Aqua Therapy in Pet Rehabilitation: A Comparison of the Benefits of the Underwater Treadmill and Pool

underwater treadmill hydrotherapycanine hydrotherapy in heated poolThe Role Of  Aqua Therapy In Rehabilitation

Aqua therapy, the use of a pool or underwater treadmill, is an important and well utilized modality in many of the rehabilitation programs at our facility. Why does it play such a large role in therapy for most of our recovering or arthritic patients? Well, for quite a few reasons. The buoyancy of water acts to reduce the amount of weight pressing down on painful joints or sore muscles during exercise or movement. Swimming in a pool can allow weightless exercise for the painful animal. Depending on the level of water that the patient is walking in, the underwater treadmill can reduce the amount of a pet’s body weight bearing down on joints by up to 62%. The hydrostatic pressure from the surrounding water will act to reduce tissue edema and minimize swelling in the lower extremities during exercise. Hydrostatic pressure will also work to decrease the perception of pain during exercise and allow for better movement of a problem area than when out of the water. Lastly, the resistance from moving through water will work to strengthen muscles and increase overall cardiovascular fitness.

In summary,  aqua therapy is a great tool to:

1. Strengthen muscles, build endurance

2. Encourage better range of motion of joints

3. Promote a happy and confident pet through independent, pain free exercise.

Is The Pool The Best Choice For My Pet?

At the Rehabilitation Center, we have a heated pool for our patients to use. The weightless experience of swimming can be easier to maneuver for some of our more painful patients. An older, unstable patient or paralyzed pet may be a stronger participant in the pool where they don’t have to worry about falling over. And for the stubborn patient that refuses to use an injured limb during recovery, there is no choice but to swim when your feet don’t touch the bottom and you find yourself in the middle of the pool. Most dogs have excellent front limb movement in the pool. This is why I sometimes go straight to the pool if I have a pet with a painful elbow or shoulder. Usually I can encourage greater front limb range of motion in the pool and loosen up tight muscles.  Continue…