How an Underwater Treadmill Can Help Arthritic Dogs and Why You Should Consider It
Dogs, just like people, can develop arthritis as they get older. In fact, an estimated 65% of dogs will develop some form of arthritis in their lifetime. Since your elderly dog has become part of your family, you want to do anything possible to help lessen their pain. However, you cannot talk to a dog and tell them they need to exercise in order to keep agile. Because our friends are in pain, they are more likely to become less active, which exacerbates their arthritis and puts them in greater pain. Medicating them only does so much to help relieve their pain.
However, there may now be another option. We here at the South Boston Animal Hospital have recently acquired an underwater treadmill, which may be the solution to helping your treasured pet live out their last years as pain free as possible. Below are several reasons you should talk to your veterinarian about using an underwater treadmill as part of the pain management strategy for your dog.
Warm water relaxes muscles and decreases pain.Just like humans, dogs like spas too! The warm water that veterinarians use with underwater treadmills act like a miniature spa. The heat from the water has a relaxing effect on your aging dog's tired muscles, releasing built-up tension and helping to alleviate some of the pain associated with arthritis.
Water reduces the weight of your dog, making joint movement easier.
Many doctors and physical therapists prescribe aquatic therapy in part because water naturally increases buoyancy, which makes the weight your pet is carrying on their joints lighter. This lighter load makes it easier for arthritic joints to move. An environment in which your dog carries around less weight relieves pain, just as it would for a human. Underwater treadmills are therefore great tools for relieving stress on your dog's joins and muscles, which makes it easier for them to move.
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Underwater treadmills can strengthen muscles.
Dogs can grow accustomed to favoring certain limbs due to their arthritis, resulting in a weakened area of the body. The water surrounding your dog during aquatic therapy acts to stabilize them, increasing their balance. Furthermore, due to a lower amount of pain and greater freedom of movement, many dogs greatly increase their range of motion during the exercising process.
The rate of exercise can be adjusted for your dog's needs.
Not all dogs are created equal, and every day is different when dealing with pain management. The use of a treadmill allows your veterinarian to control the rate of exercise for your pooch. This opens the door to many different exercise possibilities, and creates consistency that simply walking your dog on your own cannot compete with. It also provides a metric to measure changes with between visits, so you and your veterinarian can determine how your pet is progressing in their treatment plan.
Using an underwater treadmill can strengthen your dog's confidence.
Pain can impact how your pet feels from day to day. One thing people see as their dogs age is a loss of confidence, partially from their inability to move like they used to. You may see an immediate change in your aging dog's attitude when you incorporate an underwater treadmill into their arthritis treatment, especially if they were a very active dog prior to aging and losing much of their capabilities to move.
Overall, a discussion with your veterinarian about the benefits of underwater therapy could potentially help your family friend and might even lengthen their life. Recently, South Boston Animal Hospital has acquired an underwater treadmill in order to help our patients lead happy and healthy lives. If you think aquatic therapy may help your dog, we encourage you to ask us about using an underwater treadmill!
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.