Most dogs love playing in the water, whether splashing through a puddle or bounding through the sand to get to the ocean. What if we could utilize those positive experiences to assist with healing from injuries?

By utilizing the underwater treadmill at Alpha Animal Rehabilitation & Fitness for physical therapy, dogs are offered a safe, effective, and fun way to rehabilitate from physical injuries or surgery, improve strength and mobility, or fight off signs of aging. The first part of making any prescribed physical therapy work is actually doing the work! Sometimes, physical therapy gets a bad rap. In the human world, it often includes pushing through discomfort or doing exercises at home.

But we can't ask our dogs to go home and do ten reps a day of specific stretches! The reason being is that they can't really comprehend the long-term benefits of rehabilitation as we can. Therefore, as pet owners, we must be motivators for our canine companions.

This type of motivation can look many different ways. Whether it's bringing in your dog for consistent rehabilitation and time in "The Tank" or encouraging them during their session, you can help bring excitement to your dog's rehabilitation session.

Underwater Treadmill Safety

The idea of putting your dog, who is already suffering from an injury or ailment, into a tank of water may not immediately sound like the wisest decision. However, no one is suggesting letting your dog swim freely outside of a controlled setting.

The safety preparation starts even before your pet approaches the tank. First, they will be evaluated by a canine rehabilitation specialist to assess the benefits of canine hydrotherapy. Next, your dog will be wearing a specially-designed life jacket. The jacket the dog wears enables a canine rehabilitation specialist to control the dog and guide it through the process.

Entering and Exiting "The Tank"

Your pet won't be leaping willy-nilly into the tank; unlike summer fun and jumping off a dock, your dog will never get into or out of the underwater treadmill alone. There is always a professional there to help guide them up and down the non-skid ramp, considering each pet's specific health needs.

Their first few treatments will be done with a professional canine rehab specialist in the tank with them, wearing waders and focused on keeping your dog safe and happy! Once your dog is familiar and comfortable with the routine, the treatment team will use the facing mirror to monitor your dog's gait and movements under the water at all times. However, your pet will never be alone in or near the tank.

In general, sessions are not exhausting in pace or duration. Our goal is for your dog to have positive and fun associations with the tank and underwater treadmill, so they are excited to return next time. This means using frequent breaks and utilizing the jacuzzi jets during those breaks to stimulate muscles and relaxation.

What Injuries Can Underwater Treadmills Help Treat?

Just as swimming and aqua exercise is extremely salubrious for humans, the underwater treadmill for canines can address a wide array of conditions and ailments. The buoyancy of the water combined with the ability to control the treadmill's speed makes this an optimal addition to most canine rehabilitation sessions.

Weight Loss

Because walking underwater requires more strength, it tends to burn more calories in a shorter duration. The buoyancy of water also helps prevent or reduce joint pain and damage that can prevent some overweight dogs from exercising at will.

Congenital Issues

Dogs with conditions such as hip dysplasia or degenerative myelopathy can benefit from slow, gentle exercise in a way that doesn't place added stress on their musculoskeletal system, like underwater treadmill work.

Injury Recovery

Many injuries to our pets require us to limit their exuberant activities, requiring medication or movement restriction. Though this is necessary to allow the body to heal correctly, it can negatively impact your dog's mental well-being, and they can lose physical condition during this time. Therefore, regular sessions in the tank allow for a safe, healthy activity that won't jeopardize the recovery process.


Whether you're preparing your dog for a physical competition or a surgical procedure, you want them to be able to develop muscle quickly and safely. The Underwater Treadmill allows for close monitoring of progress and secure conditions, creating a minimal risk of developing or exacerbating other issues.


As your pet ages, he or she will naturally slow down. However, the best way to extend your dog's lifespan is to keep them active!

Therapy in the underwater tank creates positive associations, particularly for older pets who may be reticent to exercise in poor weather freely or are favoring an old injury. In addition, canine hydrotherapy can increase mobility and reduce the impact of body weight for those suffering from canine arthritis.

Change Up Your Canine's Routine

All in all, physical rehabilitation using the underwater treadmill can be used for a wide array of conditions or simply to provide variety and stimulation in your dog's routine. Just as zoo-kept animals need new things to see and do to prevent boredom and malaise, your dog can also benefit from enrichment.

It is a safe and effective way to address health needs, and best of all, most dogs enjoy their visits, eager to get in the door and straight into the tank. If only humans were all so enthusiastic about their exercise routines!