Hydrotherapy in the Aquatic Treadmill

Hey guys! Now we’re, at a time of year I would deem to be needing of a post such as this. With the weather getting colder a lot of you may notice your dogs start to stiffen up. I know Luna does with her Hip Dysplasia, so over winter we have to up our hydrotherapy game.

We’ve already told you all about the Hydrotherapy Pool sessions at Woozelbears, but this time we’re here to tell you more about the Aquatic Treadmill.

Luna: “Are you done with that treat yet?”

So we all know from last time that before going into Woozelbears for a session we need a referral form from our vets. As we already had one, we’re in! Just a quick call to book an appointment, then time to wait for the day.

On arrival all the usual things happen, we sit in the waiting area until we’re called up by Tavia, our hydrotherapist for the day. Follow Tavia up to the shower tray to get Luna fitted in one of their harnesses and then a thorough rinse, to make sure she’s clean and warm up those muscles!

Luna’s now all ready to get in the treadmill. The treadmill has handy little ramps at both ends, which means no steps for any pups who may struggle with them. When we first started Luna was still very unsure of unknown enclosed spaces. This is where the double doors came in handy, as we were able to let her walk through at her own pace, in and out a few times, before closing one door, and as she didn’t mind we then closed the other. This is also helpful for larger dogs and dogs with spinal conditions as it means they don’t have to turn around to come out. In one door and out the other.

Now she’s in and the water starts to fill up. While this is happening, Tavia is going over Luna’s notes from her previous session, asking me how she has been at home and then planning out todays session. Luna had been pretty good, and despite the colder weather hadn’t been stiff, so today Luna could do a fair few exercises.

Luna: “Okay, it’s full, can we work now? I want those treats!”

We started with a warm up, just walking at a pace which allowed her range of movement to be at its best – which is actually quite a slow and steady pace. You could see as soon as sped up too much, she began to reduce her movement and compensate. The water is also nice and high at this point, to reduce the weight bearing through each limb, but still allow her to walk comfortably and use her muscles correctly. This warm up alone is hard work, and when Luna first started her whole session consisted of walking like this. It took several sessions before she was ready to move on to other exercises.

Luna: “So easy I could do it in my sleep. Did I earn that treat yet?”

Next up were Therabands. Luna has reduced flexion from both of her hips, more so the left where she compensates for the right. She also has reduced flexion through both stifles – also likely a form of compensation to shorten the length of time each leg is airborne. Flexion from a hip is the forward motion, and flexion from the stifle (or knee) is the upward motion. To improve this Therabands can be applied just below each hock as shown below.

Luna: “Okay, this is a little harder! Definitely need a treat to refuel at the end of this interval!”

Following that we had these little flotation devices. These create more resistance, causing the muscles to work harder to move the legs forward through the water, as well as adding extra stimulation like the Theraband does.


Luna’s next interval consisted of boarding her forelimbs on a level platform. This will help improve balance and core stability, as well as increasing extension from hips and stifles. Not only that but this particular technique can be extremely helpful for those with spinal conditions, as the brain is allowed to focus mostly on moving the back limbs, rather than coordinating all four at once. This increases their hindlimb awareness, which is not only helpful for spinal conditions, but it’s actually very helpful for all conditions. Hindlimb awareness is a must for sporting dogs of all kinds too! It can improve performance dramatically.

Luna: “Well this is… Odd?”

As Luna did so well with the last exercise, we stepped it up to a slightly raised platform for her forelimbs. This has the same benefits as above but also causes extra weight bearing through the hind limbs, which will help build muscles faster. Luna definitely found this harder that the level board!

Luna: “Are my front feet still attached?!”

Another exercise that can help to improve their range of movement is by guiding the hind limbs. This very gentle exercise allows the hydrotherapist to encourage more movement from each hind limb in the correct motion. Now Luna isn’t keen on having her legs and feet grabbed by anyone, but here she looks completely comfortable, which goes to show just how gentle they are with this exercise, yet is still sees very good results. This allowed correct flexion from Luna’s hips and stifles!

Luna: “You wanna just follow me around and do this every day? Yes? I’ll pay you in licks?”

To finish off Luna’s session she had a go with low level water. This will cause increased flexion from most joints as the dog tries to lift each limb higher to avoid working against the resistance of the water, which is increased the lower in the water the limb is. It also increases the weight bearing through each limb.

Luna: “Feelin’ the buuuurrrnnnn!”

Now that the session is over it’s time to hop in the spa! Warm down those muscles and help prevent any stiffness after the session. Luna loves the Spa, she’ll either want to play catch or just nod off. Clearly today was a day for catch.

Luna: “Nom”

Now it’s time for the usual rinse off and blow dry. Luna doesn’t love a bath, but she doesn’t despise them either. The only part of the pampering that she really loves is sitting in the cabinet dryer, she always snoozes in there!

Luna: “Now that’s my foot. You be careful with that foot. I don’t like foot touchers. Are you done with foot yet?”
Luna: “Did you say dryer?!”
Luna: “That’s my armpit, that tickles, please stop. TICKLES!” — Please be aware, Luna doesn’t actually mind the dryer, I just found her face here amusing, she was more annoyed that I had just taken the ball off her.

And we’re all done! Time to pop on Luna’s Ruff and Tumble drying coat and take her home. During the washing process I was talking with Tavia about Luna’s future sessions, and the plan for her rehabilitation, which we do after every session. Along with suggesting home changes for her if necessary.

As always, if you every have any questions for me, drop me a comment. Or if you’d rather chat privately you can DM me on Instagram @colliecomforts. I used to work at Woozelbears, and still have my hydrotherapy qualifications, so if you ever have any hydrotherapy related questions I’m more than happy to help where I can. The only reason for my leaving was developing an allergy to the Chlorine – extremely frustrating as I seriously miss this job!

Let me know if you have any suggestions for future blog posts!

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