At the Animal Rehabilitation Center of Michigan, our hydrotherapy comes in the form of an underwater treadmill. When we opened our doors in 2001, not only were we the first canine rehabilitation facility in the state of Michigan, but we were also the first facility to have an underwater treadmill!
In the canine rehabilitation field, we have been able to use the physical properties of water to our advantage:
- Thermal effects (water is heated so it can penetrate muscles deeper and provide greater elasticity, increasing joint range of motion)
- Buoyancy (provides for minimal weight bearing on joints)
- Hydrostatic pressure (allows for increased circulation)
- Cohesion and turbulence (resistance helps with muscle building)
Swimming vs. Underwater Treadmill Walking
Yes, there is a difference! While swimming, most dogs utilize their front limbs (picture the doggy paddle) and they bend their hips and stifles (knees). This provides for a good front limb and core workout. However, in order to build muscle in the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups (the muscles that support the leg), a dog needs to EXTEND its rear limbs. The underwater treadmill allows for this activity. Your certified canine rehabilitation practitioner controls the water level and speed of the underwater treadmill, therefore maximizing the benefit for your dog.
But, My Dog is Afraid of Water!
Don’t be afraid! We have a lot of dogs that don’t like water, but do just fine. The underwater treadmill is an empty plexiglass box. The dog walks into it, the door is closed, and the water fills up from the bottom. The dog does not feel like it is being “dunked,” and its feet never leave the floor. One of our certified canine rehabilitation practitioners is in the treadmill with your dog to help guide it along. We are trained in Fear Free handling, and use positive reinforcement and counter conditioning to effectively acclimate each patient.