Hydrotherapy is provided as an additional treatment modality to physiotherapy on our state-of-the-art WaterWalker V3 underwater treadmill.
Hydrotherapy is an extremely useful tool that can be used to aid an animal’s recovery post-surgery/injury and/or provide additional benefits to animals with long term injuries or conditions. It can also be useful as a tool for improving fitness and conditioning. Here at The Essex Animal Physiotherapy Centre, we have the option of using an underwater treadmill as part of our patients’ treatment plans. The underwater treadmill allows for an adjustable water level to be utilised to best support each patient’s individual size and condition. The water is maintained at an optimum temperature of between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius and the chlorine and other water balance levels are tested and maintained throughout each day to keep the water sanitised and free from any harmful bacteria. Every month, a water sample is also sent off for microbiological testing. The speed of the treadmill is readily adjustable, allowing for hydrotherapy sessions to be further adapted to each individual animal’s condition. Very slow speeds are usually used to introduce animals to the treadmill for the first time, and for neurological patients where gait re-education forms an essential part of rehabilitation. Speed can be increased to suit the treatment protocol, but fast speeds are rarely used, except in the case of fit working/sporting animals.
The main benefits of the underwater treadmill are:
- Increased resistance when walking under water compared to on dry land due to the viscosity of the water. This helps to increase strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness. The faster the treadmill belt speed, the more resistance created by the water and the more difficult the exercise. The resistance created by the water can also benefit neurological patients by providing a greater reaction time to allow for correct placement of the limbs.
- Increased buoyancy in the water, which reduces the impact on the joints and soft tissues. This can benefit patients when both standing and walking, and can enable weaker and/or neurological patients to support themselves more easily than they would on dry land.
- Promotion of relaxation and increased blood circulation due to the warm temperature of the water. This can help to relieve joint/muscle pain and tension. Some patients who may not be ready to walk on the underwater treadmill yet can still benefit from gentle massage whilst stood in the warm water of the treadmill.
- Increased circulation, reduction of swelling and promotion of healing due to the hydrostatic pressure created by the water.
- Increased joint flexion and extension whilst walking on the underwater treadmill, improving overall joint range of motion and increasing associated soft tissue strength and flexibility.
- Gait re-education in neurological patients. The water can also provide tactile stimulation, which stimulates the nerve endings and encourages neurological function.
- Encourages limb use in patients post-surgery or injury.
Hydrotherapy is used in addition to physiotherapy at The Essex Animal Physiotherapy Centre and takes place at the end of the physiotherapy session. Your animal will be fitted into one of our range of harnesses to allow the therapist to provide sufficient support and control to your animal in the treadmill. They will be briefly showered with warm water to remove any dirt, loose hair and debris from their coat prior to going into the treadmill and will be showered again afterwards with shampoo to remove any chlorine from their skin and coat. Introductory sessions to the treadmill will take place at each animal’s own pace and will be used to acclimatise them to being inside the treadmill, the water and the movement of the belt under their feet. After the session, your animal will be dried and it is recommended that you bring some form of coat with you for them to wear home to keep them warm, particularly in the colder months.