Underwater treadmill therapy in veterinary practice: Benefits and considerations - Veterinary Medicine
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Underwater treadmill therapy in veterinary practice: Benefits and considerations
This therapy can help patients return to full function after injury more quickly, improve muscle strength and joint range of motion, and even lose weight. So is it right for your practice?


Appropriate gear (e.g. wetsuits, nonslip shoes) is a good investment to keep the therapist safe and warm. A blow dryer for patients is essential in cooler climates, but towels may suffice in warmer areas. Toys and harnesses for patients are also helpful.

Other considerations when purchasing an underwater treadmill include adequate space for the pool and filtration system, a water source to fill the pool, and drainage availability when the pool needs to be partially or fully drained. If a basement is not available to store the filtration system, in some areas of the country the holding tank can be placed outside the building with piping coming in to diminish the spatial requirements. Water-filled pools are also quite heavy, so flooring strength is important as well.


Each unit has unique maintenance requirements, but all require some mechanical maintenance and sanitation. Underwater treadmills can be used with salt water or fresh water and can be sanitized with chlorine (may make dogs vomit or have diarrhea if they ingest a substantial amount), bromine, or copper. Ozone can be added to aid in disinfection and lower the amount of primary sanitizer needed to maintain a safe environment. Sand filters or cartridge filters can be used, but they need to be large since a considerable amount of oil and particulate are expelled from canine coats. A local pool store has the ability to test your water for particulate as well as chemicals. If you let them know how many gallons are in your tank, they have a computer system to tell you what you need to add. It is usually a free service.


In our experience, underwater treadmill therapy can be beneficial not only in patients with injuries but also in patients with osteoarthritis and obesity. Additionally, it can be used for conditioning healthy canine athletes. This wide scope of use can make underwater treadmill therapy a great addition to many practices.

Christine Jurek, DVM
Laurie McCauley, DVM
TOPS Veterinary Rehabilitation
1440 E. Belvidere Road
Grayslake, IL 60030


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