of time to return to normal function.
- Often after surgery, there is increased pain and your pet may be hesitant to use the limb(s) affected. Dogs will often use a limb in the water that they would not use on the ground because the body’s buoyancy in water decreases the amount of weight bearing on the limbs, which decreases the pain when the limb is used. The hydrostatic pressure and the warmth of the water on the joints can also reduce swelling, reducing pain and increasing range of motion.
- Whether your dog is recovery from back or neck injury/surgery or other neurologic conditions, the most common problem we see is weakness in the limbs due to nerve injury. This weakness causes the dog to have difficultly supporting their full weight or causes incoordination of the limbs, which can affect their ability to walk. We use the water to reduce that weight bearing and to improve body awareness (i.e. where the limbs are in reference to the body). Many (not all) neurologic dogs that appear unable to use their legs will readily use their legs while in the water.
-Age related arthritis
- The water in the underwater treadmill reduces the stress and weight on the joints which allows an older, more arthritic dog to move more easily. The hydrostatic pressure and the warmth of the water on the joints can also reduce swelling, reducing pain and increasing range of motion.
-Non-surgical soft tissue injuries
- Sometimes a non-specific or non-surgical soft tissue injury can cause a lameness that results in the dog not using the leg. This can result in muscle atrophy which can predispose your dog to further injury. Often times, these dogs will use the leg in the water, but not on land. We can use the water to strengthen that leg and recondition the dog to use the leg.
- Whether your dog is an athlete, a working dog, a geriatric, has cardiac disease or is a little overweight, underwater treadmill therapy is a great way to keep them strong and fit. A workout in the treadmill has excellent cardiovascular benefits and your dogs therapy is always under the supervision of a veterinarian that is certified in canine rehabilitation.
How long should my pet received underwater treadmill therapy?
Our team at Sound will be assessing your pet at every visit to determine how they are responding to treatment and determine how long therapy is needed. Some patients graduate from therapy when they improve or have achieved complete recovery. Other patients with more chronic issues, like our older arthritic patients, may need to be in therapy on a long term basis.
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