hydrotherapy treadmill

Hydrotherapy Treadmill For Dogs

Patients with arthritic dogs, dogs recovering from orthopedic surgery or managing a neurologic condition benefit from walking in an underwater treadmill. The increased resistance of water increases cardiovascular stamina, helps strengthen muscles and reduces pain from arthritic joints.

A trained therapist can vary many factors of the treadmill including speed, direction and incline. These parameters are all controlled in the water and are very important to a proper rehabilitation program.


Hydrotherapy treadmills provide exercise that is safe and effective for dogs, cats, and other animals with joint or muscle injuries or arthritis. These devices are used to rehabilitate pets after surgery or trauma, improve mobility in compromised joints, and promote weight loss. These treadmills are becoming increasingly popular in veterinary clinics as they offer a safe, low-impact way to build endurance and maintain muscle mass.

The water in a hydrotherapy treadmill is warm, which soothes sore muscles, loosens tight tendons, and increases the blood supply to healing tissues. The buoyancy of the water minimizes the weight on the joints, and the resistance is adjustable to suit each pet’s condition.

Most pet owners are familiar with swimming pool therapy, but the use of an underwater treadmill takes physical rehabilitation to the next level. These units are typically larger than a normal pool, with a conveyor type system that operates the treadmill in the bottom of the unit. The water is kept at a comfortable temperature and can be pumped to reduce bacteria. Many hydrotherapy units also allow the addition of salt to the water, which can speed up the healing process for injuries and decrease inflammation.

Adding a hydrotherapy treadmill to your practice can greatly increase client satisfaction and retention. Veterinary clinics that specialize in cruciate ligament and TPLO repair, hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, and weight loss can use the equipment to better help their patients. Having the capability to provide this treatment in-house is also an excellent source of income for veterinarians who may otherwise be unable to afford to purchase or rent a pool.

Although some pets are apprehensive about the use of an underwater treadmill, most can learn to walk in the warm water. In most cases, the therapist will gradually introduce the treadmill to the pet by starting with short dry treadmill sessions and working up to longer sessions in deeper water. During these sessions, the therapist will adjust the height of the treadmill, and the incline can be increased or decreased.

The incline is important for achieving proper leg extension, and some hydrotherapy systems can adjust the position of the dog during a walk to encourage this movement. In addition, the therapist can add jets to create thrust for more powerful steps.


A patient or athlete who exercises on an underwater treadmill is essentially running or walking on a conveyor belt submerged in a pool that may look like an aquarium, filled to a specific depth. The resistance of the water helps strengthen muscles, but the buoyancy of the water lessens the weight and forces on joints and is hydrotherapy treadmill therefore much more gentle than exercising on land. This is a popular method of strength training and conditioning in athletes, and is also being used by veterinary physical therapists to help their patients build muscle and increase range of motion after injury or surgery.

The warm water in the hydrotherapy tank also soothes sore muscles, loosens tight tendons and increases blood flow to the healing tissues. Additionally, the minor amount of pressure from the water pushes back on swelling, which in turn decreases pain and discomfort. This is particularly important for dogs with chronic arthritis and cruciate injuries.

Although many dogs are resistant to using the hydrotherapy treadmill because of the fear or difficulty of the environment, careful therapeutic handling by our experienced physical therapists can often overcome these obstacles. With the aid of a harness that supports the pelvis, most pets quickly learn to walk on the treadmill and become comfortable with it. For those that are especially resistant, we will often tire out their other three limbs in an effort to get them to use the weaker limb on the treadmill and then gradually introduce the fourth limb until it is comfortable in the exercise.

In addition to the natural benefits of the water, some underwater treadmill units allow the therapist to control a strong counter current which can greatly increase resistance, or jets that agitate the water and increase the exertion level. At our practice, we use the jets on most patients that can exercise for 20 minutes without panting (walk one minute, rest two minutes). This allows us to increase their cardiovascular and muscular conditioning while reducing stress to their joints.

Most assistive devices that are commonly used to improve a pet’s ability to walk on land can be modified and used in the water. For example, while weights are generally used out of the water to increase stifle flexion and resistance, balloons or water wings are more appropriate in the water because they can be adjusted by the patient to achieve the desired effect.


Many dogs that are hesitant to use a limb after injury can be encouraged to walk on the underwater/hydro treadmill due to increased comfort. They may also be able to strengthen the muscles and tendons around the damaged joint by having resistance to forward motion on that functional leg. This can help with the formation of healthy pseudo-joints and maintain balance and stability in other limbs.

The temperature of the water in a hydrotherapy treadmill is usually warmer than body temperature which helps increase flexibility, loosen tight tendons and increases blood flow to healing tissues. This allows the dog to work out more vigorously and helps decrease muscle atrophy. The warm water also soothes sore muscles, decreases pain and discomfort and reduces swelling.

Water levels can be changed with the push of a button to allow different stages of weight-bearing exercise. The speed of the treadmill can also be adjusted to challenge more advanced patients.

A special feature of a hydrotherapy treadmill is the ability to add salt to the water which has been shown to accelerate the healing of wounds. This feature can be used in conjunction with other treatments to improve the results of the therapy.

Studies of the effects of changing buoyancy and resistance on the workload required for walking in water have not been conducted, but it is intuitive that moving through resistance requires more muscle fiber activation than moving through air. However, heart rate can be influenced by changes in hydrostatic pressure and water temperature, so it is difficult to evaluate the effect of changing the water level solely on muscular workload.

Another issue with studying the effect of water on the treadmill is that proximity to water can interfere with signals from surface electrodes for electromyography (EMG). This can limit the accuracy of the data collected. In addition, the conductive properties of the water can cause an undesirable electrical charge to build up on the surface electrodes. This can lead to false readings, and potentially compromise the analysis of the data. This issue is not as significant when using surface EMG with an acoustic sensor such as the one used by Shorline in their hydrotherapy treadmill.


A dog hydrotherapy treadmill is a state-of-the-art piece of equipment used to help dogs with physical rehabilitation. It is particularly useful in arthritic pets and those recovering from orthopedic injuries such as broken limbs, ruptured cruciates, or spinal surgery. It can also be helpful for neurological patients, such as those who are tetraparetic. Using the water treadmill allows these patients to get back up on their feet without the need for painful falls down stairs or on hard surfaces.

Some dogs are afraid of water and will not enter the pool at all, but most are willing to walk on the underwater treadmill if they are slowly introduced to it. Many clinics use treats placed on the ramp and tread or a frozen cup smeared with peanut butter to motivate these patients. In some cases, light sedation may be necessary during the first few sessions.

Water treadmill exercise has a variety hydrotherapy treadmill of physiological benefits in the rehabilitation setting including gentle resistance to strengthen muscles, buoyancy that limits the impact on joints, and a constant temperature for soothing comfort. In addition, the treadmill can be adjusted to varying speeds and incline levels. This versatility allows therapists to tailor the workout to each patient’s needs.

However, the same risks that would apply to land exercise also exist in the water, such as lacerations, abrasions, or skin lesions. It is essential to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the operation, maintenance, and cleaning of the equipment. It is recommended that new users of the equipment seek guidance from an experienced user. It is also important to devise loading/unloading procedures that avoid handlers being directly in front of the animal or behind it while on the treadmill belt.

In addition, it is important to record and monitor environmental controls, such as room and water temperature, and air humidity, in order to ensure that these are within their normal ranges. This information should be checked daily and if there are any deviations from the norm, they should be corrected as soon as possible. In addition, all users should be inducted on evacuation procedures, resuscitation processes and fire and manual handling assessments. It is also essential that clinical contra indications are enforced.