Advanced rehabilitation for dogs and cats

Hydrotherapy has long played an important role in the rehabilitation of humans and the benefits of utilising an underwater treadmill are increasingly being realised in animal rehabilitation. Canine hydrotherapy allows for rehabilitation to begin earlier, with patients able to begin therapeutic exercise within days of injury or surgery with minimal risk of re-injury and reduced pain.

Exercise in water has several unique advantages over exercise on land. Water unloads painful joints, allowing safe, controlled weight bearing on weak and/or painful limbs and walking in water has been shown to reduce pain, particularly in patients with osteoarthritis. The buoyancy of water enhances movement at all joints below water level when using an underwater treadmill. The hydrostatic pressure of water assists in the management of swelling which is particularly important for patients with acute injuries or following surgery.

Use of an underwater treadmill has further advantages over a dog pool in that we can control the speed and resistance an animal is exposed to. Studies also demonstrate that the muscles that sit closest to the joints and are most important for joint stability are only activated when the feet are in contact with the ground so the same benefits are not seen with swimming.

An underwater treadmill can benefit any animal presenting with joint pain or disease or animals with weakness, either secondary to disuse or neurological conditions. It is particularly useful in animals recovering from surgery or with multiple issues such as:

  • Osteoarthritis especially if overweight/multiple joints affected.
  • Elbow and hip dysplasias
  • Intervertebral disc extrusions and protrusions
  • Fibrocartilaginous embolism
  • Any deconditioned animal with multiple co-morbidities.

The Small Animal Specialist Hospital has two dedicated Sports Medicine and Veterinary Rehabilitation centres (North Ryde and Central Coast) where dogs and cats with osteoarthritis can undertake aquatic therapy and all sessions are supervised and planned by our Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Veterinarian or our Animal Rehabilitation Therapists.

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