Hydrotherapy is becoming more common in the pet industry based on its success and popularity in human physiotherapy and recovery. The veterinary industry evolved in helping obese dogs lose weight, gently rehabilitate injured and arthritic dogs, and provide a fun activity that keeps senior dogs strong without being too hard on their joints.
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It's been proven that swimming can help with arthritis, and recent studies demonstrated the same with osteoarthritic dogs. There's also been a number of studies done on the benefits of hydrotherapy for dogs. For example, a 2011 study showed that hydrotherapy not only helps with OA, but also helps dogs with cranial cruciate ligament and hip dysplasia.
Other studies showed positive results for canine elbow dysplasia, and improvements for gait and range of motion among even healthy dogs. Another 2011 study with 13 obese dogs showed how exercise regime using underwater dog treadmills was particularly helpful for safe weight management.
Currently, underwater treadmill for dogs is the most popular type of hydrotherapy. And if you’d like to start working on preventative care with your pet, looking for ways to help them stay in shape or recover from an injury or deal with arthritis, below are some things you should know about dog underwater treadmills.
Getting Old is Painful
Our dogs go through the same physical deterioration that we do over time; their sight gets a little worse, they get winded faster during fetch, and their joints start to ache. Itt happens at a much faster rate for pets, which is why veterinarians often prescribe supplements like glucosamine chondroitin and a variety of exercise routines.
Dietary changes and supplements alone aren't always enough, and what a stiff senior pup truly needs is an opportunity to stretch their legs without adding insult to injury. This is where swimming in a pool or big bathtub, and animal underwater treadmills come in.
The soothing flow of the water provides resistance that can be increased or decreased manually, and the fluidity allows your pup to move with a little less effort as their legs float through the water. The buoyancy also takes the weight of their torso off of the elbows, hips, and ankles.
They’re a Good Tool for Athletic Dogs
Athletic canines that are competitive in agility, strength and other dog sports need extensive physical therapy to keep their bodies in good. You’ve probably seen how NFL players, long distance runners, and triathletes like to sit in a bucket of ice and freezing cold water after an event. It helps to reduce inflammation and the absorption of lactic acid in their muscles; basically, it keeps them from becoming sore.
Since you obviously can’t put a dog in an ice bath without a great deal of distress, underwater treadmills are the next best thing. After pulling tires around, racing, or herding cattle, athletic dogs who require daily work also need daily recovery.
Even a slow, easygoing walk through the water to stretch the hips and thighs makes an underwater treadmill helpful to pups who struggle with hip dysplasia or similarly related health issues.
Although it's highly recommended and has made life easier for hundreds of dogs, canine underwater treadmills may not be the right option for every pet. Like anything else, this therapy device has its pros and cons, one being that a fearful pup might refuse to move forward, or move at all once the conveyor belt starts to rotate under their feet.
Some owners choose to use flotation devices such as life jackets and allow their dogs to move freely through the pool as well as give them more confidence. This way, there’s less force involved and your canine can move at their own pace and comfort. While this method won’t help as much with maintaining muscle mass as your dog gets older, it’ll still help with sore knees and stiff hips.
Pool therapy for dogs is also a little less costly at $20 to $30 a session.
How Much is Water Treadmill Therapy?
While an underwater treadmill type of hydrotherapy offers serious benefits, it usually costs a little more than just taking your dog to the beach, lake or doggy pool. Don’t let this deter you from trying it out though, as there are a couple of options available to owners who are still a little wary about the use of an underwater treadmill for dogs.
The first option would be to go to a specialized animal rehab facility and see if they offer any specials or trial periods for new clients. Usually when implementing a new technique for rehab, a specialist will ask you questions about your pup, possibly ask for veterinary records to reference, and they’ll advise you on what should be done from there.
Most clinics offer aquatic treadmill therapy for dogs starting around $50 to $100 dollars. For example, here are a few animal rehab clinics that offer it:
- Tsavo's Canine Rehab (California): $50 per 30-min session,treadmill
- Hydrotherapy Rehab Centre (Ireland): €35.00 per 30-min session, treadmill
- CRCG (Colorado): $15-30 per 1-hour session, pool swim
Note: some places may require to pay for initial rehab consultation ($100-200) before the dog is allowed to undertake hydrotherapy treatment.
Your Second Option is to Buy One for Your Home
Purchasing your own dog underwater treadmill would of course cost quite more up front along with the cost of repairs and maintenance. In comparison though, you’d save quite a bit of money on appointments and you’d likely be able to work with your dog more often since you wouldn’t be paying out of pocket every single time you turn it on.
The initial price of your treadmill could be anywhere from $1000 to $2500 plus, depending on the features included. The real concern for pricing is the amount of water and electricity you’ll be using on a regular basis, along with cleaning it out every so often.
Some of the more popular sellers of canine hydrotherapy treadmills are:
As you can see, in general, buying your own underwater treadmill may be unaffordable for most pet owners, and simply doesn't make much sense in most cases. And if you feel like the requirements for a pet underwater treadmill might be too much power usage for your home, paying a rehab facility a few times a week might work out better in your favor. Some places also accept pet insurance, so be sure to ask when you schedule a consultation for your pup.
Tips for Using an Underwater Treadmill for Dogs
While they don’t need to be bathed every single time you use it, your dog should be relatively clean before getting in the water at the animal rehab place. If necessary, rinse their paws off before they get into the chamber.
Additionally, make sure they’ve used the restroom within the last couple of hours; it's probably better to take them one more time right before their physical therapy session. If your dog does poop in the chamber at a facility, they may charge extra for the cleaning.
When they’re finished, your dog might be thirsty after taste-testing the chlorine. Be sure they’re well hydrated before and after therapy. If your pooch pees, it's not as big of a deal because urine is much easier to clean than fecal matter that’s fallen under the moving parts of an aquatic treadmill.
If your Fido needs hydrotherapy, before you start looking on your own for an underwater treadmill, try a few sessions at an animal rehab facility. Also, check with your veterinarian beforehand to find the best places for your canine. They can usually give you a referral or recommendation to a reliable location with experienced staff members, as well as make good recommendations on buying one yourself.
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