The Benefits of Underwater Treadmill Exercise For Dogs

Underwater treadmill

The Benefits of Underwater Treadmill Exercise For Dogs

Underwater treadmill exercise is a low-impact, weight-bearing therapy that allows movement in a non-painful environment. The resistance of water promotes muscle toning, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility.

Most patients are willing to use the underwater treadmill if slowly introduced to it. Often, treats or toys are placed on the ramp and tread to motivate the patient.


A hydrotherapy treadmill is an underwater version of a land-based treadmill that allows your dog to perform walking, running and sports-specific exercises without the high level of body weight and joint impact. The water’s buoyancy creates a lower percentage of your dog’s bodyweight while providing resistance and allows you to exercise at a faster rate than on a regular land-based treadmill.

Many professional athletes use underwater treadmills in addition to their regular workout routine because it allows them to add miles and increase their training intensity without increasing the amount of stress on their joints, muscles and ligaments. One athlete at a training facility reported that using the underwater treadmill allowed him to boost his weekly mileage from 60 to 70 miles per week.

Walking on an underwater treadmill improves leg and hamstring strength while improving balance and gait. This helps your dog recover from an injury and strengthens their joints, which in turn reduces the risk of re-injury. It can also help your dog build muscle mass. According to a study conducted by TAMU, athletes who combine underwater treadmill exercise with on-land strength training see greater improvements in lean body mass than those who do not.

For dogs who suffer from pain or weakness due to an injury, the veterinary team will typically start out with short sessions, Underwater treadmill such as five minutes, and slowly work their way up to 20-minute sessions as the patient’s injury heals. If a patient has a limb injury that refuses to bear weight, the veterinary team can use an underwater treadmill to tire out the other three limbs and force the injured limb to bear weight.

How it Works

Many patients who are recovering from a traumatic injury or dealing with chronic musculoskeletal problems find that water-based therapy is very beneficial. This is because the buoyancy of the water relieves stress on the joints while still providing a challenging workout.

Unlike traditional treadmills, underwater treadmills are equipped with a conveyor belt that is submerged in water, allowing patients to walk or run while the water provides resistance. This provides a similar aerobic and cardiovascular workout without the joint impact and can be adjusted to accommodate various needs.

In addition to being a great cardiovascular exercise, the underwater treadmill allows for flexibility training. This is because the patient only bears about 20 percent of their body weight in the water, which reduces joint stress. It also increases the flexion of the hips and ankles which can improve mobility and help with muscle coordination.

Another benefit of the underwater treadmill is that it can be used to build strength and increase endurance. This is because the water’s resistance helps to stimulate muscle growth and increase the strength of the joints. In addition, a therapist can use jets Underwater treadmill to create turbulence, which increases the exertion level and works the muscles and cardiovascular system even more intensely.

Lastly, the underwater treadmill is a great alternative for people who are not able to perform full-weight bearing exercise due to injury or chronic pain. In fact, a study conducted by Texas A&M found that combining underwater treadmill workouts with strength training results in better gains in lean body mass than those who only do strength training.


Many dogs with limited mobility and chronic conditions may benefit from walking on the underwater treadmill. The resistance of the water and the ability to walk without putting pressure on your pet’s joints can help strengthen muscles while reducing pain, so that pets with joint problems can get more exercise and lose weight. The veterinary team will typically put your dog in a harness when he or she is using the treadmill, which can help your pet stay stable on the moving belt and keep the veterinary staff from having to hold him or her up while he or she walks.

The water level is set at the level that your veterinary team considers comfortable for your pet, and the speed of the treadmill is determined by their recommendation and your veterinarian’s assessment of your pet’s progress. The veterinary team will monitor your pet’s cardiovascular and respiratory rate to ensure that they do not exercise too strenuously, so that your pet does not become exhausted.

A recent study found that underwater treadmill gait training with water-jet resistance improves static and dynamic balance abilities and gait velocity in stroke patients compared to a conventional physical therapy program alone (1). Another study reported that the addition of a sandbag equivalent to 5% body weight to the hemiparetic ankle during underwater treadmill gait training improved the support ratio, symmetry and stability of the hemiparetic lower leg during gait cycling in a hemiplegic stroke patient (2).


Depending on the reason for use, gait training in an underwater treadmill can be covered by insurance. For those seeking to use it as a way to supplement road mileage and recover more quickly, the cost per session varies from facility to facility.

Some therapists, like the ones at Hudson Aquatic Systems, even sell treadmills that can be installed at home. The newest model, called the Hydro Track, costs around $6,000.

It uses a motorized belt with adjustable speed and water height adjustments that are similar to those found in traditional swim spas. It also uses jets to add resistance and varying amounts of buoyancy, so that users can get workouts that range from gentle walking to invigorating running.

The system is easy to set up and use. Most patients are able to start walking on the treadmill very soon after their first treatment. They may wear a harness (Walkabout Harness–Walkabout Harnesses; Help ‘Em Up Harness–Blue Dog Designs) to allow therapists to support their back and shoulders for proper biomechanics in the unweighted environment of chest-high water. Some patients may need to have a balloon or water wings attached to increase stifle flexion or increase surface area to amplify resistance.

Patients who guard or protect an injured or painful area of their body by restricting movement are actually slowing the flow of blood to that area and delaying healing. The ability to retrain limb movements in the anti-gravity conditions of an underwater treadmill can help to break that cycle.